Often inclusivity is approached as a single topic, but under that umbrella sits an awful lot – and all of these need their own unique, targeted approach if you are looking to make your workplace inclusive towards them.

September was Deaf Awareness Month, which drew our attention to the challenges deaf people face in the workplace, specifically as job seekers. 74% of respondents in a recent survey felt their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss, and in new research from the Royal Association for Deaf People [RAD], only a quarter of deaf people said they had access to careers advice in British Sign Language [BSL] when they were at school.

Offering the right support at every stage of the hiring process is crucial to ensuring positive candidate experience and allowing you to hire deaf talent into your organisation.


First, let’s be clear on what deafness is…

The definition of being deaf is when an individual experiences either total or partial hearing loss that’s so severe that the level of hearing is very low. Someone who’s considered ‘hard of hearing’ has a hearing loss where there is enough hearing so a hearing aid or another auditory device is able to provide the support for that person to hear speech.

There’s also a distinction of when to use “deaf” or “Deaf.” The lowercase is generally used when describing a hearing-loss condition or a deaf person who prefers to use lowercase. The capitalised word should be used for people identifying with the Deaf community. Typically, Deaf with a capital D is used when people were born Deaf and use sign language as their first language.


Application Process

Sign Solutions offer a package of advice, support, and solutions to enable businesses to make their recruitment processes more inclusive. This includes training and awareness around the barriers deaf people face when looking for employment and a comprehensive hiring and employment guide covering the advertising of the role, the recruitment process and ongoing inclusive employment practices.

You will want to consider including an equal opportunities statement of all your job adverts. This is done to let potential applicants know your organisation is dedicated to equality in the workplace and will support those with disabilities throughout their journey with the company. HR leaders can also sign up for the Disability Confident scheme and include the badge on job adverts to further illustrate this point.

You may also want to start advertising your jobs on disability inclusive recruitment job boards, such as Includability. On Includability, you’ll go through a process to become a verified Includability Committed Employer, allowing you to signal to deaf or hard-of-hearing candidates your commitment to diversity in the workplace.



Prior to the interview, employers should find out if a BSL interpreter or other type of communication support service is required to ensure they can be booked in advance. Such services do not come at a cost to the company if the individual is applying for a paid position and can be funded through the Access To Work (ATW) scheme.

The fact that video interviews have become more common is beneficial for many people with varying disabilities. Be sure to investigate the many accessibility features on offer, such as live captioning, to ensure your candidates have the smoothest experience possible. Every deaf person is different, so recruitment teams should not make assumptions and instead ask candidates what support they need – if any.



Any documents you provide to job applicants or new hires should be available in digital, so that they’re compatible with assistive technologies. Keep in mind that some document types, like PDFs, need to be formatted in specific ways to be fully accessible.

HR and recruitment teams should use onboarding to clarify any necessary workplace adjustments with the new employee so preparations can be made in advance. You should make sure your new employee understands all of the responsibilities they will carry while working in their new role, so they can determine which adjustments and equipment they will need and can describe these in their Access To Work application.


Individuals living with invisible disabilities such as deafness can face all kinds of obstacles during the job search. While employers collectively are beginning to put in the work to educate themselves and implement real changes to create a genuinely diverse workforce, there is still a long way to go – and the first step is how you recruit your workforce.

Looking to learn more? Check out our free deaf awareness course here.


About the author

Hannah Elliott