Posted on August 28th, 2015 by Sara Fair
Since graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology in December, I’ve been looking for a job similar to the internship experience I had at Easter Seals last summer. When I use an interpreter to answer a help wanted ad by phone, it is immediately known that I’m a Deaf applicant. I don’t think it’s the phone connecting to an interpreter that may bother the potential employers. It’s the concept that if they hired me they’d have the “hassle” of having an interpreter on stand by the whole time I’m working for them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve assured them that I wouldn’t need an interpreter 24/7 at work, I’d just need that for meetings with more than one person. For one-on-one meetings, pen and paper or even typing would suffice.
Most of the time the interviewers are very eager to ask questions about how I would be able to function in their offices, and I’m always glad to explain. But then when the interview ends, they say they’ll reach out to the HR office and get back to me…they never do. They always pick another applicant.
When I get an appointment for an in-person interview, the e-mail messages keep coming until I put in a request for an interpreter. I supply a detailed resource list where they could find interpreters. I even provide my personal phone number and say I’m willing to help them find an interpreter if they have problems finding one themselves. After that, the e-mail exchange is typically over. It’s pretty much radio silence.
People have suggested I keep quiet about interpreters and just show up with a pen and paper ready to talk. I’m not comfortable with concealing the fact that I’m Deaf, but I did try it for one interview, and I’m never doing it again.
Come to think of it, when I was there, I thought that interview went well. The job was at a retail store. Not exactly a dream job — I’m more interested in working in the social media field. After months of unemployment, though, I was answering all sorts of ads.
I felt like I really connected with the interviewer at the retail store, and we had a great time chatting about the store. Next thing I know, I get a phone call that they wouldn’t be hiring me because I wouldn’t be able to use the radio while working the sales floor and because the customers would be “annoyed” with the time-delay when I’d use pen and paper to communicate with them.
Wait, what? That’s discrimination.
I took a complaint to the HR offices, and guess what they told me? “Yeah, the radio use is required in the company policy. Sorry.”
I asked if they were a Disability compliant company. They were, so why was I being discriminated against, I thought? I explained to them that I’ve had multiple Deaf friends working in the retail field without being required to use the radio. They take on extra responsibilities to check in regularly with their managers instead of by radio. They tried to steer me towards a stock position that wouldn’t require any radio communications. I didn’t get the position.
I just let it go. Forget it. They didn’t seem like the company I would have enjoyed working for if they were going to hire me against their own will just to meet the “disability” quota anyway.
Another reason I’ve been having trouble finding work is lack of experience. I think my resume looks FABULOUS with some incredibly successful internships, but nobody is catching my bait. Why? I don’t know.
You know the saying that you don’t have enough experience to get a job, but to get more experience you need to get a job…that’s where I’m stuck at right now. Nothing is jumping into the Sara Jane pool.
Now when I pick up a call from a potential employer, I pray I won’t have to “convince” them that regardless of my Deafness I can do the job. I dread getting “We’ve moved on with someone else” e-mails. Is it because I’m Deaf? I don’t know, and I will probably never find out.
With all the frustration I’ve felt looking for a job the past eight months, have I ever wished I wasn’t Deaf? Never. I keep rallying on, and I’m still extremely proud I’m Deaf. I’m proud to be part of an incredible community and culture, I’m proud of my incredible Deaf friends, and most of all, I’m proud of my incredible family. Dang proud.
Am I proud of those employers in the hearing community who have refused to give Deaf people like me a chance at working? No. Obviously. I just wish the hearing community would ask more questions about us and be more interested, because we’re probably gonna be the best employees.
This is my experience searching for a job, and in no way does it reflect the entire community at large–but this is what most Deaf people will experience and struggle with. This is a part of our lives, our daily struggle to get noticed in the big bad world.
If you had a different experience with your job search, or if you have tips or suggestions, please share them with me in the comments section here below.
And if you’re an employer at a hearing company and you’re unsure about Deaf people, message me and I’ll be happy to answer any questions and try to resolve any doubts you might have about hiring Deaf people into your offices!