Should Hayley say she’s deaf on a job application form?

Lots of changes are becoming apparent now Hayley’s turned 16 and as she starts looking for part time work, her deafness raises certain issues…

Friday evening, in a pizza restaurant

“Come on Mum, a bit more than that!”

Hayley clinks her wine glass against the pinot grigio bottle from which I’ve just poured her, meanly she would say, a shot-size serving.

“I am 16 now and I’m allowed to have alcohol.”

Yes, our little Hayley has turned 16. The sparklers have barely fizzled out on her birthday cake and already big changes are afoot.

I’m sure she looks a tiny bit taller, her make-up that bit more sophisticated, a little more time spent on her hair with the straighteners each morning – and that’s just for school. Her skirt’s folded over at the waistband an extra turn, revealing more knee than ever, in strict contravention of school rules.

She’s certainly that bit more determined – which is saying something! – and alcohol consumption aside, now she’s set on finding herself a Saturday job.

For two years she’s been on a local youth enterprise scheme, with work placements in local shops and cafes where she gets paid in vouchers. But she’s no longer eligible as she’s 16 so she wants to get a proper job.

I’ve been helping her fill in an online application for a local branch of a national restaurant chain and it’s brought up a new area for debate.
Blue apply now button
Where the form asked if there’s any disability, I found myself going against everything we’ve done before, with school or club applications.

“Don’t tick the box,” I told her.

It felt awkward, duplicitous and with connotations of shame or embarrassment – like it’s saying to Hayley there’s something she has to hide or lie about.

Which is the opposite of everything I’ve instilled into her: to be upfront about her deafness, to feel comfortable with it, that it’s up to the world to accept it and try to support her to be included.

“But Mum, why?” she asked. “What about equality and discrimination?”

She knows, because I’ve told her, that it’s illegal to discriminate against you if you are deaf.

“Disability is an unknown quantity that might pose extra problems or effort or opportunities for embarrassment”

But that’s not the way the real world works.  I know human nature, have worked in positions where job applications are being screened; been part of the decision making process as to who gets called in for interview. I’ve seen others panicking, not knowing what difficulties disabilities could pose, covertly ruling out certain applications, not because they are nasty but because disability is an unknown quantity that might pose extra problems or effort or opportunities for embarrassment.

“Just get in your foot in the door first,” I tell her, let them see how capable you are, that it’s possible for you to communicate perfectly well, then bring it up.

I honestly don’t know if it’s the right thing to say. But for now while she’s starting out instinct tells me that right or wrong, a pragmatic approach – stealth approach if you like – is more to her advantage, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s going to need all the advantages she can get in an unequal world where she is so often at a disadvantage.

What are your views on whether Hayley should declare she has a disability or not? Leave a comment!

12 thoughts on “Should Hayley say she’s deaf on a job application form?

  1. Our child has no hearing (no auditory nerves) and relies on bsl and so will have to declare this on any application. You should feel fortunate that you have a choice. I know there will be a lot of discrimination and very few opportunities.

  2. My daughter is profoundly deaf and uses a digital hearing aid and a cochlea implant. I don’t think that someone should be asked this question on an application form. If you are then asked to attend for a job interview you can then state any special requirements you may have at this time. Being asked this question should surely not be allowed. My only other thought though is that many large companies are supposed to employ a reasonable percentage of disabled people and so ticking this box might actually help…

  3. I have been deaf since I were 3 and am now looking for a job in a pretty tough industry (Media/Theatre) and I understand fully that it’s a very tough industry to be in! However, I have trained for years in both industries, learning every aspect and skill I can possibly think of. I have recently started learning BSL, yet another skill which would be useful in the industry, and am learning really fast. I had a interview with a big name broadcast company recently, and they came back to me only recently saying that I were a fantastic candidate and that they were very interested in me but unfortunately I didn’t get the job because of one small petty thing. Yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the job but equally I’m questioning myself as to whether it were because of my hearing loss, which I reassured them was not a problem in a working environment, or not. Disability discrimination shall forever remain a mystery to me.

