Sign Language Accessibility: Cultivating linguistic diversity amongst workforce
With the workforce of today largely being dominated by millennials, organisations are working towards building a culture that is inclusive. Organizations are actively fostering a culture wherein people are employed solely based on their skills and merit and not on any other parameter. This ambit now requires including people from various backgrounds and abilities, irrespective of their protected characteristics.
Many organizations are committed to the culture of inclusion and are passionate to work with people from diverse backgrounds including people with disabilities (PwD). Building a culture which ensures the reasonable support requirements for PwD (if needed) to enhance their efficiency at work is a true investment. Another way to look at it is to address the barriers and while we do this, we have to start with the basics. For example, effective and two way communication fosters trust among employees but this come across as a barrier while interacting with people with hearing and speaking impairment To address this organizations either have to empanel interpreters or enable employees to learn sign language, or both, to ensure smooth communication with the deaf employees to make them feel truly included.
As per WHO reports, over 5% of the global population — 432 million adults suffer from significant hearing loss. A recent press release issued by the Indian Health Ministry on hearing loss and its causes stated that hearing loss affected 2.9% of the population. The prevalence of total hearing loss, unilateral and bilateral was found to be as high as 9.93 %. How do we ensure that this doesn’t come in the way of formal employment with much needed support to enhance their efficiency at work?
Here are some of the steps we can take to create an inclusive workplace for people with hearing disability.
Encouraging and Fostering Sign Language
We must start the process by creating awareness and sensitization on sign language. Launching and incorporating tutorials for leaders and employees around learning the basics of Sign Language can empower the employees with disabilities to develop a sense of higher confidence and assurance at the workplace. Companies can highlight the importance of sign language through focused campaigns including leadership communications, gamified engagements and educating the departments on the proper etiquettes on how to communicate through writing or verbally. They can run multiple sessions to equip the employees with the basics of the sign language to enable smooth communication at the business floor.
Partnerships with NGOs/SMEs
With the intent to enable equal employment opportunities and an equitable ecosystem to people with speaking and hearing disabilities, organisations can partner with NGOs/SME who can support them in tapping the talent from this community. Further, the partnership can aid the organisation in mapping the specific roles and responsibilities with respect to the type of disabilities and assess the requirements of reasonable accommodation and support.
Provide career growth platform
Companies should focus on upskilling their colleagues with speaking and hearing impairments to ensure equal learning and growth opportunities. Organizations can start small by providing captioning or providing transcripts on all training videos. It is important that the workforce have access to all training materials to have a fair chance at succeeding in their job. Simple tools and technologies like voice recognition, speech-to text apps, closed captioning, automating the interpretation process, etc. can help organisations drive the growth opportunity agendas to new heights.
Interpreters for Sign Language Accessibility
The key is to embrace and accommodate individuality and have an open line of communication. Providing an interpreter can be essential for the work and the growth of employees with speaking and hearing impairment. This additional support can help increase the ease with which employees can find information or communicate with co-workers. They can create a bridge for all the employees to seamlessly communicate with each other.
There is an untapped talent pool of people with disabilities, who have the capabilities, skill and willingness but are waiting for the right opportunity. Organisations that believe in ‘celebrating abilities’ and welcome employees purely based on talent and merit are the ones who will take our society forward.