October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with all types of disabilities and promotes the value of having a workplace that is inclusive to those workers.
In honour of NDEAM, I decided to do a post about the workplace and accessibility – more specifically, about what an individual with hearing loss should NOT do in a workplace.
My first official job was at a retail store when I was 17 (I did a local grass cutting and lawn maintenance business with my neighbour before that). Since then, I’ve done a couple of internships during school, and I’m in my third corporate job since graduation.
I learned some things along the way about how to address my hearing loss and what NOT to do in the workplace.
Do NOT keep your hearing loss a secret.
I always made a point to tell my employer about my hearing loss because I never wanted to get into trouble for something that I missed because my employer assumed that I heard them, when in fact I didn’t.
I knew to tell my employer about my hearing loss, but initially, I never thought to tell my colleagues about it. The retail store that I worked at was large enough that colleagues would have to either call your name across the store or announce your name on the P.A. system to get your attention.
For the first couple of shifts, my colleagues thought I was ignoring them, because when they called my name, I wouldn’t reply. It wasn’t until someone bought it to my attention that I realized I needed to communicate my hearing loss to my colleagues as well.
No matter the workplace, an undisclosed hearing loss can create more problems for everyone. Information can be missed, time can be wasted on tasks that didn’t need to be done, assumptions can be made etc.
Bringing up your hearing loss can seem daunting at first, but it’s necessary.
Do NOT downplay the severity of it.
“Oh yeah, it’s honestly fine, I can hear it hahaha.”
That’s what I said, while sitting at the back of a large conference room at my first job out of school, when I had to document a presentation and write an article about it for the company.
I wanted to make a good impression on my boss, and I was scared that if I mentioned that I couldn’t hear the presenter because I was so far back, he wouldn’t let me write the article. I managed to write it, but if I told my employer that it would be better to sit near the front, so I can hear, then that article would have been a lot better and more specific.
Don’t ever downplay your hearing loss. It’s easy to brush it off and downplay the severity of it, but doing so can negatively affect your performance at work if you don’t have the accommodations you need.
If your employer hired you, it is because they want you to deliver your best work – so if something is hindering you from doing that, be transparent about it.
Do NOT wait for accommodations.
When the time came to do my first conference call on my own, I was not prepared. That was because I didn’t take the time before my job to anticipate situations where I would need accommodations.
The situation turned out okay, but it’s always best to be prepared so that when the time comes, you know exactly what needs to be done.
Have a discussion with your employer to discuss some of the common difficulties you face with your hearing loss, and anticipate what type of situations at work might need accommodations.
If you are an individual with hearing loss in the workplace, what are some of the ways that you address your hearing loss in the workplace, and how do you handle situations where you might need accommodations?