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Celebrating Deaf Awareness Week

Abilities ~ Promoting the employment of Vermont citizens of all abilities

September 2008 – Vol 2, Issue 4

Dear Friends ~   Celebrating Deaf Awareness Week

This week – the last full week in September – is Deaf Awareness Week.  It is held in commemoration of the first World Congress of the Deaf that was held that week in 1951.  It is also known as the International Week of the Deaf (or International Week of Deaf People).<!–more–> The goal of Deaf Awareness Week is to draw attention to deaf people, their accomplishments and their issues.  We are pleased to take this opportunity to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week by providing you with valuable information and resources and by sharing with you Mike Farley’s employment success story.

We’d also like to leave you with the wisdom of I. King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet College, who said, “Deaf people can do anything but hear.”

Best regards, Fred Jones, Chair,

Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and Susan Chicoine, on behalf of the Vermont Business Leadership Network

Quick Links

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>The Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Business Leadership Network</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Department of Labor Disability Program Navigators</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vocational Rehabilitation</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Job Accommodation Network</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Department of Health on Autism</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing</a>

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Interpreter Referral Services</a>

<strong>A Tip for an Employer of a Deaf Person</strong>
Workers who communicate using sign language need the same kind of social interaction that hearing employees do.

Therefore, if you have a good worker who uses sign language who you want to keep on board, consider hiring other employees who sign – or train co-workers in signing. This will enhance socialization and increase the likelihood of your employee remaining with you.

You can find sign language classes through the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
<strong>A Simple Story of Employment Success</strong>

The story of Mike Farley’s 20 years of employment success at Offset House in Essex Junction is actually a simple one.  Mike is a person with a hearing loss who communicates by reading lips, sign language, and verbal speech.  He lost most of his hearing at age 1 due to the chicken pox.   He has been working as a baler (operating a paper recycling machine) at Offset House for 20 years – since he was 26 years old.

When I sat down with Mike and his supervisors – Mike Derway, Shipping Manager, and Dave Brisson, Assistant Shipping Manager – on September 15, 2008, I was expecting to hear stories of barriers overcome, attitudes changed, co-workers won over.  Instead, I heard nothing but the story of an individual who applied for a job, was hired, and has been contributing to the company for 20 years. Accommodations?  Just one – a light was connected to his baler to let him know when it was full as he can’t hear the machine itself.  Also, new employees or outside truckers or vendors who arrive and meet Mike for the first time are advised of his hearing loss and told to face Mike directly so he can read their lips.  That’s it.

As it should be.  Mike’s employment truly exemplifies our goal with regard to the employment of a person with a disability – that a loyal, hard working individual with a strong work ethic is employed and successfully doing his job.  That’s it, oh and yes, he happens to have a hearing loss.  A simple story.

Words of wisdom were minimal from Mike and both of his supervisors, as in a sense for them his employment was nothing special or out of the ordinary. The supervisors would encourage other employers to give an applicant with a disability a chance.  Mike simply suggests that a person with a hearing loss should try to engage as much as possible with co-workers and colleagues – participate rather than separate.  All agreed that Mike worked hard to prove himself, and that his positive personality and comfort with himself also helped him to be successful.

During the interview there was much apologizing that this story wasn’t more compelling – that they didn’t have meaningful answers to my more probing questions.  For me, however, this story is extremely compelling for its ordinariness.  As it should be.


<strong>Do You Know the Difference?</strong>
Do you know the distinctions between the different types of hearing loss?

Deaf (Culturally Deaf):  Culturally deaf people are generally born deaf or become deaf before learning how to speak.  American Sign Language (ASL) is their first language, and they often learn English as a second language.  People who consider themselves “Deaf” are often very involved in the deaf community.

Deaf (Non-culturally deaf):  People are who deaf usually have a profound hearing loss (they are medically deaf) but they cannot sign.  They may or may not have attended deaf schools, but they often relate to the hearing world more than the Deaf community.  Some of the challenges routinely faced by deaf people have to do with communication difficulties, identity, and social withdrawal.

Late-deafened:  Late-deafened people are born and grow up hearing then they become deaf later in their lives due to medical problems, traumatic events or genetic reasons.  This can happen “overnight” or over a period of time.  Late- deafened people often experience severe difficulties when it comes to communication, self-identity and relationships.  They normally continue to consider themselves part of the hearing world rather than the Deaf community.

Deaf-Blind: This form of deafness includes people who also have vision loss.  Deaf-blind people can be from both the Deaf community and hearing world.  Some are born without any hearing or vision abilities.  Others are born with one or both sensory abilities then lose their hearing or vision over time due to medical, traumatic or genetic reasons.  Deaf-blind people often face challenges related to having to cope with two major disabilities, social difficulties, communication and relationships.  Some Deaf-blind people use ASL and others use spoken English.

