Jobs: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Business Owners

Your Next Purchase...From a Deaf/HOH Person's Business

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Some deaf people, frustrated by the job search, decide to launch their own businesses. Other deaf people simply desire to become business owners. These deaf and hard of hearing people can turn to other deaf and hard of hearing people for support and guidance as they begin their own entrepreneurship efforts.

Businesses owned by deaf and hard of hearing people are also an important source of employment and work experience for other deaf and hard of hearing people.

Organizations and Websites for Deaf Business Owners

National Deaf Business Institute

In July 2001, the National Deaf Business Institute (NDBI) (previously known as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Entrepreneurs Council) began with the purpose of "increasing the number of deaf-owned businesses and deaf professionals." NDBI provides a directory of deaf-owned businesses, a mentorship program, and workshops. It also invites deaf business owners to speak to prospective deaf entrepreneurs. NDBI is also concerned with internships, networking, and support.

Gallaudet University also plays a major role in the NDBI. For example, students in entrepreneurship classes at Gallaudet University coordinate "Business After Hours" networking events.

Gallaudet University alumni magazine, Gallaudet Today, profiled NDBI's forerunner, the DHHEC, in Spring 1998. The profile discussed the DHHEC's networking benefits and its activities.

The same issue of Gallaudet Today had another article profiling eight Gallaudet University alumni who are successful deaf business owners. (The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Focus magazine routinely profiles successful alumni, some of whom own their own businesses.)

NDBI is an affiliate member of the National Association of the Deaf.

The NAD works with NDBI to further create and promote deaf business ownership and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship Education for Deaf People

Gallaudet University's department of business offers a course on Entrepreneurship. It may be possible for non-students to audit the class, taking it without credit. The NTID has a course in Small Business Organization. Entrepreneurship and business courses usually teach how to develop a business plan. Courses in entrepreneurship and business management are also available at other colleges.

In addition, the Gallaudet Leadership Institute at Gallaudet University in collaboration with the NDBI administers the Merrill Lynch Entrepreneur Leadership Training Program. This program focuses on giving deaf and hard of hearing people the information and skills needed to be successful business owners. At the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the Business Careers Department previously teamed up with the Internal Revenue Service in 2003 and 2005 to offer the workshop series "Starting Your Small Business Successfully - The Journey of Writing Your Business Plan." (It unknown if this is still being offered by NTID.)

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is also involved in promoting deaf business ownership. The 2007 WFD convention had a special interest group on deaf business owners. Two presentations on deaf business ownership that were made were "Microcredit Programs for Deaf Women in Developing Countries: A Bottom Up Model," presented by Khadijat Rashid, a professor at Gallaudet University, and "Delivering a Quality Deaf Employment Service," presented by Lianna Kennedy of Deaf Association New Zealand.

Marketing Opportunities for Deaf Businesses

Trade Shows or Expos

One of the best ways to learn about deaf-owned businesses and to sample their wares and services, is to attend a deaf trade show. Every year, there are deaf-themed trade shows around the country such as the DeafNation Expos and ASL Expos. State association of the deaf conferences and statewide deaf festivals offer more marketing opportunities. Still more marketing opportunities are at smaller local or regional deaf events such as the annual Celebrate Communication event in northern Virginia.

Research on Deaf Entrepreneurship

p A thesis, "A National Study Of Deaf Entrepreneurs And Small Business Owners : Implications For Career Counseling," was done in January 1999 by Sue Ellen Pressman at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to fulfill her doctoral degree in Counselor Education. Pressman's thesis can be downloaded from the college's website at

Her thesis was a study of deaf entrepreneurs and small business owners. Study results were based on responses from 86 deaf men and women, most of whom had at least a Bachelor's degree. Respondents indicated they would have benefited from more help with starting up their businesses. Common challenges cited were "proving to hearing people that a deaf person can run a business," and "communicating with hearing customers."

General Help for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

The Federal website has information on self-employment and entrepreneurship for disabled people. Plenty of technical and non-technical solutions are available to aid deaf business owners in communicating with hearing clients, such as relay services and interpreters.

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