Deaf and Hard of Hearing Initiative Launches at SDI

Photo of Karen signing, text reads Karyn, Houston, M.S. Deaf & Hard of Hearing Outreach Coordinator

Deaf and hard of hearing (D/HoH) people face unique barriers in the workplace. When the environment doesn’t accommodate your communication needs, it is hard to succeed. That failure feels very personal and it’s easy to get down on yourself, despite being very competent and capable. 

Changing that story is what we do at the Starkloff Disability Institute.

Our programs focus on building confidence and having pride in your disability identity. With that foundation, learning networking, résumé, and interviewing skills empowers disabled professionals to successfully launch and advance their own careers. Hundreds of candidates, emerging professionals, and students are building full, independent lives after working with us. 

But we have not made deep connections with the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Past experiences of misconceptions, isolation, and unwelcoming or discriminatory attitudes leave people weary when they don’t see a fellow D/HoH person at an organization. At SDI, we were not equipped to meet the needs of many people in our community.

Our new Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach initiative is focused on building relationships so all Deaf and hard of hearing people understand they are welcome and valued in our programs. 

To lead this effort, we are thrilled to announce Karyn Houston, M.S., as SDI’s new Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach Coordinator!

As a Deaf professional herself, Karyn understands deeply the barriers Deaf and hard of hearing people face at work.

Karyn has built bridges between Deaf and hearing communities from her early days as a vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor. When she began, only about 2% of the people using VR’s services were Deaf. Karyn saw the traditional methods weren’t working. She began networking with employers to educate them about the depth of talent they were missing out on. Word spread and Deaf jobseekers began reaching out to her. Job placement rates increased and everyone benefited.

SDI’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach initiative strives for even greater success — more Deaf, Deafblind, and hard of hearing people developing their confidence and skills to build careers they love. 

The sense of pride you get from getting a job on your own overflows to all other parts of your life! Being successful at work and advancing in your career is an essential part of what we all need to thrive.

Karyn and the whole SDI team are excited to build connections and become a trusted resource in the Deaf community. Together we can advance economic opportunity and transform lives. 


If you would like to say hello or get in touch with Karyn, you can reach her at:

Voice or video phone (VP): 314-766-4636

SMS/Text: 314-860-3080

Email: KHouston@starkloff.org

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