My name is Frieda and I am hearing impaired. Here, you will find stories of my life growing up and what it is like for me to be a wife, a mom of two boys, and hearing impaired.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Deaf Disrimination and Jobs

I just watched the show, "What Would You Do?" yesterday.  I enjoy watching the show because of the people that stand up for what is right and wrong.  Depending on the circumstances, it seems like the majority of people "do not want to get involved." 

This particular episode resonated with me.  You can watch it HERE.

In summary, two girls (actors) go into a coffee shop to apply for a kitchen position.  The managers are also actors and they are instructed to tell the deaf applicants that they will "not be able to hire" them.  Why?  Because they are "deaf" or "not a good fit."  "If you can't hear me, how are we going to communicate?" "You can make a list."  The two actors try to tell the managers that they have the skills and that the manager can "write things down" for them.  The managers again tell them that they are welcome to fill out the application, but they still will not be hiring them.

The hope was that someone, anyone, would stand up to the managers and tell them that they could not discriminate against these two applicants.  Sure, the video showed many customers that were stunned and appalled by the actions of the manager.  But....they said and did....nothing.

A couple of people did stand up to the manager, but the most surprising of all were the three people that worked in human resources/recruitment that spoke up AFTER the applicants had left.  They tell the manager(s) that they shouldn't have done that and that it is discrimination.  But what they also told them was that they should just accept the application and NOT hire them.  Huh?  "Just accept it and don't call."

Only one man in the coffee shop openly tells the manager out loud that what he is doing is unacceptable and threatens to not come back for business.   This guy should be wearing a cape.  A true modern-day hero.

This type of action usually happens behind closed doors, but ABC wanted to bring it out into the open to see what people would do.  Did it happen to me?  I don't know.

Well, most of my jobs as a teen were spent babysitting kids for $1 per hour.  I was great at it till I discovered dating and suddenly, I wasn't available to babysit on weekends.  During one or two summers, I cleaned an elementary school.  (My dad was the principal.  Nowadays, you can't hire family members...district policy).  I guess my first "real" job was at a nearby cookie factory.  I was probably one of three people that spoke English.  I befriended several Hispanic and a couple of Laotian girls that worked with me. 

When school started, I had permission to leave for the afternoon as part of "OJT: On the Job Training."  Part of the deal was one of my teachers was assigned to visit the facility where I worked and have one of my managers evaluate me.  My teacher shared my evaluation and I was surprised.  Of course, I was on time, but my performance was lacking because "I couldn't hear."

I was laid off with many other workers during the holidays.  The next summer, after my first year of college, I applied for and got a job at a local jewelry store.  I felt that if I told the owner of my hearing impairment, he would not hire me.  I got the job and it lasted three months. 

I walked in one day and he asked me into his office.  He handed me a pink slip and told me that I wasn't making him enough money.  I also wasn't answering the phone.  (I wasn't the only person working the counter; there were two other girls there and no one told me that I had to answer the phone).  He said that I should get my hearing checked; I walked out the door and cried all the way home. 

From then on, I have been very selective about jobs. One job required a typing test and an interview.  I passed the test and the interview with flying colors.  When the manager called me to say I got the job, I told her that I would be happy to accept, but that she needed to know one thing.

After I told her about my hearing, there was a brief moment of silence.  "Well, will you be able to use a phone?" she asked.  "I'm using a phone right now.  Is it a job requirement that I be able to answer phones?" I replied.  "I guess not," she answered.

Does deaf/hard of hearing discrimination still exist?  Perhaps.  I hope this show opened up doors for recruiters, managers, and owners alike to communicate with prospective applicants and explore alternatives to the job description.  A little bit of education can go a long ways....

1 comment:

  1. The other issue I see even with laws for accommodation is other people being unaware of their responsibility. Large businesses have lawyers and HR departments that are more tuned into this, or at least their liability if they aren't. Interpreters are not always provided in situations where they should be because hosts or planners are unaware 1)they'll have deaf persons in attendance or 2) think deaf people provide their own interpreter if necessary. There's plain ignorance, and other times unbelievable "just not getting it" when it comes to the needs of others that I have witnessed. Then there's the issue you mentioned of not being forthright about your not hearing because of fear of not wanting to seem different.