But, in addition to the challenges posed by wearing masks, those who are Deaf/HoH may face additional struggles when it comes to video calls and interviews. This is due to a number of factors, potentially including connection issues, poor lighting, and diminished sound quality.
According to the Center on Employment at RIT/NTID, there are a number of techniques that can be used during virtual interviews with Deaf and HoH job candidates to make certain that the candidates are able to communicate to the best of their ability.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that the usual approach to the interview process has been dramatically impacted, and many employers are turning to virtual platforms to conduct their interviews,” noted John Macko, director of the Center on Employment at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID).
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Be mindful of your surroundings. Sitting directly in bright light or window can make it more difficult to be seen clearly, and as many Deaf/HoH individuals rely on lip-reading to some degree, this can hinder their line of sight. Additionally, it is recommended to limit distractions in the background so the candidate can fully focus on the interviewer.
2. Be clear and let the candidate know that it is OK to ask for clarification or to repeat. Making this known upfront can create a more comfortable atmosphere where the candidate feels welcomed and accepted.
3. Have a form of written communication at your disposal. Most video platforms have a chat feature built-in, but you can also use a whiteboard. While you should not rely on this as a communication mode, it’s a good fallback when needed.
4. Utilize live captioning when possible. Many video platforms, including Zoom and Google Meet, have features that allow for live closed captioning during calls. While not perfect, this feature can still help quite a bit when it comes to communicating general ideas during a meeting. It may even be worth considering a change of video platform to offer more accessibility when necessary. This list from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People outlines common video call platforms and their accessibility pros and cons.
5. Create space for an interpreter. Sometimes, using an interpreter is a learning curve. For those not familiar with the process, it’s best to pause between responses for a few seconds. Additionally, make sure prior to the interview that the interpreter has access to both sound and video so they can communicate clearly on both sides.
6. In group interviews, it is recommended to pin the speaker and interpreter. This means that they are visible at all times and their thumbnails are larger. If they are not pinned, it can sometimes be difficult to locate the right person depending on the number of people in the call. Additionally, in larger groups, RIT/NTID recommends repairing the speaker name each time that person speaks, just to create clarity in who is expressing thoughts or asking questions.
Creating a welcoming and inclusive space hasn’t been an issue faced only in the U.S. According to Heidy Wager, executive director of Hear Quebec, the inability to adapt during the pandemic, and in general, can create a feeling of isolation for those who are Deaf/HoH.
“People [were] being kept out of meetings,” Wager told CBC Radio Canada. “Like, ‘oh well, we’ll catch you up with the notes in the minutes.’ But then they lose their voice, they lose their voice to participate in the staff meeting, to share their opinion. It’s only an afterthought.”
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Macko notes that the way a company handles a job interview with someone who is Deaf/HoH can set the tone for the entire process.
“Following these simple guidelines is a great place to begin to foster an environment for a successful job interview with a deaf or hard-of-hearing candidate,” Macko said. “Having communication access and offering multiple solutions to communication barriers will help your deaf or hard-of-hearing candidate feel comfortable while engaging in conversation. Your potential hire will appreciate your company and be more confident in their ability to be successful if they know they have full access to information.”
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