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Accommodation and Compliance: Deafness

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About Deafness

It is estimated that there are more than 28 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear sound and may develop for various reasons. An individual may have a congenital loss from childhood or an adult illness that can result in total loss of hearing. The effects of aging, acute injury, or progressive loss over time due to excessive or prolonged exposure to noise may also result in deafness for some people. Individuals who are deaf may require accommodations to enable successful performance of essential job functions. Accommodations will not always be necessary, nor will they always be effective.

Deafness and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Deafness

People who are deaf may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people who are deaf will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

Events Regarding Deafness