Employment for deaf young people

Parents of deaf children have the same ambitions for their children as other parents: a successful, independent life and a fulfilling career. With the right support and adjustments, your child will be able to thrive and achieve just as much as their hearing peers.


Watch videos of deaf people at work

Deaf people and employment

Deaf people are represented in a huge range of employment sectors, but there are a small number of jobs that deaf people aren’t able to access, mostly owing to safety reasons. Encourage your child to take advantage of any available support to get the skills, knowledge and experience they need to achieve their career goals, and to ask questions about how they can access different work environments. 


How to support your child to think about employment

  • Encourage your child to be ambitious but support them to understand what will be required to achieve that ambition.
  • Help them to access the range of information and advice available.
  • Support them to gain work experience or apply for an internship – preferably linked to their area of interest.
  • Encourage them to display their abilities confidently.
  • Talk to them about what support they’ll need in the workplace and how to get it.
  • Ensure that your child is supported to think about employment during future-planning, such as transition meetings.

Some deaf young people may struggle with a lack of confidence or low expectations for their future, and may therefore be even more unsure of their options and how to explore them compared to their hearing peers. It’s important that you encourage them to ‘aim high’.

Young people can get professional support and advice on employment from a number of different sources, but it’s important to remember that sometimes advisers might not understand some of the barriers which deafness brings or how they can be overcome. You may wish to suggest to your child’s careers adviser that they contact the SENCO or Teacher of the Deaf to learn more about deafness.


Rights in the workplace: England, Wales and Scotland

As a parent, it’s useful if you’re fully aware of your child’s rights so that you can support them to be confident about asking for what they need and know what to do if they’re not getting what they need.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act places employers, careers advisers, employment service providers and educational establishments under a duty to make ‘resonable adjustments’ to ensure that disabled employees or service users, including deaf young people, are not at a substantial disadvantage.

The Act specifies that employers need to think about the types of adjustments they might need to make even if they don’t currently have any deaf employees. However, it also says that employers can only be expected to make reasonable adjustments if they know of a prospective employee’s disability, so it’s important for your child to be upfront and honest if they think they need support. 

What counts as a ‘reasonable adjustment’?

  • Communication support such as a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, note-taker or lipspeaker (including at interview stage).
  • Special aids and equipment (such as a flashing fire alert system).
  • Other support workers.
  • Changes to buildings or rooms to improve sound quality.
  • Changes to practices, e.g. how meetings are run.
  • Changes to the specific responsibilities associated with a role.
  • Changes to exams or aptitude tests at interview, such as extra time.

Employers have these responsibilities for both full-time and part-time employees, as well as young people on apprenticeships or work placements. However, these responsibilities will differ depending on the situation.


Rights in the workplace: Northern Ireland

As a parent, it’s useful if you’re fully aware of your child’s rights so that you can support them to be confident about asking for what they need and know what to do if they’re not getting what they need.

The Disability Discrimination Act (1995)

The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) places employers, careers advisers, employment service providers and educational establishments under a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’.

This means that institutions must make arrangements to ensure that disabled employees or service users including deaf young people, are not at a substantial disadvantage. Employers have these responsibilities for both full- and part-time employees, and young people on apprenticeships and work placements.

The duty is ‘reactive’ because it requires the employer to have knowledge of the person’s disability and the fact that they will be placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to others who do not have the particular disability. So it’s important for your child to be upfront and honest if they think they need support.

The adjustments that can be made to support your child in the workplace are listed above.


If your child is treated unfairly when they apply for a job

Your child can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service if they think they’ve been treated unfairly.

They may also be able to take their complaint to an employment tribunal. This has to be done within three months of the discrimination happening.



Finding a job: employment services

There are a range of free services available to young people who are finding it difficult to get a job. Some are for all unemployed young people, others are specifically for disabled young people. If your child is unemployed and looking for work, you should encourage them to visit the local Jobcentre Plus where they should be assigned a disability employment adviser who can support them and help them navigate their options such as the Work Programme or Work Choice (for disabled people who find it hard to work).

Please note, your child can’t get Work Choice if they live in Northern Ireland, but there are other schemes they can access instead. Visit www.nidirect.gov.uk.

In some areas specialist support is available through Jobcentre Plus from organisations like the Shaw Trust. And there are a number of other organisations (operating away from Jobcentre Plus) that can support your child with finding work such as the Deaf Achieve project by the Royal Association for Deaf People

Disability Employment Advisers (DEA)

Deaf young people are entitled to Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) when they get in touch with Jobcentre Plus looking for employment. They can help your child find a job or gain new skills for a job. They offer an employment assessment to find out what kind of work will suit your child best, and help them to make a plan of action to reach their employment goals. Usually your child will need to have an assessment with a DEA before being able to apply to any Jobcentre Plus work schemes. They can also offer information on disability benefits.

Disability Confident

Your child should not feel restricted to applying to certain types of jobs or ‘deaf-friendly’ employers. All employers are required to meet their duties under the Equality Act 2010 (England, Wales and Scotland). However, if your child wants further reassurance they can look out for employers that display the Disability Confident logo which shows they are positive about employing disabled people.


Access to Work

Access to Work provides funding for disabled people to get support and equipment (including communication support). Click here for more information.


If your child is treated unfairly when seeking support from Jobcentre Plus

If your child has received poor service from Jobcentre Plus, for example, if they have not been assigned a DEA or if staff show a lack of deaf awareness, they can make a complaint by following the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) complaints procedure.


Telling employers about their deafness

No one is required to tell an employer they are deaf unless they’re asked direct questions about their health on a medical questionnaire. Employers cannot do this unless it’s related to the job role.

Being open and honest about deafness is a personal decision but there are benefits to telling employers. It might mean that your child gets the support they need to perform well at interview, and it gives employees and applicants more protection under the Equality Act (England and Wales). If an employer can show they didn’t know someone was disabled, they might have a stronger defence in the event of any claim for discrimination.


Who else can provide support?

 For all young people

Prospects: www.prospects.ac.uk
The University of London Careers Group: www.careersgroup.co.uk
National Careers Service: nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk (England)
Careers Wales: www.careerswales.com (Wales)
Skills Development Scotland: www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk (Scotland)
Careers Service Northern Ireland: www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers (Northern Ireland)

For disabled young people

Loud Minority: www.loudminority.co.uk
Disabled Entrepreneurs Network: www.disabled-entrepreneurs.net
Disability Rights UK: disabilityrightsuk.org
Leonard Cheshire:www.leonardcheshire.org
Papworth Employment Programmes: www.papworthtrust.org.uk/work-and-training/finding-a-job
Remploy: www.remploy.co.uk
Shaw Trust: www.shaw-trust.org.uk
Association of Disabled Professionals: www.adp.org.uk
Equality and Human Rights Commission: www.equalityhumanrights.com

For deaf young people

Action on Hearing Loss: www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk
Buzz: www.buzz.org.uk/myfuture
Royal Association for Deaf People: www.royaldeaf.org.uk


Breaking down barriers to employment

Young man on apprenticeship (credit: NDCS)

Our project with the Department for Education set out to identify and help break down barriers to employment for deaf young people.

To achieve this we have created a collection of resources for deaf young people, their parents and employers.

  • A personal profile that deaf young people can download and complete to give employers information about reasonable adjustments they might need in the workplace.
  • A series of short videos on deaf young people and employment   
  • A handbook for employers, Breaking the sound barrier: A guide to recruiting and supporting deaf colleagues.

Find out more about these resources.