Hard-of-Hearing:  People with mild to severe hearing loss in one or both of their ears are normally considered Hard-of-hearing.  The majority of Hard-of-hearing people start off with good hearing abilities then they lose some of their hearing at any given age due to a variety of reasons.  Those people almost never use ASL nor do they identify themselves as part of the Deaf community.  Instead they rely on assistive technology, such as hearing aids and amplified telephones, communication strategies and coping skills.  Denial is often an issue.

<strong>Interviewing a Person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing</strong>

Taken from “Tips for Communicating with People with Hearing Loss”, a publication from the National Technical Institute for the Dear, Rochester Institute of Technology,
The following tips will facilitate an interview with a job applicant who has a hearing loss and make the interview more productive and comfortable for both the interviewer and interviewee.

Provide company literature for the applicant to review before the interview.  This helps the applicant become familiar with the company, its components, and terms.

Provide a written itinerary if the applicant is to be interviewed by more than one person.  Include the names, titles, and meeting times for each individual the applicant will see.  Speechreading an unfamiliar person’s title and name during a meeting often is difficult.  An itinerary allows the person to be better informed, at ease, and able to follow up later if needed.

Inform your receptionist or secretary beforehand that you are expecting an applicant who has a hearing loss for an interview.  This will make it easier for the receptionist to assist the person and facilitate any necessary paperwork.  Remember to find a location with good lighting for the interview.

Find out how the applicant would prefer to communicate before the interview.  Ask if the applicant would like to have a sign language interpreter present.  Through an interpreter you may receive a better idea of how the applicant’s skills match the job.  If you use an interpreter, position the interpreter next to you so that the applicant can look easily at both individuals.  Clarify whether the applicant will speak for himself or whether the interpreter will voice what the applicant signs.  Maintain eye contact with the applicant and address your questions directly to him or her.

Questions and Answers about Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA. Click here   to access a document that is part of a question-and-answer series addressing particular disabilities in the workplace. It explains how the ADA might apply to job applicants and employees with hearing impairments, including:
<li>when a hearing impairment is a disability under the ADA;</li>
<li> when an employer may ask an applicant or employee about a hearing impairment;</li>
<li> how employers can ensure the confidentiality of applicants’ and employees’ medical information;</li>
<li> what types of reasonable accommodations an individual with a hearing disability may need;</li>
<li> to what extent an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a hearing disability;</li>
<li> how an employer should handle safety concerns and harassment issues; and,</li>
<li> how an individual with a hearing impairment can file a claim against an employer under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.</li>
<strong>Reasonable Accommodations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Employees</strong>

The following list is courtesy of <a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont’s Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf </a> .

This list is intended to be a menu of ideas and technical, strategic, and procedural options.  Each employee has individual strengths and particular needs related to the extent and nature of their disability.  Each job has its own particular requirements and areas of flexibility.

Many of the options listed below will cost the employer nothing or only require a nominal initial expenditure.  Some “accommodations” utilize equipment and standard practices already in place at the job site.  In fact, many employers find that implementing communication accommodations for a hearing impaired employee improves communication for all of their employees throughout their business.

This list is intended to be a starting point for dialogue between the employer and employee.  The best solutions come from a collaborative effort around designing, planning, and implementing effective accommodations.

Procedural Accommodations:
<li>Get the employee’s attention first before speaking (wave, flash the lights, make eye contact, walk into the field of vision)</li>
<li>Face the employee from a distance fo 3-5 feet when speaking</li>
<li>When necessary, give written directions or instructions</li>
<li>Hold meetings in a quiet location without noisy or visual distractions</li>
<li>Use a circular or oblong table at group meetings so that it is easier to hear everyone and their faces are visible for lip reading.</li>
<li>Take turns talking at meetings and indicate who is speaking by raising one’s hand.</li>
<li>Print out a meeting agenda beforehand or post it on the board at the meeting and refer to it.</li>
<li>Have the employee sit next to the notetaker at meetings.  Provide printed minutes where possible.</li>
<li>Post a copy of all procedural or policy changes, and send via memo or email.</li>
<li>Provide staff awareness training (i.e. sign langauge, or a communications strategies workshop).</li>
<li>Ensure that video tape or CD training materials are captioned or have an accompanying written transcript.</li>
<li>Use a buddy system for PA announcements (and follow up announcement with a written copy).</li>
Communication Accommodations:
<li>Hire interpreters for meetings and trainings.  (In Vermont, interpreters may be obtained through the Vermont Interpreter Referral Services  ).</li>
<li>Use CART (live captioning) for meetings and trainings</li>
<li>Use Telecommunication Relay Service for phone communication (Vermont Relay / 711  )</li>
<li>Email, Fax, and Instant Messaging</li>
Technical Options:
<li>Phone amplifiers and/or headsets</li>
<li>Visual phone systems (CAPTEL  , Sorenson   videophone, uniphone)</li>
<li>TTY (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf)</li>
<li>PC and modem with video relay service (to make / receive phone calls)</li>
<li>Sprint Relay   and Sprint WebCapTel</li>
<li>Assistive Listening Systems (FM, Infrared, Pockettalker)</li>
<li>Vibrating or Alpha (message) pagers</li>
<li>Vibrating or flashing light call button</li>
<li>Visual signal alerts (phone, door, customer arrival, fire alarm)</li>
<li>Mirror on PC so employee is aware of staff and/or customers approaching from behind.</li>
<li>Amplified stethoscopes, visual readout BP cuffs</li>
<li>Flashing timer</li>
For more information on available assistive technologies, the State of Vermont’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation offers a comprehensive list of assistive technology   for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Employment Services for Employers and Job Seekers who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened

