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Televised Deaf Discrimination Offers Opportunity for Discussion, Education

Televised Deaf Discrimination Offers Opportunity for Discussion, Education

February 2011

A recent hidden camera scenario shown on network television proved something that deaf and hard-of-hearing job seekers have known for decades: they often face discrimination and must sell themselves more than their hearing peers to land a job.

The segment aired Feb. 4 on ABC’s “What Would You Do?” program. Nearly five million viewers watched two actresses – students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf – apply for a job at a coffee shop in New Jersey. The managers, also actors, immediately told the girls they wouldn’t be hired because they were deaf. Actual patrons witnessing the discrimination gave stares and rolled their eyes, but very few spoke up to defend the girls.

More troubling – as proven by the dozens of comments on the ABC website following the show – were the comments offered by three customers who are human resource professionals. They told the manager essentially how to legally discriminate, by accepting the applications but not to call them back.

“Our students have a lot of experience communicating with hearing people,” says John Macko, director of the NTID Center on Employment, which prepares RIT/NTID students for co-ops and careers as well as presents dozens of workshops throughout the country to prospective employers. The workshop, “Working Together: Deaf and Hearing People,” is a fun, interactive training program that can be tailored to an employer’s needs and offered on-site.

“When President (George H.W.) Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, many of us hoped that that would be the last barrier,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “What we found out, though, is that attitudinal barriers were still there, and that we have much work to do to educate people.”

Macko feels the recent ABC experiment provides an opportunity to educate prospective employers and human resource professionals about the potential that deaf employees have.

“We’re not asking employers to give our students jobs just because they are deaf or hard-of-hearing,” Macko says. “We just want them to get a fair chance, to go through the same interview process as their hearing peers and be hired if they’re the best candidate for the position.”

Macko says he doesn’t want deaf students about to graduate to feel finding a job is hopeless. In fact, historically, more than 90 percent of RIT/NTID graduates who seek employment find a job within a year of graduation.

Macko says he hopes prospective employers will realize not every deaf person communicates the same way, or to immediately discount the possibility of hiring someone who is deaf. RIT/NTID has had decades of successful partnerships with employers – both private and government agencies – involving employment of RIT/NTID graduates. Dozens of employers attend NTID’s annual Job Fair.

NTID’s Center on Employment offers a variety of resources online and in person. Their website offers tips for employers on how to interview or work with deaf employees and how simply effective communication can be achieved.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is one of eight colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. NTID was established by Congress in 1965 to provide technical college opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who were underemployed in those fields. Today, a record 1,521 students attend NTID; more than 1,300 of them are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Others are hearing students enrolled in interpreting or deaf education programs.

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, sustainability, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. RIT enrolls 17,000 full- and part-time students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

Source: RIT-NTID News