Deaf or Hard of Hearing–When to Tell A Potential Employer
When hunting for a job, do you indicate that you are deaf or hard of hearing on your resume or the job application?
The Wall Street Journal tackled the topic in their article, Finding the Right Way to Disclose a Disability:
Disclosing a disability is a personal decision but can be beneficial if done right. Only you can decide whether — and when — to tell your new employer about your disability. Disclosing a condition can help protect your legal rights but can also leave you open to discrimination. Still, experts say you’re better off giving management a heads-up.
Among my deaf and hard of hearing friends, there seems to be a lot of divide on the issue of whether or not to disclose a disability when applying for a job. “Don’t give the Human Resources department an excuse to dump your resume in the reject pile,” says Lenny Kepil, who works for Tellabs. When Lenny was laid off from his job at Lucent Technologies a few years ago, it took him several thousand resumes and a few interviews later to land a job back in the same field.
Karina Chupina explains the “catch 22″ that comes with job hunting in her article, A Look at Education and Employment in Germany:
Getting a job nearly always poses a plaguing dilemma for the deaf and hard of hearing: whether they should disclose their disability or not when sending their CV or resume to a potential employer. The controversy centers about the fact that the employer cannot reject an applicant on the basis of disability, but practice shows that applicants who have identified themselves as hard of hearing or deaf persons often are rejected. It remains unclear whether there was a biased attitude towards the hearing disability on behalf of the employer, or lack of the requisite skills.
Howard Rosenblum, a deaf attorney in Chicago, states that the issue is a complicated one. “It depends on the job that the deaf or hard of hearing applicant is applying for,” he explains. “If it is a state or federal job, it is often a good idea to disclose a disability because those employers often look for diversity.”
Howard urges more caution when applying for jobs in the private sector. “All too often, private companies seem to have this fear of hiring people with disabilities. Sometimes, when people with disabilities disclose their disabilities on a resume, they do not even get interviews at all. When they take it off, they may get interviews, but many times they are not hired or called back for second interviews.”
For deaf or hard of hearing applicants who use interpreters, they face the difficult decision of whether or not to request accommodations for the interview process. Requesting an interpreter for an interview puts the deaf or hard of hearing person at a disadvantage, because companies can balk at the idea of having to pay for an accommodation during the hiring process. “I often tell deaf people who want jobs to bring their own interpreter during the hiring process,” says Howard. “Even though the company is supposed to pay for interpreters by law, bringing your own increases the chances of being hired.”
Neil McDevitt, a deaf firefighter and Program Director at TDI, suggests putting the information about being deaf or hard of hearing in the cover letter. “The cover letter gives you a chance to put your best foot forward, so to speak,” he explains. “If you make it clear that the fact that you’re deaf or hard of hearing has no bearing on your ability to do the job, it will take the doubt out of the employer’s mind. I’m also of the opinion that a place that makes a fuss about a person being deaf isn’t a place worth wasting your time at in the first place.”
I personally have done it both ways: cover letters that address being deaf and cover letters that only focus on my skills with no hint of being deaf. I’ve put down relay numbers and I’ve also put down a friend’s number (they’d take a message and I would call back via relay, using my voice). I know that there were probably some jobs where my resume never stood a chance due to disclosure but I’ll never know for sure.
In this day and age, here’s something else to consider– employers are increasingly using web searches to find out information about a potential hire. Chances are, employers are going to quickly learn information disclosed on the internet, including any mention of a disability.
The whole debate of whether or not to include a disability in the job seeking process is a moot point if we don’t have employers who are willing to consider the abilities, not the disabilities of potential hires.