Keeping Your Organization United: Practicing Equity

In Maryland, as in many parts of the world, the conversation around inclusivity and compliance regarding Deaf and hard of hearing community members has gained significant traction. For businesses, understanding and adhering to these compliance standards is not just a legal mandate but a moral imperative. This blog delves into what Maryland companies need to know about language access compliance, emphasizing the importance of uniting every team member, and acknowledging the cost of inclusivity.

Understanding the Legal Framework

Maryland companies must first familiarize themselves with the legal requirements regarding language access compliance. For those who prefer to use sign language to communicate, this includes federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state-specific regulations that mandate language access accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. These laws are designed to ensure that all people have the same rights and opportunities. The critical process of providing requested accommodations begins with businesses inquiring about their best method to achieve effective communication with the person who is requesting the accommodation, and then make their input a driving consideration when deciding on which accommodation to use.

The Importance of Unity in Organizations

Inclusivity in the workplace is about creating an environment where every employee, regardless of their abilities, can participate and contribute equally. For Deaf and hard of hearing employees, this means providing necessary accommodations to ensure they can communicate effectively and participate in all aspects of workplace life. Unity in an organization fosters a culture of respect, understanding, and equal opportunities, which are essential for a productive and harmonious work environment.

Participation and Equality in the Workplace

Active participation and equality are key elements of an inclusive workplace. This includes ensuring that meetings, training sessions, and other workplace activities are accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing employees. Utilizing sign language interpreters, captioning services, and other assistive technologies are ways to facilitate their full participation.

The Cost of Compliance

It’s important when we think about costs, we don’t think about it being a burden but as an investment in a more diverse, inclusive and productive workforce.  We all understand there’s a “cost of doing” when it comes to adapting a workplace to be fully inclusive.  These may include expenses for specialized equipment, hiring interpreters, and training staff on inclusivity and accessibility issues.  However, there’s also a cost to not being as inclusive and that can be much more detrimental in the long run.

The Benefits of Inclusivity

While there is a cost associated with ensuring compliance, the benefits far outweigh these expenses. An inclusive workplace can lead to increased employee satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and a broader talent pool. Moreover, companies that embrace diversity and inclusivity often see improved innovation and a better public image.

Training and Awareness

Training and raising awareness about the needs of people businesses serve is crucial. When it comes to Deaf and hard of hearing community members, it may include educating staff about Deaf culture, sign language basics, and how to communicate effectively with Deaf and hard of hearing colleagues. Such initiatives promote empathy and understanding, essential for building an inclusive workplace.

Technological Solutions

Advancements in technology have made it easier for businesses to accommodate the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing employees. Video relay services (VRS), captioning, and other assistive technologies can be integrated into the workplace to facilitate communication and accessibility. Companies should stay abreast of these technologies and implement them as needed. Remember, take the lead from those requesting the type of accommodation that works best for them.

Developing an Inclusive Policy

Creating a clear policy on inclusivity and compliance is essential. This policy should outline the company’s commitment to accommodating employees with disabilities, the procedures for requesting accommodations, and the resources available to support these initiatives.

Engaging with the Deaf Community

Engagement with Deaf community members can provide valuable insights into their needs and how best to accommodate them in the workplace. This can be achieved through partnerships with local Deaf organizations or nonprofits like HASA, participating in Deaf culture events, and seeking feedback from Deaf employees.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Workplace Inclusivity

As Maryland companies continue to evolve, the focus on inclusivity and compliance will become increasingly important. By embracing these principles, companies not only adhere to legal requirements but also foster a work environment where every individual, regardless of their abilities, is valued and empowered.

Compliance with Deaf Community standards is not just a legal obligation for Maryland companies; it’s a vital step towards creating a more inclusive, united, and productive workforce. While the costs associated with this compliance are undeniable, the long-term benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace culture are immeasurable. By embracing these challenges, businesses can lead the way in building a more inclusive society for all.

 

By Dave Coyne

 

Learn More About HASA

HASA connects people to their worlds and aids individuals in their ability to understand and to be understood. HASA has grown into an organization that serves more than 4,000 children and adults every year, helping them communicate more effectively. With programming both on our Baltimore campus and through community-based programming, we provide education, access, and medical support to anyone who needs it.

We envision a society where everyone can understand and be understood and where everyone is treated with integrity, compassion, and equity. Join us

www.hasa.org