As you can imagine American Sign Language (ASL) requires coordination. The ability to do two different hand shapes and two different motions at the same time. Not to mention adding body movement, eye gaze, and facial expressions all at once. Fluency in the language requires fluid movements of the wrists and elbows. One thing that gives a new learner away, is the lack of movement in their joints while signing. Often, new learners will put their elbows out which can make the sign even more difficult to do.
Did you know that if a sign hurts it means you are doing it wrong? ASL is not supposed to hurt when done right. Sometimes all that is needed is a tucking of the elbow or a rotation of the wrist. Although straining can occur when you are signing for many hours there is much you can do to minimize the strain starting with making sure you are signing the signs correctly and doing some stretches of the hands. Another way is finding more ways to say more with your face and less with your hands, using less signs to communicate the same meaning. With ASL being a visual language, you can incorporate so much meaning into the face and placement of your hands without losing content, tone, or intent.
For some ideas on stretches to save your hands check out this video on YouTube:
If you know you will be signing for a long period, perhaps interpreting, make sure you stretch beforehand. If you are sitting, maintain good posture. Keep your hands soft and avoid hash movements. If you are doing a lot of fingerspelling, keep your wrist at a slight angle instead of straight ahead of you. Avoid signing too far out of your personal space. Keeping your elbows close to your body can also prevent fatigue or injury from signing.
Does your meeting room have rows of chairs, making it difficult to make eye contact? A rounded seating arrangement is more conducive for the deaf as they can see other’s faces. This format enables them to read lips if they wish, see and interpret the tone in which the person is speaking, and know who is talking. This small change can help reduce misunderstandings.
Set up a Video Relay Service (VRS) device.
A VRS device is a device used to enable a deaf person to make and receive phone calls through an interpreter. This innovation allows a deaf person to contact suppliers, clients or make any call required within their workspace.
Supply an Interpreter.
It may seem acceptable to work around having an interpreter by writing notes. This practice can cause many misunderstandings as English is not the native language of the Deaf. Providing an interpreter is essential for the work and the growth of deaf employees. These additional services will help increase the ease with which deaf employees can find information or communicate with co-workers.
Making the workplace an accessible space for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals is an ongoing challenge and necessity for many employers. It is essential to have a well-developed strategy for ensuring that the workplace is easily adaptable to the specific needs of workers. One way to achieve this goal is through the development of a workplace accessibility plan, which should include policies, procedures, and guidelines for training and customizing workstations. While most organizations have policies in place for providing access to information in situations where such communication may be critical, they often fall short when it comes to providing reasonable accommodation for workers of all abilities. Thus, it is imperative to implement a comprehensive plan that considers deaf and hard-of-hearing employees’ unique needs.
It is crucial to train employees on how to make a workplace accessible to disabled individuals. Training should include how to handle emergencies, use ASL, and use electronic or mechanical devices. Employees who do not know how to make a workspace accessible may not perform on a team properly. It is also vital that managers provide cultural training and information to their employees to understand their team members and how to respect and encourage them. If your business offers deaf-accessible products or services, promote them!