Working for Change - Supporter Action

“Our shocking new research tells us that over half of people who are deaf or have hearing loss have experienced teasing and mocking in the workplace.

We’re calling on the government to make the workplace more inclusive for people with disabilities. Take action now so no one is held back at work by their employer: Read here for more information.

  • The important thing to bear in mind is that not all jobs are the same. There is a vast difference between working in a shop or office where a reasonable standard of behaviour is enforced and jobs such as on a building site or a factory floor which can be very tough indeed. The fact is that even hearing people get bullied at work.

     Trust me I am a very hard nut to crack, because I have had to learn to be and I have been in some awful jobs, because I have always had a policy of taking whatever was on offer. So I am in fact highly experienced in many types of work and well able to take my place in most workforces. Woe betide anyone who messes me about, because I simply won't stand for it. I have been known to walk out if things get really bad. Not 'aving it.

    It is very important to know your rights. If you know what you are entitled to then it is possible to quite rightfully make a fuss. You have to be sure of your ground so education in employment rights would be a big help.

    Usually what happens is the hearings all cover up and try to pretend they were only kidding or something like that. You have to be a selective about the battles you fight and it is difficult to get it right. We deaf people get no training or help in any of this. It's small wonder that many deaf people don't want to work when they know that it is likely to be a daily dose of torture.

    Then of course there are large organisations that offer token jobs to disabled people. The BBC is notorious for doing that and has whole departments of people beavering away not really doing all that much. Nice work if you can get it but obviously such jobs are very rare and certainly not typical of deaf employment. We can't all work for the Beeb! There are jobs available at universities, even if it is only sweeping the floor people tend to be treated with a modicum of respect and of course the Civil Service are supposed to have a code of conduct. These organisations usually have a disciplinary procedure and so anyone with a problem can take solid action.

    I find that trade unions are very helpful when it comes to defending employee rights. I've been a member of ASTMS, USDAW and the NUJ. All were supportive and helpful although they didn't know much about deaf people.

    The NUJ in particular were very open minded. I went to one of their meetings in London and unfortunately it was a very hot day and they had all the windows open which let in the famous London traffic roar. I couldn't understand a word anyone said and after the meeting the Chair came over and politely asked why I had not joined in the voting. I had to explain that I was not sure what was going on because I couldn't hear. He was thunderstruck. It had never occurred to him that an NUJ member could be profoundly deaf. His name is Jeremy Dear and he's currently the President of the Union :-)

    Another company I worked for is known throughout Cornwall. Unfortunately they have a bad reputation for bullying their employees. They are well known for it and if you ask anyone who is the worst employer in Cornwall they will name this firm. What do you do about people like that?

    I put up with them for 6 years. There was nothing wrong with the job but the people were just unbelievable. The whole place is run by bullying and fear. What can anyone do about a company like that?

  • We need thicker skin as nothing is going to change, and legal approaches just further alienate us.   While we are viewed an area unable to work without help or support, no employer really wants to know.  We have to keep adapting.  I've worked with the Deaf and the hearing, and by far the reluctance of Deaf to go with the flow is the reason they never fit in.  Some deaf expect work to be an extension of a deaf school or club, and fall apart when they find the onus is on them amid a dozen hearing co workers and no terp in sight, they aren't equipped to communicate with hearing just primed for each other.    We can only hope to defeat deaf objections to mainstreaming, as this is the sole area to empower them to integrate.  I worked with 15 other hearing people they teased me relentlessly for the first 4 weeks, I just went with it, and after had no issue with them and indeed after they started supporting me.  You have to try to fit in, complaining is a death wish, no -one likes complainers.  If you start with a demand you invite more people ignoring you.