As National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) unfolds with this year's theme Advancing Access and Equity, businesses across the nation are reminded of the importance of nurturing an inclusive work environment where people of all minds and abilities grow and prosper to their fullest potential. As an autism-, neurodiversity-, and disability-friendly organization, Rangam’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) extends beyond NDEAM. With various programs tailored for disabled, autistic, and neurodivergent job seekers, we continuously strive to promote a culture of inclusion and belonging that not only understands but celebrates our differences.
One of the pivotal initiatives that companies can undertake in line with NDEAM's theme is introducing American Sign Language (ASL) training for their employees. We’ve identified four compelling reasons businesses should give it more than a passing thought.
1. Skill Development and Fun Learning ASL classes offer a unique blend of learning and engagement. As employees pick up a new language, they also experience the joy of communicating in a novel way. It's not just about moving hands and fingers; it's about expressing oneself without words and understanding others without hearing.
2. Enhancing Relationships and Strengthening Bonds Having a common language transcends ethnic, cultural, social, economic, and even linguistic divides, helping forge connections that might otherwise remain unexplored. When hearing employees learn ASL, it naturally reinforces relationships with their deaf colleagues. This newfound connectivity can lead to improved teamwork, shared experiences, and an overall boost in team morale.
3. Improving Recruitment and Retention Companies that are equipped to communicate in ASL naturally appeal more to qualified job candidates who are deaf or hard of hearing. By offering ASL training, businesses can attract a wider pool of diverse candidates and make them feel welcome and valued in the workplace.
4. Facilitating Effective Internal Communication For employees who are deaf, relying solely on written communication can sometimes be limiting. But with coworkers trained in ASL, spontaneous conversations, brainstorming sessions, and even casual coffee breaks become effortless.
A Voluntary Venture with Widespread Impact In the pursuit of creating an inclusive workplace, introducing ASL classes can be a transformative initiative. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the diverse range of commitments and interests among employees in any organization. While ASL training can be an enriching experience, it's essential that such initiatives remain voluntary, emphasizing personal choice and flexibility.
For businesses considering this, it's key to communicate that participation in such training is entirely a personal decision. An employee's choice to engage in or abstain from ASL training should have no bearing on their professional growth trajectory. The essence of inclusivity lies in valuing every employee's unique contribution, irrespective of their decision to learn ASL or not. The overarching goal is to promote personal growth and foster a culture where individuals can thrive at their own pace, in their own unique way.
Where to Start? For businesses looking to introduce ASL classes, multiple avenues are available. On-site classes can be facilitated by representatives from local or national sign language organizations. For those preferring external setups, many local colleges and universities offer ASL courses. There are online courses, too, for those that work from home or in a hybrid environment. The choice is vast and the benefits are plenty.
At Rangam, we believe in the power of communication and the magic it weaves in bringing people closer. This NDEAM, let's take a step further in our journey towards Advancing Access and Equity by embracing ASL and the wonderful world it opens up. We’d be delighted to collaborate with any organization that’s looking to add ASL training to their employee development repertoire.