I was born profoundly deaf. I am struggling to be hired as a software programmer (Bachelor Science in Computer Science graduated in 2012). I have been employed from time to time but finding long-term employment is proving problematic. I am in USA and currently live in Texas. But I am at this point open to working remote or far away from where I live.

My past experience with career fair recruiters and Video Relay Service phone conversations with Human Resource departments shows that the majority of software development business are inexperienced when it comes to communication practices of deaf people.

One of the most common questions I have in the few actual interviews I have done is: "If you were hired how would you communicate in the work place?" I almost always answer that we can use paper, e-mail, text, skype/IM chat, Video Relay Service, and other methods that are visual based.

I also noticed that sometimes there is a third party involved with the hiring process (contractor for a client) which further complicates this matter.

What is the best approach and timing to let potential employers knows that I am deaf?

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    Thanks for making the edits. I don't know if I'm qualified to try to answer but I'd recommend checking out this related article. It's about someone who's hearing impaired instead of deaf but I think most of the advice given may be useful for you as well. All I can say is that while you will almost certainly face discrimination, plenty of companies will be willing and able to accommodate your disability and those are the companies you want to work for.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 21:45
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    Could you clarify if you've been employed since graduating? Note that if your search has dragged on for a long time there could be other factors at play; consider joining The Workplace Chat for personalised advice or to ask people to take a look at your resume if you want help with that.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 21:48
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    Probably not the case in the USA, but do note that some countries give fines to companies who don't have enough "disabled" people in their workforce. So in those countries, companies might be more open to people like you as they may save money from fines. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 7:53
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    BalusC - stackoverflow.com/users/157882/balusc - is one of the highest ranked users on SO and his profile states he is deaf. Perhaps you could learn a trick or two. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 10:16
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    oh stop. It's not a duplicate. Cover letters are narrow in scope. If anything, this is an extension of that question, covering the next logical question.
    – Chris E
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 13:25

3 Answers 3


Let me start by stating that I understand the difficulties you face. While not profoundly deaf, I am legally deaf -- just over the threshold.

When I first graduated college I had a lot of concerns about how I could be hired. The first thing I noticed is that almost the entirety of companies that reached out to me about resumes I filled out made initial contact through email. It made it very easy to be up front with them. Although I had some hesitations at first, I felt there was much understanding from recruiting firms -- some of them even switched me to other recruiters who knew sign language.

More importantly, I realized that any company that would look down upon my condition I did not want to work for (besides the fact that they were breaking a federal law).

So my advice to you is: get it out early. If they are going to be discriminatory when they find out, wouldn't you rather know that before wasting your time? If you would prefer to keep it hidden as long as possible, I would tell them before the first time that I had to speak with them on the phone or in a video interview -- surprises can be a warning sign for recruiters. This can be as simple as requesting closed captioning for a video interview or letting the recruiter/point of contact know that you will be using VRS. They should be able to figure it out and if they are decent people (many recruiters I've met are) it will not move the needle for them. In fact, many tech companies are currently working to diversify their work force and right or wrong, you will be a checkbox for some middle manager somewhere.

Remember, we are hired for our abilities not our disabilities :).

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    +1 for "right or wrong, you will be a checkbox for some middle manager somewhere" - ha ! love it. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 3:38
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    +1 for "More importantly, I realized that any company that would look down upon my condition I did not want to work for" - huge fan of this attitude. Employee should have expectations of companies they apply to work for.
    – Charles
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 4:29
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    "any company that would look down upon my condition I did not want to work for" This would have been central to the post I'd submit if this went unanswered but I'm glad that someone with actual experience brought this up and can confirm that it's a good approach. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 7:22
  • "...as simple as requesting closed captioning for a video interview or letting the recruiter/point of contact know that you will be using VRS." This signals that you are proactive and know how to get things done and take full forward steps to do it. A lot of companies are looking for that quality in prospective employees.
    – WBT
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 22:07
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    Excellent answer. I have hearing issues as well, although I'm not deaf - not yet anyway. Hearing aid, having to make people repeat themselves from time to time, that sort of thing. I actually find that co-workers respond better to "I'm sorry, I have issues with my hearing" than my own family does. My wife, in particular - boy does she hate having to repeat stuff. Hasn't been a problem career-wise, though... it's just frustrating for ME when I have to talk with people.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 20:56

I would like to reiterate some of the comments and answers above but from a perspective as an experienced Deaf developer who have had a mix of work experience in contracting, non-profits, small companies, and Fortune 100 companies. Most of the points mentioned in this thread are spot-on.

