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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 April 2006, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Third of deaf people without work
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

A deaf person working on a computer
Employers need more advice on integrating deaf workers
Fewer than two thirds of deaf and hard of hearing people are in work, according to a survey conducted by a leading charity.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID) says this compares with 75% of the general population.

The charity is asking employers to help to combat discrimination and to create more accessible workplaces.

The Confederation of British Industry said employment rates would rise if firms and staff were given more advice.

Employer attitude

"The CBI wants to work with organisations like RNID to demonstrate to employers that relatively small adjustments can make a big difference to integrating deaf and hard of hearing people into the workplace," said human resources policy director Susan Anderson.

The RNID is publishing the survey to mark the beginning of Deaf Awareness Week.

It says the problem ranges form the attitudes of potential employers to a basic lack of deaf awareness, and that it represents a "serious barrier" to deaf and hard of hearing people finding work.

More than half of those surveyed said it was employers' attitudes that prevented them from getting a job.

And for those in work, the same barriers were hampering people's career prospects and creating glass ceilings.

Almost half of those who had a job felt that they had been held back from promotion because of their deafness and more than a third thought that their job did not make full use of their qualifications.

"Deaf and hard of hearing people represent a talented and skilled - but largely untapped - labour resource," said the RNID's Cheryl Cullen.

"At a time of real skills shortages in key sectors of the economy, the country can not afford to neglect this vast pool of talent."

Simple changes

The survey also found that more than half of the respondents who have a job felt isolated at work and just under a quarter found it difficult to communicate with their colleagues.

Two workers using sign language
Firms could provide more deaf awareness training

Three quarters felt that the situation could be improved if the employer provided deaf awareness training.

The RNID points out that employers can make a big difference by making simple changes.

They also have a legal duty to make "reasonable adjustments" for staff with disabilities.

Employers can improve things by:

  • Ensuring that someone with a hearing problem is sitting where they can see everyone else can reduce isolation in an office environment
  • When approaching a deaf person from behind, attracting their attention by tapping them on the shoulder
  • Providing communication support to enable the deaf or hard of hearing person to participate in meetings
  • Installing a loop system in meeting rooms to help hearing aid users
  • Making text phones available to allow a deaf person to communicate with a hearing person by phone
  • Ensuring that the fire alarm system has flashing lights and/or anyone with a hearing problem is issued with a vibrating pager in case the building has to be evacuated

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