Jobs and Careers of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
Deaf people can do anything, except hear."
I. King Jordan
Think of all the jobs there are in the world! People who are deaf and hard of hearing do just about all of them. Here are a few: accountant, actor, architect, biologist, carpenter/painter, chemist, clerical worker, draftsman, engineer, farmer, financial consultant, gardener, landscaper, librarian, mechanic, printer, social worker, statistician, writer. The list goes on and on!
It's hard to believe that not too long ago (and even today in some parts of the world), employers would not give people who are deaf and hard of hearing a chance at many jobs. Employers—and sometimes teachers—insisted these careers required hearing. But think about it. How many of the jobs listed above REALLY need hearing?
Things are changing. More employers are realizing that hearing is not necessary for every job. They watch their deaf workers do their jobs as well as hearing people can. And now deaf and hard of hearing people have more choices for schools and training programs where they learn skills for different jobs. These changes are important for deaf and hard of hearing students who are in school now. They can choose from many more careers. Some aim for careers seldom tried by deaf people in the past. About 20 years ago, for example, only a few deaf people had gone to law school. Today, deaf lawyers work for the federal government and private corporations. Some have their own law practices. One is a judge.
Some people who are deaf and hard of hearing become quite famous in their jobs. You may know some of these people, especially former President of the United States Ronald Reagan and Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States. Both are hard of hearing. Have you seen Phyllis Frelich, Marlee Matlin, or Terrylene Theriot on television or in movies? All of these actresses are deaf. I. King Jordan, the president of Gallaudet University, is deaf also.
Few people, hearing or deaf, are in the public eye. But, their everyday work is important to their community. Remember the list on page one of jobs done by deaf and hard of hearing people? Here are some more jobs to add: artists, business leaders, dentists, doctors, elected government officials, engineers, mechanics, medical technician, park rangers, teachers, tool and die makers. For most occupations you name, you will probably find a deaf or hard of hearing person who does that work or has done it.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed in 1991 will also make a difference in job opportunities for workers who are deaf and hard of hearing. This law bars discrimination against qualified people because of any kind of impairment that limits a major activity of life, such as walking or talking or hearing. One part of this law relates to employment. This section of the law says that disabled people have the same rights as any one else in their work life. Employers must make reasonable changes to assure equal access on the job for employees with disabilities. For workers with hearing loss this may include such steps as providing interpreters, captioned videotapes for training, or special telephone devices.
Several organizations are helping employers learn how to change the workplace appropriately for their employees with hearing loss. This training teaches employers about deafness and hearing loss, about the skills and achievements of deaf and hard of hearing workers, and about simple ways to improve communication.
Any dream can become a reality! If you set your sights on a particular career, you can achieve that goal. That's what people who are deaf and hard of hearing—and other people with disabilities—are doing: setting their goals for careers that challenge and satisfy them. The important thing is to recognize that, like any one else in the work force, deaf and hard of hearing people have skills, talents, experience that enhance the work place.