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Monday, January 13, 2014


A tough economic environment presents challenges for everyone in today’s job market.  How are deaf and hard of hearing individuals faring in the world of work? What about deaf persons with additional disabilities?  What programs, ideas or trainings can help?

Stats on employment for deaf adults

Stats on employment for deaf adultsMeaningful employment is one of the life goals and outcomes that all adults deserve the opportunity to attain.  Earning power, status in society, being a contributing member, life satisfaction: all that is important.  Historically, issues of bias, prejudice, and barriers have meant reduced occupational and work opportunities for Deaf individuals.

What are current employment characteristics for Deaf adults?   What percentage of deaf adults are in the workforce and how does that compare with the general public?  What about their average earnings?

These questions were on the minds of the Research and Evidence Synthesis Group, the division of pepnet 2 working under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Cawthon at the University of Texas in Austin.  Graduate research assistants Carrie Lou Garberoglio and Erica Wendel dug into the statistics and the research data and found the following:

  • Deaf adults continue to be underemployed and underpaid when compared to their peers in the general population.

Of adults age 21-64 in the United States in 2008, the median annual earnings of deaf adults who were working full time was $40,700, compared to $42,800 in the general public without a disability.

Of young adults age 21-25 in the United States in 2009, deaf adults earned, on average, $10.50 an hour, lower than the general population of $11.40 an hour.

  • However, deaf adults are employed at higher rates than their peers with other types of disabilities.
  • Deaf individuals’ career advancement continually lags behind their hearing peers and young deaf adults are often less likely to feel that they have many chances to work their way up, receive promotions, or take on greater responsibility.
  • About half (49%) of deaf adults age 21-65 are employed, compared with 71% of the general population.   This number increases and gets closer to that of the general population when the age range changes to 21-25: 57% percent of that age group is employed, compared to 66% of the general population.

Some good news in the employment picture for deaf adults is that, based on the research of J.G. Schroedel and P.D. Geyer,  we see that the percentage of deaf adults working in professional, managerial and technical occupations has steadily increased over time.

The research brief that describes this data and includes graphed charts illustrating the trends can be found on pepnet 2’s website. Pepnet 2 is fully committed to supporting the transition and employment goals of deaf students by working with teams in all 50 states through the National Summit Series on Deaf Education that focuses individual state efforts on improving transition from secondary to postsecondary options.  Knowing that it can be challenging to support transition, pn2 seeks ways to be collaborative to support education outcomes that will lead to stronger employment opportunities.

Erickson, W., Lee, C., von Schrader, S. (2013). Disability Statistics from the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI). Retrieved Nov 11, 2013.


Kelly, R. R. (2013). Deaf college graduates’ career advancement relative to their hearing peers: Implications for education. Paper presentation, Association of College Educators- Deaf & Hard of Hearing Conference, Santa Fe, NM, February.

Lane, H. L. (1992). The mask of benevolence: Disabling the deaf community.  New York: Knopf.

Luft, P. (2000). Communication barriers for deaf employees: Needs assessment and problem-solving strategies. Work, 14(1), 51-59.

Newman, L., Wagner, M., Knokey, A. -M., Marder , C., Nagle, K., Shaver, D., . . . Schwarting, M. (2011). The post-high school outcomes of young adults with disabilities up to 8 years after high school. A report from the national longitudinal transition study-2 (NLTS2) [NCSER 2011-3005] (NCSER 2011-3005). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International

Schroedel, J. G., & Geyer, P. D. (2000). Long-Term career attainments of deaf and hard of hearing college graduates: Results from a 15-year follow-up survey. American Annals of the Deaf, 145(4), 303-314. doi:10.1353/aad.2012.009

Welsh, W.A., (1993) The economic impact of deafness. Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association 24, 72-80

Winn, S. L. (2007). Employment outcomes for the congenitally deaf in Australia: Has anything changed? American Annals of the Deaf, 152(4), 382-390. doi:10.1353/aad.2008.000

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Tailoring pepnet 2's Getting a Job! modules to fit your needs 

Tailoring pepnet 2’s Getting a Job! modules to fit your needsDo you work with deaf or hard of hearing high school students who are looking to transition to the workplace?  Or are you in a post secondary environment, working with deaf or hard of hearing students who will soon be getting their degrees before looking for jobs?  Or maybe you are a deaf or hard of hearing person who is looking for employment yourself.

