Business Guide for Working with Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind 

Introduction

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  • Slide 1
    Men working with flowers

    The National Employment & Business Relations Specialist matches trained and qualified candidates with employers and businesses.

  • Slide 2
    A woman is folding towels and sheets in a hospital laundry room

    The National Employment & Business Relations Specialist matches trained and qualified candidates with employers and businesses.

  • Slide 3
    Two men are standing at a counter with a computer monitor on it.  One is using a screw driver to repair the monitor and the other is observing.

    The National Employment & Business Relations Specialist matches trained and qualified candidates with employers and businesses.

“Business is our Business”

One of Helen Keller National Center’s goals is to meet the employment needs of businesses with candidates who are trained and qualified to make a positive impact on their organizations.

This Business Guide is designed to avoid any obstacles when hiring and managing individuals who are deaf-blind.

The National Employment & Business Relations Specialist partners with businesses to introduce candidates and HKNC’s support services which include experts ready to advise your business with:

  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Communication strategies
  • Technology recommendations
  • Referrals to state agencies prepared to help

For more information, contact: Joseph Melillo, National Employment & Business Relations Specialist, 516-393-8014 or email at: joseph.melillo@hknc.org

Business Guide for Working with Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind 

Hiring individuals with disabilities can have a positive impact on revenue and profits.  

So, think positively! According to a recent study by Accenture, a multinational professional services company, between 2015 and 2018 businesses that offered the most inclusive working environment by employing individuals with disabilities achieved an average of 28% higher revenue, 30% greater economic profit margins, and twice the net income of their industry peers. Hiring people with disabilities can give employers competitive advantages by increasing productivity, creating workplace diversity, expanding markets and profiting from higher retention rates. 

Why is an individual who is deaf-blind likely to be an asset to your business? 

Individuals who are deaf-blind have demonstrated time and time again to be loyal and dedicated. These candidates are also very desirable because they are creative and good team players – they are accustomed to working in collaboration with others to achieve their goals. 

Have you met an individual who is deaf-blind? 

The community of people who are deaf-blind is quite diverse. Each person who is deaf-blind has a unique life experience based on several factors including how much they see and hear, age of onset (when they became deaf, blind and deaf-blind) educational and cultural background and whether they have additional disabilities 

The term deaf-blind refers to a person who has a combined vision and hearing loss. Only a small percentage of people who are deaf-blind have absolutely no vision or hearing. Most people who are deaf-blind fall on a spectrum of having some usable hearing and/or vision.  

How can Helen Keller National Center help? 

HKNC is available to your business to support the process of: interviewing, hiring, orientation, training and support on an ongoing basis. The Center has a team of professionals who can support the educational needs of your company including how to make the work environment more accessible for all workers, inexpensive job accommodations, tax incentives and communication strategies. Some people may assume that hiring a person who is deaf-blind will be challenging, however, it is not uncommon that with support and education, businesses and their employees find themselves changing these assumptions. What might have seemed to be an obstacle can often be easily resolved with creativity and workable solutions. 

How can you assure good communication with someone who is deaf-blind? 

The keys to successful communication: 

  1. Ask the individual who is deaf-blind about their communication preferences. 

  1. Make sure that planning and preparation takes place in advance of any meetings 

*HKNC, employment specialist and state rehabilitation counselors can help facilitate trainings and ensure smooth communication strategies 

How can you communicate with an individual who is deaf-blind? 

  • Sign language (visual or tactual) 
  • Interpreting services  
  • Speech and hearing amplification 
  • Large print  
  • Speechreading   
  • Braille  
  • Communication cards 
  • Texting  
  • Adaptive technologies  

How do you engage an individual who is deaf-blind? 

  • A simple touch on the shoulder or arm lets the deaf-blind person know you are there 
  • Immediately identify yourself by name or sign name if you have one 
  • When using an interpreter, speak directly to an individual who is deaf-blind 
  • When guiding an individual who is deaf-blind offer them your arm 
  • Make an effort to learn and use whatever method of communication the individual prefers 
  • Have an individual who is deaf-blind establish a name sign for you and others 
  • Words referencing sight and hearing are frequently used as figures of speech by people of all vision/hearing levels. For example, telling a person who is deaf-blind “I’ll see you later” or “Talk to you later” is acceptable, as are other references using such words. 