I do see some companies turned off by use of a sign language interpreter. In some interviews, I go to it on my own and rely on lipreading and writing on pad & paper. Those are the interviews, ironically, I have had the most success with. I believe it shows initiative to the employer that there are ways to communicate and get your ideas across. Many sign language interpreters do not know geek-speak so what you said may come out wrong -- so watch out for that.

I do warn the employer up front that I would require a sign language interpreter for meetings involving more than 1 person and meetings of a sensitive nature - discussing salary, employment status, etc.

Many employers I've worked with have never had experience with a Deaf person before, and by having people like you "out there", it only increases the chance that we will interview people that have already interviewed Deaf people.

Keep looking, don't be discouraged as you are (and as well as they are) looking for the right fit.


I will try to answer the question the best I can. However, while I do hiring for a lot of companies I my self am not deaf, nor have I ever interviewed a deaf person.

So, the software industry is a lot more about "who you know" then what you know at the entry level. Your trying to prove that you can be a good member of a development team. That's the larger goal, and the important question that the interviewer is trying to asses. Unfortunately, your CS degree does not prove that. I know I will get comments and down votes for saying this, but I can not stress enough that while a CS degree may get your resume past the "HR Front desk" it's pointless when it comes to "the big question." The single most important question when hiring a junior dev is:

Will this person suck so bad that it's not worth investing the time and money to train them into a productive team member?

The CS degree means (to me) that you at least know "some" basics of programming, though probably not as much as you think you do. That's a good thing. Now that's only a part. It's also can this person be a good team member? Can they accept that they need to learn more? Can they accept that the world is not a lab or class room? Can they stand up for their (coding) beliefs and fight for them? Can they learn when to fight, and when to "shut up and write code"?

Now I went though all of that for a reason. In your post you state that you have a CS degree like it's a qualification for a programming job. It's not, and it's important to know that. It's a part, yes, but it's not the whole package. I would suggest your "winning" that part of the process as your getting interviews. You are using your CS degree to it's fullest extent by getting your foot in the door. That's all it's going to do for you.

Next you need to "win" the "I can and want to learn" portion. Let's assume your doing that as well (so we can get to the meat of your question).

Finally your need to "win" the "I can be a team player" portion of the question. Well this is where your probably having a problem because your deaf. It's silly. I spend very little of my time "talking" to anyone and most every thing is done via email/IM/Websites, but I imagen this is where the difficulty lies.

When your asked something like "How will you communicate effectively with your teammates?" Your already in a loosing position. The interviewer thinks that you can not communicate with your teammates. You need to prove them wrong. Don't just list services. That's the nail in your coffin. Give specific examples of how you would use that service to communicate. Even non-deaf people can't get away with "I use skype" as an answer once this question has been asked. Instead try something more example based. I.e.

The ticketing system, chat tools, and email are how I would do a lot of my communication. Of course those don't require you to hear a thing. I just put my phone on vibrate and know when I have a new message. If I'm at my computer then there's a flashing message. Again, not much different then the rest of the team. Of course that leaves us with video calls and phone calls. Video calls (adjust this as needed) usually work fine, and I can read lips, just like in person. Phone calls are trickier, I would use a relay service that sends me text of what is being said. Then I type back to them and they speak it for me. I can also use a service like that on video calls if needed. The end result is this; Yes I would try to steer clear of video calls and phone calls if I could and instead do everything in chat, email, or tickets. But while a lot of people have to train them selves to communicate well using those tools, I naturally use them quite well as that's how I prefer to communicate when not in person.

As to when to go into the fact your deaf, I would say, try to sneak it into the resume somehow if you can. Were you a member of and groups and teams that you can list that would hint at it. Your not trying to make it big bold and center, your just trying to show it, without actually stating it. For example "leader of Universities Hearing impaired chess club" or some such thing (I know it's a horrid example but I can't think of a good one).

If that doesn't work, then I would make it a plain statement up front. NOT ANGRY or entitled. Just a plain, normal, statement, the same way you would say "I can't do the interview at 2 pm." For example: "A phone interview at 3 will be fine, but I will need to use TTD services. Will that be a problem?" Again the idea is to get it out there, early to avoid wasting time with some interviewer that is going to unfairly penalize you and make this a larger issue then it needs to be, while at the same time showing that you have workarounds in place and that they work well.

You also need to consider that a specific environment may not work well for you. If your trying to join a 5 man team that spend 90% of their time on the phone and in video chat, that's going to suck for you. Make it an interview question. Same as you would travel or vacation time. Again plan and forward but not aggressive: "I'm deaf, I can use phones and video chats but obviously it's a bit more complicated for me then chats, emails, and tickets. How much time do your team members spend on voice and video calls." Remember, not only do you have to be a good fit for them, they need to be a good fit for you.

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