If you belong to any of those groups, you might find pepnet 2's Getting a Job! online training to be a great resource. It is a set of easy to use online training modules that are free, online, and accessible.  Originally intended for deaf or hard of hearing high school students and graduating postsecondary students who are transitioning to the workplace, the course has proven useful for anyone who wants to improve her or his job search skills.

There’s quite a lot of content there, so this article will highlight three specific areas covered in the module.  Getting a Job! is thorough enough that we estimate it takes about three hours to complete -- but you can also pick and choose the parts that you are most interested in and just go straight there!   You do need to sign in to the eLearning part of our website, but once you’re in, you’re good to go!

Social Security

Often, deaf or hard of hearing people are concerned about losing Social Security benefits when they start working.  The whole Social Security system can be confusing, and Getting a Job! is able to break things down,  and explain the rules clearly.  You can learn about SSI, SSDI, and the “Your Ticket to Work” program. 


One of the cornerstones of a successful job search is the resume.  Getting a Job! provides sample resumes, explains the purpose of resumes, and explains how to craft a resume that will best showcase your knowledge, education, and experience.


This is it!  All of the preparation comes down to the actual face-to-face meeting between the job applicant and the employer.  You only get one chance to make a first impression, and the extensive “interview” section provides the information that you (or your student) need to do your best.  It explains that interviews can range from casual and conversational to quite formal, and how to handle each type. 

Many other subjects are covered in addition to these three, and there are also role model videos that appear throughout; deaf professionals speak directly to the student who is looking to enter the workplace, sharing their experiences and wisdom.

Christie Westmann, a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing who is now in Alaska, says that pepnet 2 “has always been an excellent resource for my Transition Readiness class.”  She used Getting a Job! with her students, and says:

“The students worked diligently on learning their rights and responsibilities within the workplace. They watched all training videos and worked through the questions at the end. The interviewing resource was a very useful tool. I used all of the questions. The students felt more confident on being able to answer questions when in a real interview. I conducted several mock interviews that included the information pepnet 2 provided and added how to use an interpreter during an interview. By the end of the unit, the students were giving each other feedback their individual strengths and weaknesses. I had 4 students go on to interview for jobs and get them! All of the students felt more confident after going through the Getting a Job! curriculum.“

Don’t forget, you will need to log into (or create) your pn2 account to access the training. Here is the link to the login page.

Once logged in, you can explore other training and resources available from pn2.

Do you have ideas for making Getting a Job! even better? We’d love to hear them.  Send comments to help@pepnet.org

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Vermont Program Guides Deaf Adults To Jobs, Fun And More

Patrick Harris works hard plugging cracks in a system fraught with challenges that could prevent his clients from achieving their life goals.

Harris works with young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing with co-occurring disabilities (sometimes called Deaf Plus). He provides comprehensive services including direct employment assistance, independent living skills training and social supports through a Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program called Adults Career Counseling and Employment Support Services (ACCESS). He assesses the needs of each client, and works with her or him to design a path to autonomy.

Vermont Program Guides Deaf Adults To Jobs, Fun And MoreWorking one-on-one with his clients to figure out what each person needs allows Harris to gives them tools and tactics to achieve success.  Solutions might include job coaching at an employment site to help clients understand the job’s requirements and routines so they can obtain and maintain employment in the community.

While getting and holding a job can be a major success for an individual, ACCESS recognizes there is more to life than work. Survey results on the Deaf Plus population in the Bay Area in California, for example, emphasize the isolation that these individuals can experience when communication and other barriers reduce interaction and participation with the larger community.  ACCESS provides comprehensive supports including social and networking opportunities that enable clients to have fun, meet people, and just get out of the house. Trying to break down the social isolation is an important component of ACCESS’ mission.

ACCESS works with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Vermont mental health service agencies, parents, and legal guardians to reach out to and support his clients.  Harris’ approach includes prompting clients to consider the consequences of the choices they make, for example, comparing the pros and cons of working versus collecting SSI.   He also encourages his clients to consider contributing to society, serving as role models, and volunteering as ways to get out into the community and also get some job experience.

Some funding for ACCESS’ job coaching and other support services comes from VR; other sources include Medicare payments for the mental health services that ACCESS provides. 

For additional information on this innovative program that serves individuals who are D/HH with additional disabilities, visit the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing website.

Or contact Patrick Harris at pharris@vcdhh.org

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