Communicate with Employees

Advocate, Communicate, Educate: ACE It!

The ACE It! series is designed to help you “ACE” any conversations you may have with potential employers by knowing how best to Advocate for your students, inform the employer how to effectively Communicate with employees with disabilities, and Educate the employer about workplace accommodations

For the rest of the series, see Advocate and Educate.

C: CommunicateFive people stand together and have a conversation

When a student comes to you for a job referral, you may find yourself having to discuss disability-related topics about which the employer has questions.

Communication is one of the top concerns employers raise when hiring an individual with a disability. Let them know that communicating with an employee with a disability need not be awkward, uncomfortable, or intimidating, because it’s really not that different from communicating with anyone else. These simple tips have proven successful in helping to ensure clear and effective communication:

  • If you’re unsure what to say to the employer about the student’s preferences, consult with the student in advance.
  • Encourage the employer to not make assumptions about communicating with the student. Instead, if they feel unsure, advise them to simply ask the student.
  • Explain to the employer how you have effectively communicated with the student.
  • Be prepared to offer information regarding communication-related accommodations, such as an interpreter.

In addition, share these specific communication strategies with the employer:

  • Approach the student as you would anyone else.
  • Speak directly to the student.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Listen attentively.
  • Do not rush the student while they speak, try to finish their sentence for them, or talk over them.
  • Be patient and respectful.

Remind the employer that, by and large, communicating with an employee with disabilities is the same as communicating with any employee. They are likely already used to utilizing multiple strategies to make workplace communication more effective with their employees without disabilities, and many of those same strategies will also work for an employee with a disability.

Additional Resources




Printable (PDF) Version of Tip Sheet

Developed in conjunction with Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students (DeafTEC), based at the Rochester Institute of Technology. RIT DeafTEC logo