Many organizations seek to create jobs, particularly for employees from diverse backgrounds. As mentioned, the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community is 40 million strong, and due to a number of unique barriers to employment, within the U.S., approximately 70% of that community remains unemployed. You may be wondering what you can do to reach this massive untapped market while also meeting disability and diversity goals and securing some goodwill for your organization in a true win-win-win scenario. Enter Connect Direct, a remarkable ecosystem of communication that will help you connect with a powerful, eager pool of ASL-fluent employees in ways both profound and never previously possible.

To better illustrate the immersive nature and full ecosystem of resources within CSD’s Connect Direct program, let’s consider the process of finding employment opportunities from a different perspective.

Imagine that you are one of the millions of Deaf Americans looking for work. Like 70% of your community members, you have been unemployed for some time and have been making ends meet by way of government assistance benefits. You have found your Deaf identity, culture, and language, but you want something more. You want to feel the fulfillment of joining the workforce and contributing to yourself, your family, and your community.

The trouble is that you have no idea where or how to start. You have heard the horror stories. Many of your friends have applied for jobs in the past, only to find themselves passed over in favor of an “easier” hire of a Hearing individual. It’s a troubling truth: Most organizations believe that hiring a Deaf person like you will require more work, more expense, and less return than hiring a Hearing person who communicates via spoken language.

But you are determined. Every day, you check job postings, send résumés, apply with staffing agencies, and mine LinkedIn and Facebook for every potential avenue you might pursue. You spend months looking for work, but soon learn that you never can seem to get past that first hurdle: the interview. Anyone that might be interested in the skills and education listed in your résumé has essentially the same reaction when learning that you are Deaf. Their immediate assumption is that you have special needs that they can’t afford or even hope to meet. And so your search continues.

Then, one day, you’re on Facebook and notice a targeted ad that shows up on the right side of the screen. You have no way of knowing this at the time, but this is the work of CSD Creative on behalf of the organization interested in hiring people like you. The ad reads, “Deaf Employees Wanted! Must Know ASL.”

You click on the ad because it just seems too good to be true, and the link forwards you to information about an organization that intends to implement a program called Connect Direct, and within that program hire ASL-fluent, Deaf/Hard of Hearing employees to staff its customer service center. Now that you are reading about the program, you remember an email a friend sent you last week—the one with the YouTube link you didn’t bother clicking because you were too busy sending résumés. You find the email and click the link, which takes you to a video produced by CSD Creative. The polished, professional video introduces you to this amazing new campaign from the organization you were just reading about through the Facebook ad. The video walks you through the truly mind-blowing concept of Connect Direct: Deaf customer service representatives who answer calls and help Deaf customers get the answers they need about the organization’s products and services.

This all still seems like something from a dream, so you search for more confirmation. The CSD Creative video links to the company’s website, which features a dedicated page designed by CSD Creative, complete with a video that explains in ASL all about the concept of what the organization is doing with Connect Direct, why they believe they need Deaf employees like you, and how you should apply if you are interested.

You know immediately that you want to apply, but first, you decide to check in on LinkedIn. There, you find a notification about an article produced by CSD Creative spotlighting that same organization’s new hiring initiative. Now you know that you shouldn’t waste any more time and decide to apply.

Courtesy of CSD Learns, the next video you encounter after starting the application process is one delivered entirely in ASL, explaining to you the specifics of the open positions and encouraging you to continue your application. The video contains a link to CSD Works, where a brief, four-minute training video explains in ASL how to complete this application and ensure that you meet the requirements.

Is this real? you wonder. How is any of this possible? Why have I never seen anything like this before?

The Interview:

A week passes, and you begin to feel a little down about your prospects of working with this exciting organization. But then an email inviting you to interview for one of the open positions lands in your inbox. Had this been any other job opportunity, you might not have felt so excited because you knew that you still had to clear that dreaded hurdle at the interview. But given everything you have read and seen about this organization, you are more hopeful and excited than you have been at any point during this job search process. You know that the biases against your Deafness and language won’t exist at this organization, because you have seen for yourself the inclusion the organization displayed in various places and several different formats online.

