Charlton Lachase decided it was time to break the silence for deaf rights to employment. On September 5th and 6th ,2015 Lachase organized a peaceful protest to take place in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. Deaf students pooled around the gates holding signs in a futile attempt to reach out to the public. Their mission was to gain attention and action on the startling statistic that 75% of deaf individuals in the United States are unemployed. Deaf individuals, while highly qualified and often well educated, find difficulties finding employment due to employers not wanting to make minor accommodations to their needs, stating reasons such as: ‘inconvenient.’ Deaf individuals have faced discrimination and hardships since the birth of time, but now, finally, deaf individuals in the area of and around Washington, D.C. are taking a stand
Each year since, Gallaudet University’s Career Center strives to break down barriers between the deaf and the hearing in Northeast, D.C. In the past two consecutive years, the Career Center has hosted an interactive workshop, called “Working Together: Deaf and Hearing Employees” to over two-dozen members of the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB). The purpose of this workshop is to encourage businesses in the D.C. area to have a deeper awareness of how to better meet the communication needs of deaf employees in the area. This is especially critical, considering that there are over 4,000 deaf individuals between ages of 18-64 residing in D.C. alone, according to a 2012 census.
— Deaf Youth Evolution (@DYouthEvolution) May 31, 2016
Gallaudet is the only university in the world that is dedicated solely to the education of the deaf and hard of hearing, with most classes being taught in ASL (American Sign Language). Since the university is located in Washington, D.C., a hub for deaf individuals from around the world has arisen. With over 100,000 profoundly deaf individuals in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia), there are accommodations that you wouldn’t see in just any city. This includes: caption- accessible movie theaters, countless interpreting services, ASL religious worship, deaf socials, and of course the world’s only university for the deaf. Although the DMV area is one of the most progressive in providing access to the deaf, there still seems to be a communication barrier between the deaf and the hearing when it comes to the workforce in D.C.
The Gallaudet University Career Center hosts at least 10 other workshops annually, in order to educate and to help inform business on how to better communicate with their deaf employees. This year’s workshop aims at meeting the communication needs of the deaf community by spreading awareness to the businesses in D.C. through DISB. They provide training for businesses in D.C. and is in charge of assisting and reducing deaf related lawsuits and accidents for businesses. However, not only does the deaf community benefit from informing DISB about communication needs of the deaf, DISB also benefits from the workshop. Philip Barlow, DISB associate commissioner for insurance, comments on the workshop hosted by the Gallaudet University Career Center.
“The program with Gallaudet has been very helpful to DISB,” said Barlow. “We have given the interns projects related to new topics that we want to understand better. So not only has it given our staff the opportunity to work with members of the deaf community, but it has also been beneficial to us in regulating the insurance industry in the District.”
Each workshop that is hosted by Gallaudet University, with outside hearing businesses, further expands knowledge about deaf culture and the needs of the deaf community. Each person impacted during the workshop leaves the campus and continues on to impact those in their personal, professional, and academic lives as well. This creates a sort of domino effect that ultimately breaks down barriers, taboos, and confusion between the deaf and hearing. Although the workshops have been successful at breaking down communication barriers between businesses and employees in the DMV area, further efforts are being considered such as online training for business that are not in the DMV area as well. Each year there are advancements in the deaf community for employment that may seem minor as outsiders, but for the deaf community each tiny step forward is worth celebrating.