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states that an employer is required to offer reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs, unless this would cause undue hardship. HKNC’s National Employment & Business Relations Specialist and the Center’s entire vocational training team are available to provide recommendations on the type of job accommodations needed to enable individuals who are deaf-blind to optimally perform all job functions. 

It is a common misconception that accommodations are costly to the employer. But in fact, many are at no or very little cost. 

What are some of the no cost or low-cost accommodations and resources? 

              No cost (NC) Low cost (LC) 

Professional support 

  • An employment specialist, in conjunction with the employer, can provide the necessary training so that the employee can meet the job requirements of the employer (NC) 
  • An orientation and mobility specialist can provide training for safe travel and orientation to the work environment (NC) 
  • State vocational rehabilitation counselors can provide support and equipment to enhance the employee’s opportunities for success (NC) 

Modifications 

  • Placing tactile dots on controls on equipment (LC) 
  • Consider an altered work schedule to accommodate transportation (NC) 
  • Captioning on videos (LC) 
  • Interpreting services (LC) 

Technology that may be purchased by state vocational rehabilitation agencies  

  • A magnifier/electronic magnifier 
  • Software for computer magnification and text to speech 
  • A screen reader or screen reader paired with audio 
  • Braille display paired with a computer or I-Pad 
  • Closed-circuit televisions (CCTV’s) 

How can an internship benefit your business? 

By offering an individual who is deaf-blind an internship an employer has the opportunity to evaluate their intern’s skills and abilities at low cost. The employer’s state rehabilitation agency may pay the salary or hourly wage of an intern for up to 3 months. In these cases, the local agency that referred the intern will provide liability and workman’s compensation insurance. 

Will an individual who is deaf-blind meet productivity standards? 

  • Many businesses have found that with a little creativity and flexibility their business needs are met 
  • Businesses should not assume that employees who are deaf-blind cannot be held to the same performance standards applied to individuals without disabilities. Employees who are deaf-blind must meet the same production standards, in both quantity and quality, as an employee without a disability in the same job. Lowering or changing a production standard is not a reasonable accommodation 

How to prepare for emergencies? 

*An individual who is deaf-blind would adhere to the same emergency rules and regulations as other employees 

  • Establish the emergency plan with the deaf-blind employee 
  • Enlist the support of an orientation and mobility specialist to acclimate and help plan emergency procedures 
  • Make all staff be aware that in the event of an emergency, draw and X on the back of an individual who is deaf-blind with their index finger. This will alert the deaf-blind person that there is an emergency and they should follow directions and ask questions later. They can then be guided or find their way to safety 
  • In some cases, vibratory or flashing lights can be installed at a low cost  

Where can you get support? 

  • HKNC is here to provide an array of support services to ensure success, nationwide! Contact the National Employment and Business Relations Specialist for help. Joseph Melillo, Joseph.Melillo@HKNC.org, 516-393-8014 
  • The vocational rehabilitation counselor assigned to the new employee who is deaf-blind can provide support and will refer an orientation and mobility specialist, free of charge, to help the new employee become acclimated to their work environment and assist with transportation to work 
  • Interpreting services for the interview and meetings is considered a reasonable accommodation and would be scheduled and covered by the employer 

Join our growing list of employers that are experiencing the profound positive effect that hiring individuals who are deaf-blind can have on their business. They have realized that a strong support system, reliable communication methods and reasonable accommodations overcome any obstacle between the employment and management process. 

Our team at Helen Keller National Center and our community partners are ready, willing and able to facilitate and support your initiatives to experience the bottom-line benefits of employing individuals who are deaf-blind.  

Please contact us for more information: National Employment and Business Relations Specialist – Joseph Melillo 

Joseph.Melillo@hknc.org, 516-393-8014