    • Did you ask for feedback??? Or ask outright did my hearing loss lose me the job. I would put my money on it that another candidate got a slightly higher mark than yourself through answers given. These days a lot of interviews are done on a score system so it is the way you conduct the interview, answer the questions and promote yourself. Best of luck in the future

    • You should have pursued the matter and pressed them to answer what that “small petty thing” was — if it was indeed because of your deafness, you could have issued a formal complaint against the employer/company, or even filed a discrimination lawsuit. Sorry I’m picking on you, but I just hate it when a perfectly competent employee who suffers employment discrimination doesn’t do anything about it — because this lets those bigoted, ignorant and prejudiced employers get away with their discrimination.

  4. my daughter who now is 26 nearly 27, left school with no qualifications at 14 due to reasons i can’t say, anyway that didn’t stop her getting a job she is profoundly deaf and worked in shops which yes was quite hard but then applied for a job in a office for a big firm they new she was deaf as to me and her deaf is something to be proud of not a disability i have never seen it like that as she can’t here so that’s all.
    Anyway she got the job, got her NVQ as well from that and works as a configuration analyst, she also gives sign language classes at the office and no one has a problem, she does her work, has bought a house with her partner, past her driving test, gone to New Zealand with just her and a friend and her and partner are now expecting a baby.
    So please Hayley be very proud of you as a person and your deafness it’s not something to hide and not tell, it’s something to be very proud of and i am so proud of what my daughter has achieved as was her so hard for her to get this far but she did. Her partner is deaf as well.

  5. Hello my names Maria and I have been wearing hearing aids for most of my life. I have always worked and in 2007 graduated as an adult nurse ,I have since been working as a nurse since then. Yes I have had problems mainly with telephones. Also when I first started work I was ashamed of my having to wear hearing aids and would wear my hair to hide them.Not anymore I am proud of my achievements and I say don’t put on the form disability as if all those people who wear glasses and can’t function without them do they but this down as a disability . Good luck with your daughters job hunting and I wish her success .

  6. Its a tricky one, made harder by some companies offering the Two Ticks symbol to guarantee an interview if the candidate meets the essential criteria, as an extra incentive to declare. Of course Saturday jobs won’t necessarily fall into this. Dependent on the level of communication Hayley has got, and the type of jobs she’s aiming for, then I think your approach of proving herself on the job is best.

  7. I’m 47 years old and have a hearing loss of 45% in my left ear and 85% in my right. Throughout my life I have encountered various degrees of attitude from others regarding my deafness. Some kind, others not so kind. The hardest situations to handle have been in my place(s) of work. So much so that I hid my ‘problem’ and didn’t declare it on any CV – I then found that some individuals treated me as if I was thick because I’d ask them to repeat themselves -.eventually once I’d ‘proved’ myself the ‘thick’ tag was replaced with the whispering to newcomers – ‘she’s deaf’ ( I lip read)…… I guess the best advise would be – don’t declare it and if you’re successful in the interview give the job you’re all …..and be on your guard.
    It’s hard enough starting a new job without having our additional hurdle too but it’s character building for sure.
    Me……I’m now on the Board of Directors (as CS) for 3 Companies and meet with people day in and out, who, unless they know me, don’t have a clue………Good Luck Hayley xxxx

  8. I am deaf and can hear with two hearing aids. I have always stated the above on my application forms and I have not yet applied for a job which I haven’t then got an interview and subsequently been offered the job. I am 33 years of age and have always worked with children and young adults. Personally, I would always inform them. If they choose not to interview me because of my deafness, I wouldn’t want to work with them anyway. Good luck to your daughter, it’s tough being deaf in a hearing world, but it sounds like she has great support from you. Bethan

  9. Interesting article! It’s quite common among deaf people of my acquaintance to not disclose until offered an interview (and then request communication support for the interview – or attend without communication support and ask the panel to adapt and communicate clearly). This blog explores the dilemmas thoughtfully.

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