A wide range of services for the Deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened are available from the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation   (DVR). These services are unique because the State Coordinator and all of the Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf (RCD’s) are experienced sign language users and have extensive knowledge of Deaf culture and hearing loss in general.  This enables them to assist individuals to accomplish their individual career goals.  They work with Deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened individuals, and can also provide support to potential employers.

Services may include provision of technical assistance in different settings, i.e., accommodations at work and home, adaptive equipment, technical assistance around the Americans with Disabilities Act, information about deaf and hard of hearing clubs, associations, and support groups, in addition to employment services.  RCD counselors can also provide employers with information on resources and tax credits available to them.
<li>Employment services for the Deaf, hard of hearing, and late deafened may include:</li>
<li>Employment Counseling and Guidance</li>
<li>Career development
<li>Finding your job interests and skills</li>
<li>Resume writing</li>
<li>Interview skills</li>
<li>Keeping your job</li>
<li>School and job training</li>
<li>Job retention</li>
<li>Information on accommodations</li>
<li> Accommodation tips for employers</li>
<li> Special equipment for work (if eligible)</li>
<li>Related Services</li>
<li>Information and referral</li>
<li> Wide-range consultation</li>
<li> Job leads</li>
<strong>Tax Incentives for Hiring a Person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing</strong>

Tax Incentives for Improving Accessibility:

Two tax incentives are available to businesses to help cover the cost of making access improvements. The first is a tax credit that can be used for architectural adaptations, equipment acquisitions, and services such as sign language interpreters. The second is a tax deduction that can be used for architectural or transportation adaptations.

(NOTE: A tax credit is subtracted from your tax liability after you calculate your taxes, while a tax deduction is subtracted from your total income before taxes, to establish your taxable income.)

The tax credit and deduction can be used annually. You may not carry over expenses from one year to the next and claim a credit or deduction for the portion that exceeded the expenditure limit the previous year. However, if the amount of credit you are entitled to exceeds the amount of taxes you owe, you may carry forward the unused portion of the credit to the following year.

Tax Credit:

The tax credit, established under Section 44 of the Internal Revenue Code, was created in 1990 specifically to help small businesses cover ADA-related eligible access expenditures. A business that for the previous tax year had either:
<li>revenues of $1,000,000, or</li>
<li> less or 30 or fewer full-time workers</li>
may take advantage of this credit. The credit can be used to cover a variety of expenditures, including:
<li>provision of readers for customers or employees with visual disabilities</li>
<li> provision of sign language interpreters</li>
<li> purchase of adaptive equipment</li>
<li> production of accessible formats of printed materials (i.e., Braille, large print, audio tape, computer diskette)</li>
<li> removal of architectural barriers in facilities or vehicles (alterations must comply with applicable accessibility standards)</li>
<li> fees for consulting services (under certain circumstances)</li>
Note that the credit cannot be used for the costs of new construction. It can be used only for adaptations to existing facilities that are required to comply with the ADA.

The amount of the tax credit is equal to 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year, up to a maximum expenditure of $10,250. There is no credit for the first $250 of expenditures. The maximum tax credit, therefore, is $5,000.

Tax Deduction:

The tax deduction, established under Section 190 of the Internal Revenue Code, is now a maximum of $15,000 per year, a reduction from the $35,000 that was available through December 31, 1990. A business (including active ownership of an apartment building) of any size may use this deduction for the removal of architectural or transportation barriers. The renovations under Section 190 must comply with applicable accessibility standards.

Small businesses can use these incentives in combination if the expenditures incurred qualify under both Section 44 and Section 190.
<strong>Helpful Resources</strong>
<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Hearing Loss Association of America</a> – National support organization for individuals coping with hearing loss

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing</a> – Comprehensive educational and support services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, adults, and families throughout Vermont and surrounding states.

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>National Technical Institute for the Deaf</a> – Articles on working with a Deaf person

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont Interpreter Referral Services</a> – To find an interpreter

<a href=”; target=”_blank”>Vermont’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation</a> – Deaf Services Program, Employment Services, and Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf

<strong>A Hearing Aid Survey</strong>
Do you wear hearing aids or are you currently shopping for them?

Vermont regulations require that anyone selling hearing aids must provide a list of the ten brands of hearing aids most frequently sold and their corresponding prices.  The list must show both the most expensive and the least expensive brands sold.  Vermont Protection and Advocacy is seeking assistance to determine if vendors are complying with this regulation.  You can help out by completing this survey   when you visit your hearing aid provider.

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