Keara Mangan (she/her)
I love utilizing 3D, graphic, and media analytics to create impactful art and presentations. I hope to continue my career forward as a production manager and multimedia designer, utilizing my digital design and business expertise in a large-scale organization.
Improving workplace accessibility and inclusion for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in media industries
My project aims to examine how workplace inclusion and accessibility and can be improved for DHH (D/deaf and hard of hearing) artists in media industries. I believe that this topic is of particular importance, especially as Hollywood within the last decade has increased its interests in diverse storytelling and marketing. Although the topic of minority inclusion has become more positively spread in mainstream media, issues of performative activism within large corporations remains prevalent. Behind the screen within the workplace of media studios, Deaf artists continue to struggle to receive accessible resources that best fit their communication preferences and recruitment events continue to neglect interpretation and captioning needs for DHH talent. Without prioritizing accessibility needs, Deaf artists and designers will continue to remain discriminated in visual arts industries.
My research aims to identify and improve current policy by designing more inclusive practices for companies to follow to attract and retain disabled talent. There is a wide pool of Deaf artists and those wanting a career related to visual media, however many companies continue to have apprehensive attitudes and insufficient resources available for DHH talent to succeed. Employees within motion picture companies are additionally not provided adequate Deaf culture training to learn new communication strategies and courtesy to their DHH coworkers. My proposal can have a positive impact for both the Deaf and greater creative community by presenting clearer accessibility policies that can mutually benefit both non-hearing and hearing staff.
Approximately 90% of children with hearing conditions are born into families with no history of deafness. However only about 10% of parents will learn sign language. This counterbalance showcases how, from an early age, many deaf children struggle with communication and language access- even with immediate family members. These statistics remain prevalent throughout Western countries despite increased opportunities and access to learn sign language, such as in-person and digital learning programs.
Learning about the theory and construct of the Social Disability Model helped to express many of the frustrative feelings and accessibility problems identified by non-profit organizations, case study testimonials, and project interviewees. The Social Model of Disability is a theory established by disability rights advocates that believes that developed countries’ societies create exclusions that inhibit disability, rather than the individuals themselves. There are many technology tools and resources possible to be more widely inclusive for people with a wide range of physical abilities, however the culture within society chooses to not be accessible for all individuals. For example, it is often possible for ramps and elevators to be added to buildings or add closed captioning to videos, however society chooses to not prioritize these inclusive practices. I believe this theory is an excellent reference that reflects many of the current issues media industries. As many accessibility tools such as subtitles, notetaking, and sign language interpretation are resources companies could provided to deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, however there is often not a voluntary or moral obligation to be proactive with providing these tools. Instead, deaf people often have to fight to receive adequate services to perform their jobs successfully.
For my final research findings, I centered my collected desk literature, stakeholder, and workshop research into 6 recommendations. These policies all have the potential to be beneficial outcomes for both hearing and non-hearing designers.
One of the first suggestions shared by project participants was increased Deaf culture and inclusion training within their workplaces. Not only should these trainings be available, but companies should also establish a mandatory protocol for employees of all levels, from executive to contracted staff to attend Deaf awareness programs. These courses are not a widespread guarantee for eradicating disability discrimination in the workplace, however they will provide the chance for workers with no prior exposure to Deaf culture the chance to gain greater empathy for their DHH coworkers. Providing staff with intermittent sign language lessons and classes during work hours gives people the chance to gradually improve their skills overtime while remaining mindful of people’s personal schedules outside of work hours. Gaining these sign language skills additionally gives hearing staff valuable learning insight in increasing their visual perception and spatial awareness, skills that are greatly important in arts industries.
Without the support of management investing in financial and policy resources for greater accessibility, many diversity and recruitment efforts will not be able to sustain long-term success in large media corporations. Like any investment however, inclusion improvement within the workplace requires money initially expended in order to yield results in the future. Greater inclusion of the workplace not only improves internal structure but it also has the potential to tap into previously undiscovered consumer markets, leading to the potential of greater profit.
Hire More Deaf Talent
Rather than stating that ‘No deaf talent is applying’, it is important to reflect and examine potential reasons why few DHH artists and designers apply to positions. Media corporations need to form more collaborative partnerships with arts organizations that have a strong focus on vocational resources for Deaf and disabled talent in order to improve recruitment efforts. Many traditional events held by arts groups do not have accessible resources, making it difficult for Deaf artists to network. It is important for coordinators to be considerate of hiring interpretation support and captioning to help give prospective DHH talent equal chance to engage with recruiters. This additionally calls for more hiring of production accessibility coordinators (PACs) on set environments to help facilitate a comfortable and safe work setting for both staff and actors. The UHC arts advocacy group estimates an initial £5,000 budget estimate for hiring more PACs on high-end media productions.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Deaf and disabled individuals are often placed in an unfair position of acting as the primary initiator for requesting workplace accommodations to cover their accessibility needs. It is important for human resource departments to have proper training on current government guidelines and disability rights so that they can proactively work to ensure an artist’s access needs are readily available for them to utilize.
To create a more inclusive environment, it is essential that hearing artists take initiation to ensure that their DHH coworkers feel welcomed and acknowledged within their team. Each person has different communication desires, thus one deaf person may prefer to have sign language interpretation while another may be comfortable with speech-to-text captioning with team members. Discrimination may not be intentional, however someone’s ignorance may be causing harm. It is important to advise others of Deaf etiquette and best practices when someone notices inequity being placed upon someone, regardless of disability status.
Flexible Work Schedules
Although some companies allowed for remote work opportunities pre-pandemic, the evolution of modern work culture since 2020 has rapidly formed to become more receptive to remote and hybrid work environments. Remote work has been seen as a widely favored work schedule for many artists with disabilities. Flexible work options often allow those with medical appointments to have more personal adjustments to their schedule when needed. Artists additionally have more opportunities to apply to positions beyond their local area, thus giving them more chances to gain employment at studios they may not have been able to accept prior to remote work.