There are agencies that specialize in targeting women, various ethnic cohorts and demographic segments, but there is one group that has been largely ignored: the deaf, a community of more than 30 million people in the U.S. and about 360 million worldwide. An agency called CSD Creative is looking to change that.
Austin, Texas-based CSD Creative, which is housed within nonprofit organization Communication Services for the Deaf, was developed as a standalone agency in 2016 that works with external clients. Its team of nine full-time staffers, with a new employee joining soon, is all deaf, says Bryce Chapman, creative director at the shop, in an email interview.
The agency works with about 300 independent contractors on writing, visual design, web development and design, photography, videography and more, and is also open to hiring people who are hearing but attuned to the deaf community, such as those with deaf parents.
"The most important things we look for, along with job qualifications, are cultural respect and fluency in sign language," adds Chapman. "Keep in mind that one of our overarching focuses is reducing the unemployment/underemployment rates among deaf people, which is currently at 70 percent."
In addition to helping solve the unemployment problem, CSD Creative is dedicated to helping brands reach deaf individuals in the right way. "More times than not, companies will try to target the deaf community and think it will work if they simply have someone on staff who knows a bit of sign language, or has a deaf relative," says Chapman. "It's not that simple."
One big challenge for CSD Creative, Chapman said, is that organizations contact the agency for input and then go forward with a campaign without really understanding deaf people or using deaf talent. "It is extremely crucial to have qualified deaf people at the helm of such projects, so that nobody commits a cultural faux pas or says inappropriate things," he says.
CSD Creative has collaborated on projects with a number of nonprofits and brands, such as Uber, in which the agency worked with the ride-sharing company to help optimize the experience for better communication between deaf drivers and hearing passengers. CSD Creative is also currently working on a project with MaxASL, an app that focuses on early language acquisition; the agency is creating the next 10 of the apps American Sign Language (ASL) stories.
It may seem difficult for employees of CSD Creative to communicate with clients who don't sign, but Chapman says, "In today's society, nothing is impossible in terms of communication."
The agency holds a lot of video meetings and teleconferences and it has interpreters, and Chapman says there are also other options, such as email, instant messaging, texting, video relay services and even writing back and forth.
In the future, CSD Creative wants to be an "all-inclusive company that provides services for all disability markets, not just the deaf community," says Chapman, noting that clients are recognizing "the value in being socially responsible and inclusive in all of their activities."