While unemployment in the United States is low many deaf people still find it hard to get a job.
One group of entrepreneurs is working to change that. CGTN’s Giles Gibson visited a resort built by and for the deaf.
Up a steep, muddy track deep in the woods, Jane Jonas is building a small tribute to what the deaf community can achieve. The site is still a work-in-progress, but Jane and her two business partners have big plans.
Only businesses from what Jane calls the “deaf ecosystem” are involved, from deaf contractors building the cabin to deaf artists decorating it.
After setting up her own web design business, Jane quickly learned how inaccessible the business world is for deaf people. Through an American Sign Language interpreter, she said communicating with clients is a constant challenge.
“People say, ‘Oh, do you mind calling ‘ And I wonder, ‘why can’t I just email ‘ People seem to think only about sound, about hearing and about that function. And if you can’t function with sound, then they get afraid and then they think, we can’t deal together, we can’t come to an agreement together,” Jonas said.
A report by the National Deaf Center said deaf people are more likely than the general population to own their own business.
The report also said owning a business enables them to bypass challenges and biases in the workplace. Only around half of deaf people in the U.S. had a job in 2017, compared to three quarters of hearing people
Ryan Maliszewski with Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., which is dedicated to deaf and hard-of-hearing students, said entrepreneurship opens up more opportunities.
“There are a lot of deaf people with larger companies. For example, there’s a lot of people in the federal government, that have deeper pockets that can afford interpreting services or maybe contract out those services. Whereas self-employment, you’re actually creating opportunities for yourself,” said Ryan Maliszewski the Gallaudet University professor.
Back in West Virginia, Jane is getting the cabin ready for its first guests.
While she believes our audio-based society still excludes her community, deaf-run businesses create opportunities for themselves.