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Tips for having a Sign Language Friendly Workplace

Tips for having a Sign Language Friendly Workplace

The livelihood of a business may rest on the level of inclusion that is afforded within the workplace. Read this article for more.

16th August 2019
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mastering the art of sound and speech has always been at the cornerstone of human enterprise. This is because verbal communication has always been the conventional basis for forming meaningful business relationships. Unfortunately, individuals living with deafness face many hardships in navigating through a world which intrinsically preferences the ability to speak. As such, there is an increasing need for business owners to accommodate deaf people through cultivating sign-language friendly workplaces.

The Case for Sign Language

Businesses need to incorporate sign language into their workplace not only because it reflects a global convergence towards inclusion, equality and diversity; but because it is valuable. Widespread communication barriers between the deaf and the non-deaf may facilitate a workplace environment that silences the deaf. From a business standpoint, this would be inefficient because it prevents businesses from acquiring revolutionary information and insight. Where would the light bulb be if Thomas Edison’s deafness prevented him from interacting with the broader world? Beethoven’s adult-onset progressive deafness certainly did not stop him from composing music. Businesses need to understand that the value of deafness is limitless.

Integrating Sign Language into the Workplace

Whilst the case for sign language is certainly strong, it may be difficult to achieve without extensive contemplation and action. Here are some ideas to start you off.

1. Offer Sign Language Training

The optimal method of integration is to hire an expert to provide language programs to your employees. Various expert companies specialise in these language programs and are able to ensure that your employees reach a proficiency that would allow interactions between co-workers and clients.

2. Communication etiquette

Basic proficiency of sign-language may still be insufficient for co-workers to communicate effectively in some instances. Therefore, it is important that you understand the limitations of sign language, such as difficulties with accurately representing sophisticated ideas. You can overcome this limitation by introducing a requirement for communications to also be presented in a written form. A written requirement mitigates the prospect for misunderstandings to occur because it distributes information in a way that both the deaf and the hearing community can understand.

3. Workspace Plan

The visual nature of sign language generally means that it is only an effective form of communication when audiences can observe the gestures. You should think about how your workspace is organised and whether the current arrangement may impose any visual barriers. A sign-language friendly workspace must facilitate for sign-language interactions to occur.

4. Be Assertive about your Goal of Inclusion

Openly inform your employees that your workplace will be proactively adopting an inclusion policy to accommodate the deaf community. You should also ensure that they understand that this will mean that there will be zero-tolerance towards any form of discrimination. This can be done by drafting a Discrimination Policy which will concisely outline your business’ policies against discrimination.


Building a work environment that actively seeks to include deaf co-workers and clients is a project that should be highly endorsed for three reasons. Firstly, it fosters unity amongst co-workers irrespective of whether they can hear or not. Secondly, it allows the business to obtain valuable information and insight that would otherwise remain undiscovered. Thirdly, it trains your employees to master the skill of picking up on non-verbal cues which ultimately, will bring value to your business. If you are seeking to further understand your employer obligations in terms of discrimination, it is recommended that you consult a Discrimination Lawyer.

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Eric Zhang

Eric currently works in the content team as a legal intern for Lawpath. He is in his final year of a Bachelor of Commerce with a Degree in Bachelor of Laws (Majoring in Finance).