Employment disparities among blind, deaf

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing released a social media video Wednesday exploring the employment experiences of members of these communities.

Key among the findings, said Annie Urasky, director of the Division, was a significantly lower employment rate among members of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing (DDBHH) communities.

While 57 percent of Michiganders are employed, only 48 percent of the DDDBHH communities are employed according to the Not With Us Census and Needs Assessment data released last month.

The Not Without Us census and needs assessment was launched in September of 2018. It was the most comprehensive assessment of the needs of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Michiganders ever conducted. The Division and partners Madonna University and Public Sector Consultants compiled the data between January and its September release.

The census portion of the Not Without Us project determined that 7.4 percent of Michiganders identify as Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing.

“While this data may in part reflect age-related hearing loss after retirement, it also shows that employer misperceptions regarding the skills and abilities of the DDBHH communities continue to serve as an obstacle,” said Urasky.

The survey results also revealed that 60 percent Michiganders who are DDBHH rated their experiences and treatment in the workplace positively. But that positive rating swung widely when broken down by specific identities, with 21 percent of deaf and 22 percent of hard of hearing respondents feel they are treated worse than others at work. For those who are deafblind, that number jumps up to 36%.

“The findings are encouraging on many levels,” said Urasky. “But they also show us that we have a lot of work to do to make Michigan workplaces accessible and welcoming to everyone including Michiganders who identify as Deaf, DeafBlind or Hard of Hearing.”

The Division has been rolling out weekly videos explaining the needs assessment findings. The videos can be found each Wednesday on Facebook.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the investigational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and working to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law.

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