Among hearing people, the jobless rate is, say, 9%. Among Deaf people, the jobless rate is some two to three times that number. Deaf people are far more likely than their hearing counterparts to be unemployed or under employed.
• 18- to 44-year-old age group—hearing population—82% were in the labor force, persons with a severe to profound hearing loss – 58% were in the labor force
• 45- to 64-year-old age group—hearing population 73% of the hearing population was in the labor force, deaf and hard of hearing population—46% were in the labor force—cited from a study published in the American Academy of Audiology; quoted in Gallaudet Research Institute’s 2011 paper by Charles Reilly and Sen Qi, “Snapshot of deaf and hard of hearing people, postsecondary attendance and unemployment” (https://research.gallaudet.edu/Demographics/deaf-employment-2011.pdf. The same study indicated that deaf people were far less likely to graduate from college, and so forth
The problem can be traced to the earliest experiences a Deaf person has with language and communication. Free and full access to communication promotes language development, which nurtures literacy. A good education yields good workers. But how many Deaf people, especially alumni of oral schools, mainstream programs, and schools for the deaf that discourage ASL, can say with certainty, “Yes, I received a good education”?
Despite the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other legislation supposedly outlawing discrimination on the basis of being deaf, we know that discrimination against Deaf jobseekers and employees is still very much a reality. Employers are still finding ways, subtle or not, to reject Deaf people, to keep them on the bottom tiers of the hierarchy, to prevent them from reaching top positions.
When President Bush signed the ADA on July 26, 1990, he optimistically proclaimed, “Let the shameful walls of exclusion come tumbling down!” In reality, those walls have proved a bit harder to demolish than any physical barrier. It’s one thing to pass a law guaranteeing equal treatment and quite another to encounter the reality.
Ever since the ADA was passed, there has been a spate of lawsuits alleging discrimination. What Deaf people endured silently in past years, they are no longer willing to silently endure now. But it can be costly, time-consuming, and life-draining to mount a lawsuit.
We affirm that Deaf people make good workers. Anyone who doubts this should check into the history of Deaf workers during World War II, when many moved to Akron, Ohio, to find jobs in the war-industry plants of Goodyear and Firestone. These two companies, in fact, actively recruited deaf workers, and, on the whole, they compiled exemplary records.
It’s not unknown, though, for an occasional employer to have a bad experience with one Deaf employee and, as a result, refuse to hire another Deaf one, even though the new Deaf jobseeker may be a far better prospect than the unsuccessful Deaf one. This is an injustice we are constantly fighting against.
We affirm that Deaf people have the same right as hearing people to be judged according to their talents and capabilities. We continue to combat discrimination in employment.