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Seven Insights From A Deaf Entrepreneur On Fostering Inclusion In The Business World

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In the fast-paced business world, recognizing untapped markets is essential for sustained growth and success. One such market with immense potential is the Deaf community, which faces significant communication barriers and information gaps in a world dominated by spoken and written language.

As such, embracing inclusivity is not just a moral obligation; it is a strategic imperative. The Deaf community comprises an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide, representing a substantial consumer base that has large untapped potential. By recognizing and addressing these barriers, businesses can unlock the immense potential of the Deaf community as both consumers and valuable contributors to the business ecosystem.

As the co-founder of the AMSAAN project developed by Gulf People of Determination Information Technologies, here are a few of my ideas on how businesses can foster inclusion in the business world:

1. EMBRACE INCLUSION AS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE A mere ten years ago, accessibility was often overlooked, but times have shifted, and the benefits of inclusion cannot be ignored by businesses willing to adapt. According to an Accenture report, companies that have improved their inclusion of persons with disabilities over time were four times more likely than others to have total shareholder returns. Therefore, developing products and services that address the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities, including the Deaf community, sets businesses apart in a competitive landscape.

2. TRAIN AND EDUCATE EMPLOYEES FOR INCLUSIVE CUSTOMER CARE In today’s interconnected world, negative feedback spreads rapidly. Treating customers poorly, even in a single instance, can have far-reaching consequences, and mistreating an entire community, such as the Deaf, can be detrimental. More than half (57%) of consumers surveyed by Deloitte are more loyal to brands that are committed to fair treatment. Therefore, to establish an empathetic workforce, businesses should invest in training employees about Deaf culture, effective communication strategies, and sign languages. Ideally, these trainings should be carried out by deaf individuals who possess a comprehensive knowledge of Deaf culture.

Related: Fostering An Entrepreneurial Mindset: Preparing The Future Workforce

3. FOSTER INDEPENDENCE WITH ACCESSIBLE SOLUTIONS FOR THE DEAF Consider a Deaf customer dining at a restaurant, where communicating dietary restrictions like a nut allergy becomes seamless and dignified. Rather than relying on potentially uncomfortable written notes, with the use of software like AMSAAN, customers can simply scan a QR code through a video relay app, and connect to a sign language interpreter. This connection allows them to engage in a smooth conversation, thereby ensuring that their needs are accurately conveyed and understood. These technologies enable Deaf individuals to overcome barriers, and thus experience newfound freedom in their daily lives.

4. EMBRACE INCLUSIVITY IN THE DIGITAL WORLD Digital platforms and online content must be accessible to Deaf individuals. Accessibility can be achieved by providing transcripts for videos, and optimizing digital content with closed captions. Over 5% of the world’s population has significant hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That is roughly 460 million people that do not have access to a business’ content if they don’t use closed captions. Similarly, when it comes to navigating websites, an assistive app can facilitate direct access to sign language interpreters who can aid in understanding content, or reaching out to company representatives. By prioritizing accessibility, businesses can empower the Deaf community, and ensure equal access to information and opportunities in the digital world.

5. ENGAGE WITH DISABILITY ORGANIZATIONS TO BUILD BRIDGES Collaborating with advocacy groups focused on the Deaf community can bridge many business gaps. For instance, the upcoming hosting of the World Federation of the Deaf Conference in 2027 by Abu Dhabi in the MENA region presents a remarkable market opportunity for inclusive businesses. In addition, partnering with Deaf organizations allows businesses to improve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) index, which tracks companies based on their environmental, social, and governance practices. By partnering with Deaf advocacy groups, and actively participating in initiatives that promote inclusivity, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to social inclusivity, leading to higher ESG ratings, and align themselves with causes that resonate with consumers and governments, leading to improved brand perception as an inclusive and socially responsible business.

6. ADVANCE INCLUSIVITY BY LEVERAGING USER TESTING AND FEEDBACK Research from Return on Disability reveals that individuals with disabilities report a failure rate of 75%-80% in their customer experiences. Incorporating individuals from the Deaf community in user testing, and actively seeking their input on products, services, and accessibility features can give valuable insights into the potential obstacles or difficulties experienced by the Deaf. This feedback plays a vital role in allowing businesses to demonstrate their dedication to inclusivity, as well as fostering consumer trust.

7. PROMOTE INCLUSIVE HIRING FOR A DIVERSE WORKFORCE Implementing inclusive hiring practices that actively recruit and hire Deaf individuals can lead to increased innovation, enhanced decision-making, and contributes to a stronger brand reputation. Shockingly, the National Deaf Center reports that only 43% of Deaf individuals are employed, compared to 72% of hearing individuals. Hiring Deaf employees can have a direct positive impact on businesses that serve Deaf clients. When Deaf individuals can communicate with and receive support from employees who understand their unique needs and experiences, it improves customer satisfaction and loyalty. This aspect should serve as a motivation for companies to actively seek out and hire Deaf individuals, as it aligns their workforce with the customer base they serve, and enhances their overall business performance in a socially conscious marketplace.

The impact of business inclusivity and awareness of the Deaf community extends beyond social responsibility– it becomes a strategic imperative for businesses. Implementing assistive technologies in various settings becomes a viable option for businesses striving to prioritize accessibility to maintain a competitive edge and business longevity. These innovative solutions can be integrated virtually anywhere, including banks, hospitals, hotels, tourism attractions, and more. Such initiatives not only benefit customers and clients, but they also reflect a commitment to equal access and opportunities for all. By prioritizing inclusivity, businesses not only thrive, but they also create a more inclusive and diverse world for everyone.

Related: How SMEs Can Compete With Big Brands Amid Market Uncertainty

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