Breaking Barriers – The Lived Experiences of Employment Discrimination among Deaf People in Ireland

by Dr. Noel O’Connell


This report is based on research that the researcher, Dr Noel O’Connell, had done between December 2022 and August 2023. The research project was funded by Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) in collaboration with Irish Deaf Society (IDS).

The aim of the research was to conduct interviews with deaf adult individuals to give them an opportunity to explain their negative experiences in the workplace and/or while looking for jobs.

The researcher considered four main questions:

  • Do deaf people experience discrimination in the labour market as job-seekers?
  • Do deaf people experience discrimination in the workplace?
  • What type of discrimination do deaf people experience in employment contexts?
  • What do deaf people want to see changed in terms of employment policy and recruitment practices?

The researcher then conducted interviews with 14 deaf adults who had worked in the mainstream employment sector and in deaf community voluntary organisations. The voluntary organisations include both deaf-led and hearing-led organisations. For reasons of confidentiality, it was necessary to use the term “deaf community voluntary organisations.” Deaf people who took part in the interviews had worked or are working in private and public services, education and training centres, healthcare groups, restaurants and financial institutions (e.g. banks). In the deaf community jobs, deaf people worked in charity organisations and social and educational organisations that serve the deaf community.

The results show that deaf people had negative experiences in different areas:

  • Negative career advice in school – career guidance often show low expectations of deaf people’s future career by discouraging them from going to university or applying for professional jobs
  • Barriers to finding jobs - employers showing a negative attitude at job interviews and refusing to book an ISL interpreter
  • Discrimination and bullying in the workplace – deaf people continue to be denied promotion and to experience bullying by co-workers, supervisors and managers.

The report recommends that government departments and policy makers open discussion with deaf community representations about the problem of employment discrimination and to find ways to change attitudes among employers and to end discrimination against deaf people.

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Breaking Barriers – Summary Report

Download Breaking Barriers – Summary Report English Language (PDF)

Breaking Barriers – Full Research Report

Download Breaking Barriers – Full Report - English Language (PDF)

Additional Resources

Glossary – Explanation of Words Used to Describe Research Projects

NDA - Disability, Work and Inclusion. Easy to Read version of a report from the OECD

Download NDA - Disability, Work and Inclusion. Easy to Read version of a report from the OECD (PDF)

Irish Deaf Society