Employment of the Deaf: Construction
The Deaf population throughout the world faces many challenges in
life. Others who do not understand deaf culture or people often
discriminate against the deaf. One of the more troubling statistics
for the deaf population is the unemployment rate. As the National
Unemployment rate can fluctuate from 4% to 6% for the general
public, the unemployment rate for the deaf is usually over 60% in
most states. These statistics beg the question, why are we not
utilizing our capable individuals?
As a woman, I have faced my own discrimination in the work place.
Being a woman in the construction industry, I know I am a minority,
as women make up less that 10% the work force whether it is labor or
management. I believe it is through my personal experiences of
knowing and proving I am capable of doing what others are skeptical
of that allows me to see the value in every worker. I believe deaf
people can be very successful in the construction industry at every
While researching deaf people and construction, I found the
resources to be limited. This was not a huge surprise as I myself
have never once encountered a deaf person in any position at any
construction or construction related company in my 10 years of
experience. Construction is a diverse industry and it is full of
opportunities for the deaf. Construction not only employs
carpenters, plumbers and electricians but also, design
professionals, architects, engineers, AutoCAD drafters, accountants,
and many, many more. In most construction office environments
talking and speaking voices become annoying distractions from the
intensely detailed work that is involved. I find it ironic that in
these office environments, hearing employees are “tuning out” by
listening to ipods or closing office doors for silence yet no one
realizes the opportunity before them. In addition to the already
conducive environment, any technology needed to assist deaf in
communication is readily available and relied on in construction.
Portable computers w/ wireless access, Blackberries, cell phones
with text capabilities, even job site portable offices are all
required tools for construction companies. In an article in the New
Mexico Business Weekly on Vocational training for the deaf, the
author states, “The national average cost to an employer for
equipment expenses to facilitate hiring a deaf employee is only
$500… and 73 percent of employers report that their employees with
disabilities do not require accommodation at all.” (Adams, 2004)
When that figure is compared to the now popular optional cost of
drug testing employees, the $500 figure seems insignificant.
There are many benefits to hiring a deaf employee. As the
construction industry struggles to find dependable, capable workers,
the future outlook for skilled workers is grim (Ireland, 2007). Deaf
and other disabled employees have proven they are loyal and
reliable. These are two qualities that have become harder and harder
to find by builders and designers as the labor market has continued
to tighten over the years. Another added benefit employers can take
advantage of is a tax credit for up to $5,000 when providing
accommodations to deaf or hearing impaired persons (Berke, 2007).
The greatest benefit though is creating diversity in the work place.
Creating a diverse and supportive work environment can benefit the
company and it’s employees equally. Some of the benefits employers
attribute to diversity in the workplace are; attracting the best
talent, better retention among employees, improved productivity,
gaining new market share, and increased sales and profits (Lockwood,
2005). These factors and others are all reasons construction firms
should take advantage of the opportunities available to train and
hire deaf people.
As more and new deaf schools expand the curriculum to include
construction related vocational training programs, the deaf
community should benefit. Up until now, there has been little
opportunity for deaf to enter the construction job market. Most
schools that have realized the potential and implemented programs
are in the UK. Even Gallaudet University does not yet offer
undergraduate degrees in Engineering, Architecture, or Construction.
Markets today are more competitive than ever and as they expand
globally, each company must find new and creative competitive
advantages. Construction and design companies, as well as the deaf
education system should quickly realize the enormous opportunity
before them and act.
Adams, Celene (2004). Vocational training for the deaf is sign of
the times. New Mexico Business Journal.
Berke, Jamie (n.d.) Job- Information on Deafness for Employers. 18
Aug. 2007. http://deafness.about.com/od/employmentandworking/a/employers.htm?p=1
“Career and Tcchnology Education Camp.” 2006. 6 Aug. 2007. . http://csdr-cde.ca.gov/ctecamp
“Constrution.” (n.d.) Doncaster College for the Deaf 6 Aug. 2007.
Ireland, Beck (2007, Jan.) Wanted: Skilled Labor – A robust economy
strains the ranks of a qualified workforce. 18 Aug. 2007. http://ecmweb.com/mag/electric_wanted_skilled_labor
Lockwood, Nancy (2005, June). Leveraging the Power of Difference for
Competitive Advantage. SHRM Research Quarterly, 2.
“Occupational Training Opportunities for the Deaf.” (n.d.) Oklahoma
School for the Deaf. 3 Aug. 2007. http://www.osd.k12.ok.us/otod.html