How do I make room for deaf & hard of hearing Albertans?

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Blog By:  Guest Blogger - Rosemary Craig, Deaf & Hear Alberta 

May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month. What does that really mean? I believe it means people like me can share the things I’m learning about Deaf and hard of hearing people

Here is something to consider, especially if you are a business owner or you work at any organization that serves the public…

In October 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians have the right to equal access and equal quality of services as the rest of Canadians. That sounds fair, right?

Do You Know What it Means? 

It means when a Deaf or hard of hearing person walks into a bank and asks for an interpreter, they are given an interpreter, because American Sign Language (ASL) is the way they communicate.  There is no frustrated sighing from the bank staff, no “I’m sorry we don’t do that;” there is no, “We can just write back and forth.” In fact, the bank should have a ready solution to provide ASL interpreting when the need arises.

It’s Simple

Deaf and hard of hearing people don’t travel with an interpreter.  Their family members may or may not use ASL to communicate, and they may have hearing family members who also use ASL. However, that does not mean that the hearing family member becomes the family interpreter. Have you seen the Oscar award-winning movie, CODA? That was one of the key messages – that families should not have to rely on their hearing members to translate…even though Deaf and hard of hearing family members encounter obstacle after obstacle because there is no communication access!

It’s Reasonable

It is so simple to accommodate Deaf and hard of hearing Albertans. Now, in addition to in-person interpreters by appointment, there is virtual ASL interpreting and virtual ASL Interpreting On Demand. Any business, social service provider or government agency can easily tap into these resources at a reasonable cost.  While ASL is one way Deaf and hard of hearing people communicate, don’t assume it is the only way. Some hard of hearing people have hearing aids or cochlear implants.  In public settings, background noise can often disturb spoken communication. Hearing aid or cochlear implant wearers may require a hearing loop solution at a customer service desk. It is best to ask what form of communication the person needs.

The law says we must accommodate Deaf and hard of hearing citizens. Why then, are there only a tiny portion of employers, agencies, and other organizations heeding the law?

As Canadians, we uphold the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), so much so that almost every business you know currently has a DEI plan on its radar.  If we really believe in DEI, why do Deaf and hard if hearing Albertans consistently meet with frustration, encountering communication barriers at every turn?

It’s Worth It!

Inclusive workplaces are good for business! It has been proven that organizations with inclusive cultures are:

  • twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
  • three times as likely to be high-performing
  • six times more likely to be innovative and agile
  • eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes

Employers gain skilled and dedicated workers by accommodating workers who are Deaf or hard of hearing. They also show any current workers losing their hearing that they value the presence and well-being of those members of the company. Contact Deaf & Hear Alberta for individual Workplace Accommodation Assessments.

May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month. Make room for everyone.


For more information about Deaf & Hear Alberta, visit their website