Service Animals for the Deaf

Published September 18, 2022

September 19th - 25th is International Week of Deaf People 2022. Click here to learn more.

With several types of service animals to understand, it can be hard to know the difference sometimes. However, with our handy guide to service animals for the D/deaf, you’ll at least be able to tell your hearing dogs from your seeing-eye dogs.

What does a service animal for the D/deaf do?

Service animals are usually trained to perform one particular set of tasks that help their owner or handler cope with their disability or differing abilities. Hearing dogs for D/deaf people usually alert their handler to danger such as alarm clocks, traffic noise, or the ring of a textphone.

A hearing dog can be a lifesaver for a D/deaf or hard of hearing person, as they can often be the difference between evacuating a building when necessary or crossing the road safely. In the workplace, a hearing dog can be essential for receiving alerts such as computer and textphone alerts or for navigating office conversations.

How well trained are they?

All service animals are incredibly well-trained and spend years being socialized to all sorts of conditions and sounds. They’re almost always calm, well-behaved animals who are housebroken and non-aggressive. It’s the handler’s responsibility to exercise the dog properly before and after work, so any dog that seems too excitable may well require better care from its handler.

However, most handlers manage their animals well, and the dogs themselves are very professional. They shouldn’t be petted while working, as this distracts them from their job, which is to help and assist their handler.

How do I accommodate a hearing dog in the workplace?

Hearing dogs are a pleasure to have around, and typically are relatively unobtrusive in the office. Accommodating a dog in the office can be challenging, but if you discuss what the animal needs with its handler before your employee begins working for you, you can iron out a lot of the kinks. Some questions you might want to consider include:

  • How often will the service dog need toilet breaks?
  • How much does it shed?
  • Is anyone in the office allergic to animal dander?
  • How much exercise does it need?
  • How long have you been working together?
  • Will the dog need to wear any safety equipment in the workplace? Do I have to provide this?
  • Do you need to train the dog in the office a few times before you can start?

How else can I support a D/deaf employee?

There are several ways you can support a D/deaf employee in the workplace, such as by offering auto-captioning software or providing transcripts of meetings. Most D/deaf employees will ask for what they need, but having some accessibility available generally is always nice.

When hiring a D/deaf employee, the most important thing to remember is to speak to them the same way you would anybody else. It’s essential not to patronize them by using exaggerated facial expressions and talking loudly.

Adding a service dog for the D/deaf to your team needn’t be a challenge. Follow some of these tips, and your new employee will settle in quickly, with the minimum of fuss.

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