I am constantly amazed at friends who can quit one job and then turn around and grab another job. One friend worked at three different places within the span of 5 months, he is still at the third job now.
That person was hearing and sighted, without a disability.
And, I have another friend, who is Hard of Hearing, who has been looking for work for a very long time. He is very skilled and highly educated. Yet, securing a job is hard, especially since he lives in a small city with archaic hiring strategies.
Also, I have many friends in the Ataxia world who were employed, yet as their ataxia worsens they are forced to quit. It is very hard to continue working if you are walking in to walls or falling over every 120 seconds.
People with disabilities have a hard time finding work, and keeping it. It is a enormous challenge.
Why is that? There are more barriers, as simple as that.
It is not just the physical barriers, like reading small print or preforming the tasks in the right way. These can be improved with trial and error, and a willing employer.
That “willing employer” is the key here, It is he or she who is willing to go the extra mile to accommodate a persons disability.
Back when I was *just* Deaf-Blind, I held many jobs: Dishwasher at 7 different restaurants, Hotel Housekeeping, off-loading delivery truck at Zellers, workshop planner, ASL teacher/tutor. I wowed the recruiter, who hired me, I probably could hear a lot better back then, and communicated better better verbally.
Then about 15 years ago, my hearing took a plunge, and my vision got worse. I had to communicate using ASL or writing. I was fired from the off-loading job because I could not see the code on the box quick enough as it sped down the ramp to be sorted. When I moved to Toronto ten years back, I tried to find work in the following areas: Housekeeping, Truck Off-loading, stocking shelves and a few others. I was turned down on all, even through I had excellent references. The only reason I could think of why I was turned down was because I had both a vision and hearing loss. The agency I used was not too keen on supporting a guy who was Deaf-Blind.
The last job that I was actually very keen on getting and was actually a few words from getting was working as a shredder at Shred-It. I researched, called and spoke to the boss myself. He wanted more Deaf people because it was a very nosy environment. In fact, he said that he would prefer hiring Deaf individuals for that very reason. When I said I am Deaf-Blind, his tone switched pretty quick and said that I need to see the machines. He then hung up. Shoot! But, I think that was a good blessing because industrial shredders are not the ones you shred up your old Hydro bills, but huge behemoths with teeth that can take mangle a hand quite badly! Phew.
I have also applied for jobs working in Deaf adult education classrooms, I have a BA in Psychology & Learning Disabilities, yet was overlooked because of my vision loss.
The only job I am really skilled at is teaching ASL or tutoring.
Anyways, this blog is about General Barriers to finding and keeping work. I used my own experiences.
The biggest barrier is not the disability of the Deaf-Blind person, but the inability of the recruiter or employer.
Why? Because employers cannot see the strengths of hiring a Deaf-Blind person, they only sees the limitations. “Oh, you are very skilled, but how are you able to hear orders or communicate to customers?” Or “How can you see the print or lipread? How are you able to see the small details that other staff can see without a problem?” And “How can you communicate with other staff?” Plus the employer always seems to put The L word in front of everything. And by that I mean Liability. The Shred-it example above, my Deaf-Blind would be a liability, he could not hire me.
It takes a really willing employer to consider hiring a Deaf-Blind person.
I have a friend who is almost totally Deaf-Blind, and he has a fairly good job for the past 8 or so years, part time. The boss was able to find a place for him and he works there very well. I have another friend who is Deaf-Blind, but he has more vision, he has three or four part time jobs, most teaching ASL.
Another new friend of mine, who is Deaf-Blind, has a good job working with special needs adults.
But, many of my other Deaf-Blind friends (40 here on the West Coast, and maybe 175 in Toronto) are not working. Then cannot get jobs.
I think that there should be an agency focusing on assisting Deaf-Blind people finding work. Because Deaf-Blind need different resources and supports than those who are blind or low vision, and those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Deaf-Blind is a unique disability, and should have a employment counselors who can really sell the skills of this unique group!
I should end this article by also adding that I am woefully behind in current tread of employment. With my ataxia deteriorating, and my vision & hearing pretty bad, I simply cannot work. I even have a letter from a doctor that says I should not be working!
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