Providing Accommodations

Communicating with deaf or hard-of-hearing employees is easier than you might think.  When meeting deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals for the first time, it is acceptable to ask them how they prefer to communicate with you.  In this era of electronic devices, you could communicate via computer, iPad, iPhone, or other device where information can be entered and shared. For more information about communicating with an employee or interviewee who is deaf or hard of hearing, see Communication Strategies, and Group Situations and Meetings.

Sign Language Interpreters

Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between hearing people who don’t know sign language and deaf or hard-of-hearing people who use sign language. Situations that may require an interpreter are: employment interviews, orientations, training and large meetings, as well as when meeting with a supervisor about work performance. To find sign language interpreters in your area, see the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

Video Remote Interpreting

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) uses an off-site interpreter to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people who can either be all together in a meeting room or in a one-to-one situation. To find information about VRI services, visit the Job Accommodation Network.

Relay Services

There are various types of relay services. Telecommunications relay services provide telephone service that allows hearing and deaf and hard-of-hearing people to communicate with each other. Telecommunications relay services are available in all U.S. states and territories for local and/or long distance calls at no additional cost to the consumer.

Video relay services (VRS) enable deaf or hard-of-hearing people who use American Sign Language and some deaf people who use their voice to communicate through video equipment such as videophone, smartphone or computer.

A) Using Sign Language

Videophone (VP): Using an internet connection, deaf or hard-of-hearing people can make or receive video relay calls.They sign directly to the video relay service (VRS) interpreter, who speaks what is signed to the hearing person. The interpreter signs the hearing person's responses to the deaf or hard-of-hearing caller.
Smart Phone/Tablet: On a smart phone or a tablet, deaf and hard-of-hearing people can communicate with either a hearing or a deaf person.

Computer: Whether a deaf person has a PC or a Mac, a desktop or a laptop computer, if it has a webcam, she or he can download free software from video relay service (VRS) providers of his or her choice. This enables them to make or receive video relay calls to or from hearing callers in the same manner as above.

NOTE: Deaf or hard-of-hearing people who use sign language can use these various technologies to call each other directly.

B) Using Voice

Videophone (VP) uses an internet connection with which a deaf individual can use his or her voice to speak directly to the person they are calling.  The interpreter signs the hearing person's responses which the deaf person can see on a videophone monitor.

Voice Carry Over is a technology that allows people to speak directly to the person they are calling, then read that person's response on a display on their phone, videophone, tablet or computer.

Web-captioned telephone is a web-based service that allows the callers to phone someone and also read real-time, word-for-word transcriptions of their calls on a computer monitor or laptop. It is used by deaf or hard-of-hearing people who prefer using their own voice aided by technology to communicate by phone.
Captioned Telephone, such as a Captel phone, has a built-in screen that displays in text everything being said by the other person.

C) Using Text

Online Relay (includes tablets, smart phone. etc.): The online relay service allows deaf or hard-of-hearing people to use a computer or other device to type a text message. When a hearing person is speaking, the operator is typing what he or she says so the deaf or hard-of-hearing person can read it. The relay operator also reads what the person types to the hearing person.


Notetaking is a common accommodation that can be used in a variety of situations such as everyday meetings or last minute meetings in the workplace when an interpreter is not available. Notes can be typed on a computer or laptop, and projected onto a screen, if that technology is available in the meeting room.

Visual Alerts

Visual alerting technology such as a doorbell, smoke alarm, telephone and weather alert signalers all can bring information about sounds that need to be brought to the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual’s attention.

Visual Alerts
Visual Alerts