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Communication Barrier - How to Improve Relations Between Deaf and Hearing Employees

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Communication Barrier

How to Improve Relations between Deaf and Hearing Employees

Executive Summary

We want to make sure the deaf and hearing employees are able to communicate with each other efficiently so they will be able to work together and serve the clients better. DFAS currently employs over a hundred of deaf employees at all the sites and they are a huge part of DFAS' mission statement.

My research has shown that improving the relationship between deaf and hearing employees will help improve morale in the workplace. When they start working together, they will be able to get a lot of projects done. There will be less miscommunication, less loss of information between them, and most importantly, less frustration. The deaf employees work just as hard as hearing employees do and they deserve equal access to communication and they deserve to be able to get important information the same way as the hearing employees do.

To have a successful relationship between deaf and hearing employees, I recommend the following:

1. Host a Deaf Awareness workshop. Hearing employees do not know how to interact with deaf employees properly so it is a good idea to host a workshop to educate them. The hearing employees need to be more aware of deaf employees and their culture.

* Teach them about deaf culture

* Teach them some basic signs such as "Good morning", "Have a nice day", or "How are you?"

* Host a weekly ASL class so the hearing employees will be able to learn more signs if they are interested.

2. Evaluate the success of the Deaf Awareness Workshop in six months.

* Conduct a survey to see if the deaf employees are pleased with the results of hosting the workshop.

* Make any changes necessary if the workshop was not successful.

* Make ASL class mandatory to force the hearing employees to learn signs and get along with the deaf employees.


There is a communication problem between deaf and hearing employees in the workplace. They are not able to communicate with each other efficiently and because of this, they are not able to get anything done on work projects. I have researched on several possible methods of solving this issue so the deaf and hearing employees will be able to communicate with each other efficiently and get things done.

Purpose and Scope

There are about twenty-three million deaf and hard of hearing Americans right now (Lussier, Say, & Corman). Hundreds of them work for Defense Financial and Accounting Services (DFAS). American Sign Language (ASL) is their primary language and they communicate with their hands and when they work at DFAS, ASL is not the primary language here. Therefore, this creates unequal communication access for the deaf employees. The purpose of this research is to find how we can create equal communication access for them.

This report will cover several key topics about communication issues which include background, deaf culture, communication tools, and work environment. Throughout this report, I will not discuss about how the hearing employees feel about working with deaf employees. I also will not include other companies because this concern only DFAS.


My recommendation is based on the assumption that DFAS will continue hiring more deaf employees to work for them. I am also assuming that DFAS will continue promoting deaf employees to higher positions and empowering them to lead several important work projects.


The information from this report came from websites, printed journals, articles, surveys, and library books. I have used several databases from several universities that deal with deaf people such as Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. and National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY. I have found them to be very useful in researching the communication issues and coming up with several solutions.


The research was limited to internet and from the databases mentioned above. The communication issues between deaf and hearing employees still exist today so I have not been able to find several solutions as I would have liked. I did not have enough time to interview all deaf employees at DFAS to gather sufficient data.


I have established criteria which I have used during my research on the communication issues between deaf and hearing employees. The criteria include work environment, communication tools, and deaf culture. All three criteria needed to be met for me to be able to give a good recommendation.

Deaf Culture

We need to understand the deaf culture first before we can figure out how to accommodate their communication needs. Deaf people depend on facial expressions and body language to communicate so it is normal for them to maintain an eye contact with a person during a conversation. Deaf people are also comfortable with calling someone's attention by tapping on a person's shoulder (Brandau, 2006). However, the hearing people need to be careful how they tap a deaf employee's shoulder. A hard tap on the shoulder means there is an emergency and requires the person's immediate attention. A soft tap means calling the person's attention so he can communicate something to that person. The deaf employees don't consider people walking between them while they were having a conversation as insulting as long as the person is being respectful.

Social Norms

Deaf employees have the same needs as the hearing employees do. Hearing employees normally take breaks from working and just have a conversation with other hearing co-


There are different levels of deafness, from profoundly hearing loss to moderately hearing loss. Not all of them were born deaf, only less than one of every thousand people in United States became deaf before eighteen years of age (Mitchell, 2005). Other people usually become deaf after sixty-five years of age. People with severe hearing loss usually get labeled "deaf"



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