The Deaf Ecosystem: Supporting Deaf-Owned Businesses and Why Companies Who Hire Deaf People Will See Gains to the Bottom Line

The Deaf Ecosystem is more than just a term; it's a vibrant network that forms the backbone of the Deaf experience, encompassing everything from language and cultural norms to socio-economic dynamics. This community thrives on inclusivity yet faces significant barriers to communication and economic participation.

Businesses, organizations, and individuals who are committed to equity and accessibility understand the importance of propelling this ecosystem forward. Explore how supporting Deaf-owned businesses is not only an act of inclusivity but also an investment in a more vibrant and equitable world.

Understanding the Deaf Entrepreneurship

The Deaf Culture and Community

The Deaf community is a dynamic tapestry woven with unique experiences, values, and a shared visual language – American Sign Language (ASL) in the U.S. and countless other sign languages across the globe. Despite its rich heritage, this culture is one that outsiders often find inaccessible because of a lack of understanding and accommodation.

Communication Barriers and Access Challenges

For Deaf individuals, communication access can be a towering obstacle. The incompatibility between spoken language and sign language still often results in gaps in information transfer, leading to a lack of access to services, employment, and even simple social interactions. For this reason, many Deaf folks look to creating their own businesses, to ensure their own access and autonomy. 

Economic and Employment Disparities

The United States Department of Labor consistently reports lower levels of participation and higher unemployment rates among Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals compared to their hearing counterparts. This economic underrepresentation hints at a larger picture of systemic discrimination and obstacles that impede the Kindred entrepreneurs.

Source: National Deaf Center

The Importance of Supporting Deaf-Owned Businesses

Economic Empowerment and Inclusion

Purchasing power is a form of economic advocacy, and when you choose to support a Deaf-owned business, you are directly contributing to the financial independence and upward mobility of the Deaf community.

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability: In conducted a research study to investigate if there is a positive correlation between how inclusive a company is of persons with disabilities and its financial performance. They looked at companies in the Disability Equality Index (DEI) over the past four years and found a positive correlation.

On average, “Disability Inclusion Champions” achieved 28% higher revenue. Disability Inclusion Champions are companies on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) that raise the bar for disability employment and inclusion. They also saw that they had doubled their net income and 30% better performance on economic profit margins.

Bottom line, it makes financial sense to have a diverse workforce.

Innovation and Deaf Gain

Deaf entrepreneurs often operate with a unique perspective, finding innovative solutions to problems that cater to their community's specific needs, and sometimes provide universal benefit. In the community, we call this “Deaf Gain.” In line with universal design, there are many innovations or ideas that start by accommodating disability, but become useful for anybody! By nurturing these businesses, we not only give them a voice but also provide the rest of society access to products and ideas that may have remained hidden.

Source: Unusual Universe

Building a More Accessible Society

Economic support is just one facet. Indirectly, we are fostering an environment that values the Deaf experience and ensures that our world, from city planning to product design, is built with consideration for universal access and usability.

Successful Deaf-Owned Businesses

Uplifting the Community One Pizza at a Time

Pi00a a thriving Deaf and CODA-owned pizza business, is a remarkable example of entrepreneurial success. Starting last year, they facilitated pizza pop-ups all over the US and are known for their incredible Spicy Chili Crunch (seriously, you gotta try it!). A big part of their business model is to employ Deaf workers, provided economic opportunity for the local Deaf community.

Connection & Communication at the ASL Shop

The ASL Shop stands as an exemplary addition to the Deaf Ecosystem, offering an extensive range of products designed to celebrate and teach American Sign Language. From educational resources to ASL-themed apparel, the ASL Shop is not only a hub for language learning but also a beacon that shines brightly on Deaf culture and empowerment. Recently, they opened a storefront in Koreatown, Los Angeles, where they host events to shop from Deaf businesses and learn sign language. 

Source: The ASL Shop

Ava: A Beacon of Accessibility

Ava is another Deaf and CODA-owned business. Skinner, who’s been Deaf since age two and Thibault, who is the only hearing child in his Deaf family, started Ava, along with passionate advocate Pieter, as a way to break down communication barriers through live captioning. Nowadays, it’s not just an app but a platform that reimagines accessibility. Ava empowers Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to participate fully in conversations and engage with the broader community in ways previously unimagined.

Supporting the Deaf Ecosystem

Tips for Individuals and Organizations to Support Deaf-Owned Businesses

There are simple, yet potent, ways individuals and organizations can contribute. Patronize Deaf-owned businesses, promote their services, and if you're hearing, learn sign language and use the Ava app to bridge the communication divide.

Advocacy and Policy Initiatives

At a broader level, advocating for policies that protect the rights of Deaf individuals in the workplace and ensuring that public and private spaces are fully accessible, not just physically, but also communicatively, are vital steps in fortifying the Deaf Ecosystem.


The Power of Supporting the Deaf Ecosystem

Standing behind the Deaf Ecosystem is not just an act of charity; it's an investment that enriches us all. In rallying behind the success of Deaf-owned businesses, we affirm our commitment to a world where innovation knows no boundaries, creativity is boundless, and accessibility is everyone's right.

Embracing the Deaf Ecosystem in all its aspects, from language rights to economic participation, is a journey toward building a more inclusive society where every voice is not only heard but valued and amplified. So, as you set about making your next purchase or investment, think about the impact it could have on a Deaf business, and choose to be a part of this empowering movement.