There is still another startling truth to overcome, however: You don’t know how the interview process will work. You have scheduled the interview, but what happens next? For all your Hearing friends, the answer is simple. You just show up in business attire and talk through the interview, hoping to connect with your interviewer and give him/her confidence that you will make for the right hire. But for you, as someone who communicates with ASL, this is an entirely new world. You explain to your Hearing friend that it would be like him going to apply for a job in Russia. He would be much more nervous in that scenario, because he would not be as familiar with the cultural norms, expectations, manner of dress and formal speech, or even know the language. To that last point, he would need an interpreter, but would that interpreter represent his words accurately and completely?

Thanks to CSD Learns, you find many other videos, all in ASL, on the organization’s website. One video outlines the job interview process, while also teaching you how to research the company prior to the interview date, how to present your skillset in the best possible manner, and how to review the company in various ways to determine appropriate attire, and so on. Because this information delivers in your language, you don’t have to worry about misinterpretation, and can now focus all your energy and attention on doing your part and putting your best foot forward.

The Onboarding Experience:

Thanks to CSD’s software platform Vineya, you were able to provide input on who would be your preferred interpreter to represent you in the interview meeting. What a difference it made to not have to rely on a random stranger showing up to the meeting and serving as your voice. It was the first time in your life that you felt as if you were operating on a level playing field with the other candidates for a job. And with that confidence and support, you managed to nail both the first and second interviews.

After the screening and selection process, you have been offered one of the positions! The training program will deliver by CSD Works, which means that you have a Deaf manager who will be on hand in your call center while you train through online videos produced by CSD Learns, along with on-the-job training made possible by CSD Works.

The RESULT:

Thanks to CSD Neighborhood (Works, Learns, and Unites), Creative Team, Vineya and your wonderful new employer’s implementation of Connect Direct, you are now working a full-time job with benefits. You know your job well, and through the CSD Connect Direct program, you get to talk to Deaf customers from all over the world every day and help them realize everything your company has to offer. You get to introduce new products, upgrade customer plans, solve problems, and make a difference. The customers are highly satisfied, given that you help eliminate the typical language and cultural barriers that prevent them from fully understanding and appreciating the customer service process.

Meanwhile, your job satisfaction is extremely high. This is for multiple reasons: 1) because of all the support you have received, 2) you know you can now communicate with anyone at work in your native language, and 3) because you are also offered opportunities to share your thoughts with the broader community. With CSD Unites, you are able to attend and even speak at events that your employer sponsors, allowing you to help illustrate to the Deaf and Hearing communities how your employer has changed your life. At one such event, where your employer invited members of the Deaf community in to the call center, you beamed with pride at the demonstration of how you contribute to the company. At the annual corporate gala, you helped present on how the program has enhanced diversity and inclusion at your organization. In this way, you feel like more than just an employee—you feel like a valued contributor, and a bridge between the Hearing and Deaf communities.

The rewards don’t end there, either. You have a vacation fund building for your family, a 401k you are contributing to, and health benefits without the aid of government assistance. You now get to chat around the water cooler with your Hearing and Deaf friends about the ups and downs of your work week. This is more than just a job to you. This is the fulfillment you knew had been missing from your life.

It All Starts with You:

This remarkable transformation starts with you as the leader of an organization. By working with CSD and the Connect Direct program, you can do so much more than create jobs and enhance diversity. You can help make a fundamental difference in Deaf lives. Your organization creates the opportunity; CSD Creative makes the Deaf candidate aware of that opportunity; CSD Learns partners with you to explain the application and interview process in ASL; Vineya makes the interview seamless and engaging by utilizing a sign language interpreter in ways that the Deaf community is not used to; CSD Works helps your organization select the best candidates; CSD Learns makes the onboarding and training process more natural and effective; and CSD Unites deepens the connections between the Deaf employee, your organization, and the Deaf/Hard of Hearing communities. The Connect Direct program is more than just a service that helps you reach a new pool of potential staff; it is a powerful ecosystem that changes organizations, and changes lives.

Contact me today – cradford@csd.org

https://www.linkedin.com/in/craigjradford/