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New research by the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) has highlighted the challenges faced by deaf people when securing and progressing in work.

The survey, which polled the experiences of deaf people in relation to employment and career progression, was carried out at the end of 2020. Amongst the issues raised by respondents were a lack of deaf awareness amongst employers, communication issues and barriers to voluntary work.

When asked about careers advice, only a quarter of respondents said they had received this in sign language, whilst of those who received careers advice at school less than half (41%) said the careers advisor thought they could do the job they wanted.

When it came to career progression, the majority (60%) of respondents said they had not been given progression opportunities during their career, with several citing a lack of deaf role models within work as a key barrier.

Significant issues were also raised in relation to workplace accessibility and inclusion, with nearly two-thirds (63%) reporting they had not been given equal opportunities in the workplace and just over half (53%) did not feel supported at work. Added to this, 83% of respondents had been excluded from conversations with colleagues; two-thirds (69%) reported feeling lonely at work, whilst over half (59%) had been left out of social events. Shockingly, a third (34%) had experienced bullying or acts of unkindness at work because they were deaf.

More positively, nearly half (48%) said their colleagues had wanted to sign or to learn to sign with them. However, only 2 in 10 (21%) said their employer had arranged deaf awareness training for all staff.

Sue Evans, Joint Chief Executive at RAD, said:

“Our latest research confirms what many deaf people, and those working in the sector, have unfortunately known for a while: that deaf people continue to face significant challenges when it comes to accessing the labour market. This survey has also shone fresh light on some of the specific barriers to career progression, such as the lack of deaf role models in work and insufficient networking opportunities. Our DeafAdvance programme looks to tackle some of these issues, and we will be establishing the first management and leadership training centre for deaf people, aligning with accreditations such as ILM and ESOL.”

Martin McLean, Careers Policy Advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“Deaf young people are already less likely to be employed than their hearing peers and this concerning report shows some of the reasons why.

“If they’re deprived of good quality, accessible careers advice at this pivotal stage of their life, it puts them at a serious disadvantage before they’ve even moved into the world of work.

“Those that do find a job are arriving with incredible skills to offer, but all too often they’re unfairly held back by a real lack of support, inclusion and deaf awareness.

“Deaf young people are capable of anything, but unless they get the support they need, a generation of potential risks going to waste.”


Notes to editors: