Bachelors in ASL students draw inspiration for reducing the Deaf unemployment rate

William Woods ASL

Bachelors in ASL students draw inspiration for reducing the Deaf unemployment rate

The U.S. unemployment rate is an issue that always garners much attention from politicians, with promises of more jobs and news outlets frequently reporting national trends. There is one sub set of the unemployed population however, that does not receive as much attention, and that is the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

According to Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), 70 percent of Deaf people are unemployed or underemployed, meaning they are involuntarily working part-time or are overqualified for their current position.

Furthermore, of the Deaf and hard of hearing individuals that are or have recently been employed, 56 percent have faced discrimination during their career, resulting in one in four Deaf individuals leaving a job because of a difficult environment.

In fact, apart from the discrimination they may encounter as an employee, Deaf and hard of hearing individuals could find themselves facing challenges as early as the interview process.

“Deaf job seekers who use ASL as their primary form of communication are forced to decide whether they will hire their own interpreter for a job interview and pay out-of-pocket; or whether they will invoke their ADA right to have an interpreter provided by the company they are interviewing with,” explains Lydia Callis, nationally certified sign language interpreter and advocate for the Deaf community, in a Huffington Post article.

Though employers are legally required to provide interpreters for interviewees, many Deaf or hard of hearing job candidates are hesitant to exercise their ADA right for fear that they will seem like a burden to employers.

Even if the interview goes well and the Deaf or hard of hearing individual is offered the job, that unfortunately still doesn’t mean employers prepared a productive workplace for a diverse team; one designed for accessibility and equipped with a team of culturally competent employees. Creating a Deaf-friendly workplace begins with management, who sets the tone for how all employees should be treated.

“Cultural competency education is a critical piece of this puzzle,” Callis explains. “Cultural competency education helps erase stereotypes and assumptions, providing a foundational understanding of what it means to be Deaf, what accommodations Deaf individuals may need, and how to best connect across the language and cultural divide to most effectively collaborate when working with a diverse team.”

What if there was a company that not only accommodated Deaf employees, but was built with them in mind, through every step of their career from interview throughout employment?

Meet Mozzeria — a fully Deaf-owned and operated pizzeria in San Francisco. As one of a handful of Deaf-run businesses in the U.S., it gives customers the unique opportunity to be immersed in Deaf culture, as they interact with Deaf servers and learn to use American Sign Language to order off the menu.

Recognizing the pizzeria’s success in both educating non-ASL speakers and reducing the unemployment rate in the Deaf community, CSD recently announced that they will be making a major investment in the Mozzeria business. These funds will allow Mozzeria to expand its brand, “becoming the first-of-its-kind Deaf-run restaurant franchise, developing training materials in American Sign Language,” reports an article in Eater San Francisco.

William Woods students pursuing their bachelors in ASL studies or bachelors in interpretation studies in ASL will take courses like ASL 101: Career Seminar in ASL Studies, which is designed to introduce non-Deaf students to various professions with and in service to Deaf people. This, in addition to courses they take in Deaf Culture and Ethics and Decision Making will provide students with a deeper understanding of the realities Deaf and hard of hearing individuals face in their daily life and careers, and position them to become advocates for accessibility and equal opportunity for the Deaf community.