Communicating on the Job

Don’t be intimidated by trying to communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing colleagues. It’s perfectly fine to ask how they would prefer to communicate, and there are a lot of communication options. Just remember to share informal information with deaf colleagues as well as formal information, and to include deaf or hard-of-hearing employees in conversations, work break activities, and social events.

Group Situations and Meetings

Consider these strategies to help create mutually beneficial work relationships between deaf and hearing employees on the job.


Before the Meeting

  • Consider the layout of the room (i.e. circular seating) in order to provide good communication.
  • Install assistive listening systems.
  • Hold meetings in a quiet, well-lit room.
  • Ask deaf or hard-of-hearing employees if they prefer an interpreter.
  • Let deaf employees determine the best seating arrangement to see the speaker and interpreter.
  • Assign a person to inform deaf or hard-of-hearing employees of important announcements.

During the Meeting

  • Point to the person who is speaking.
  • Watch for signals that deaf or hard-of-hearing employees wish to contribute.
  • Ensure that one person speaks at a time.
  • Do not pace while giving a presentation.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Do not talk with your back to the audience while writing on a blackboard.

After the Meeting

  • Have minutes or notes taken for future reference.
  • Review critical issues introduced in a meeting to ensure understanding.


  • Use hands-on demonstrations to assist in training.
  • Allow extra time for communication when training.
  • Provide an outline of the training session.
  • Assign a mentor to work directly with deaf or hard-of-hearing employees during the training period.


  • Incorporate visual aids, demonstrations, flip charts, written agendas, and handouts in presentations
  • Use appropriate accommodations.

In Case of Emergency

  • Use a buddy system to alert deaf or hard-of-hearing employees to emergency situations.
  • Install flashing lights to work in conjunction with auditory alarms.
  • Review safety procedures, including exits and alarms.
  • Use texting, e-mail or pager to contact deaf or hard-of-hearing employees in the event of an emergency.
  • Notify security if deaf or hard-of-hearing employees are alone in work areas.

One-on-One Communication

Some Tips and Strategies:

  • Ask deaf or hard-of-hearing employees how they prefer to communicate (e-mail, instant messaging, speechreading, writing, demonstration, etc.).
  • Ask the person how to get his or her attention (tapping shoulder, waving).
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Clearly explain the topic of the conversation and do so again when the topic changes.
  • Encourage deaf or hard-of-hearing employees to ask questions if communication is unclear.
  • Make sure that you ask questions if communication is unclear.
  • Be prepared to repeat and rephrase information.
  • Have pencil and paper available and use them if necessary.
  • Ask deaf or hard-of-hearing employees to review key points of the conversation to ensure understanding.
  • Reduce environmental distractions, such as background noise and movement.
  • Position yourself in appropriate lighting so that your speaking and/or signs can be seen.

Source: National Technical Institute for the Deaf National Center on Employment at: