Tag Archives: deaf employers

Deaf Talent Everywhere! Part III

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

#DeafTalent is a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. This is part III of an ongoing series about Deaf Talent in America; be sure to check out part I and part II , and follow along for future installments!

Melody Stein

co-owner of Mozzeria

http://www.mozzeria.com/

Ideaftalent-melody-steinnspirations:
I was born into a family of restaurateurs and am a 3rd generation restaurateur. When my parents learned that my younger brother and I were both Deaf, they wanted to provide us better education and made the move from Hong Kong to San Francisco to enroll us at California School for the Deaf (CSD) in Fremont. While we were at CSD, my parents decided to open a restaurant in San Francisco. On the weekends when we came home, we would watch them in action – having meetings with their team, renovating the restaurant space, and testing food. I was inspired and came up with a vision of what my restaurant would look like while talking to my brother.

Fast forward to year 2009. Russ, my husband and co-owner, knew I had the dream to open a restaurant and knowing the fact that “90% of new restaurants fail within 1 year” didn’t help us feel confident. We kept saying to ourselves that we would wait for the right time. We realized there is no such thing as “right time” and that we need to take charge and make it our destiny. We finally launched Mozzeria in December, 2011.

Barriers:
When I was growing up, I didn’t feel different while attending CSD because I was always in an American Sign Language (ASL) environment. When we moved back to San Francisco many years later and finally decided to pursue our dream of ‘opening the restaurant,’ then I felt I was “different” because now I had to work with hearing people. For example, I had to go to City Hall to get the resources I needed to apply for permits. Some city employees would be great and provide an interpreter right away, but the majority of the city’s employees didn’t know how to approach me and found the situation awkward. I asked for paper and pen, or even if I brought my own paper and pen, they were a little resistant about writing back and forth and tried to keep talking to me. Or they would refer me to the manager instead. If a hearing person is asking for same resources or applying for the same permits, that person would be a step ahead of me whereas I would probably need to reschedule an appointment to come back and get the information or service that I needed. I realized at that moment that I had 2 jobs now – trying to open the restaurant, and educating hearing people on how to work with Deaf people.

Deaf Advantages:
Some customers told us that our food is amazing because we are Deaf and our sense of taste is greatly enhanced. I thought that was funny. Actually I never thought that way, but recently I began to see this as an opportunity to promote our culture, and hire an all-Deaf team.

Nearly all of our employees have no culinary background, but that didn’t stop us from hiring them. It is our way of giving back to the Deaf community to train them. Now many of our staff are approaching their 2-year anniversary. They discovered new talents that they never knew they had. Working at Mozzeria, some discovered their true calling in the food industry. Some got a clearer definition of their dreams after watching us in action and went on to obtain higher education, and even pursue masters or PhD degrees. Some use their experience at Mozzeria to get their foot in their next job. This is the type of impact we want to see, especially within the Deaf community.

Advice:
Nothing comes easy, and you have to work hard. Never give up, and find ways to overcome. Russ would say ‘effort’ is the key because putting the effort in pursuing your dream is what it takes.

Joel Barish

Co-founder and CEO of DeafNation

http://deafnation.com/

Inspirations:
deaftalent-joel-barishI graduated Gallaudet with TV, Film and Photography. Hollywood and TV Network had difficulty hiring Deaf people even though I had great internship with them. I decided to start a coffee shop with travel agency for 4 years before Jed (younger brother) pulled me into the internet age. That time internet was so new. We started many Deaf people with their website, business, organization, media. Started Deaflympics online in 1999 Davos, Switzerland and World Federation of the Deaf online media in 1999 Brisbane, Australia.

I met one Deaf woman at a deaf event. She told me that Deaf people only live in USA. I told her NO, there are millions and millions of Deaf people in different countries. I realized that I should do something about it. Why not start “No Barriers with Joel Barish,” doing positive stories about Deaf people in different countries? I added foodie, culture experience, etc into my show showing that Deaf people can do anything; even TRAVEL remote jungle or remote locations that you never find anything about in the travel books.

Barriers:
Be Brave! No fear to communicate with anyone, even Deaf or hearing people because I have to learn their sign language and culture at the same time. I told some government officers that I don’t carry interpreter in my school backpack!

Deaf Advantages:
Really no different. Just that hearing media staff would say WOW! Deaf can capture their attention. Deaf people are much friendly in different countries, easy to connect with them anywhere if we need their help or support instantly.

Advice:
No Barriers is the key– just DO IT! Do something different that other business or ideas are not same as yours. Don’t do “copy-cat.”

Sheena McFeely

Children’s Book Author and Creator of ASLNook

http://sheenamcfeely.com/

deaftalent-sheena-mcfeelyInspirations:
My life story— being the only Deaf kid in my family and raising two girls using ASL. So I channeled my frustrations into what’s now called ASL Nook. Would I be where I am today without my experiences – both good and bad? No way.

Barriers:
Doing everything on my own – writing my own script, directing my own family, editing, running my own website, and posting everything on social media. But I am fortunate to have those skills to run something like ASL Nook.

Deaf Advantages:
Being Deaf and a momma to two girls – one Deaf and one a CODA – does give me the edge. But that’s not it. It’s working hard – I mean really hard – to get where I am today. As I get older, I’m finding out that more people like to talk than do the work. If you can do the latter, then you’re ahead of the game.

Advice:
Think like a chef. When you decide to show the world your work, go out with a bang each time! And if its not good quality, fine-tune it. Work hard and walk the talk.

It is funny how everything worked out. I used to act and wanted to be a film maker. Then all changed when I realized I wanted more time with my friends, family, and life. As soon I became a mother, my children completed that circle for me. Good thing I had some experience under my belt to eventually put my acting and film making skills from many years ago to good use now. It might not be in Hollywood, but this is for something even grander. Spreading the sign to all kinds of people. That’s something irreplaceable.

Do it only if you are passionate and in love with your vision. And if you do rise, be humble. It’ll only take you even farther.

Braam Jordaan

Filmmaker and Advocate

http://braamjordaan.com/

deaftalent-braam-jordaanInspirations:
(As a filmmaker) I grew up in a colorful environment. Film and animation are very visual-driven and colors are my music, my father is a wonderful storyteller and my mom a perfectionist. I naturally gravitated towards the world of visual arts and entertainment.

(As an advocate) I draw inspiration from the very community I am a part of. Uplifting the communities through my visual work, portraying strong messages of hope and happiness is a true reflection of the cultural pride I inherited as a Deaf person.

Effectively addressing the needs of different abilities called for listening to the “voices” of people with different abilities and proactively engaging them in policy decision-making. They were often overlooked in the policy planning and as result, their programmes were seldom inclusive.

Barriers:
The attitudinal barriers or bigotry are the biggest barriers I had to overcome. People are shocked to learn that Deaf people are lawyers and doctors, CEOs and managers, hold PhDs, have meaningful work, own homes and have families. We are people first, not Deaf first, and our abilities — not our disability — need to be the focus. We can do anything except… nothing!

Deaf Advantages:
Of course! Deaf culture, by its very nature is very visual. From our attuned senses, to our communication methods, we offer a very unique perspective.

Advice:
Using creative methods engages people emotionally, stimulates thinking and creates a climate for greater understanding. Make sure you do your homework and use the power of social media wisely! Advocacy work can be very tough and cumbersome but it can also be a very rewarding experience, especially when you see the difference you are making in people’s lives.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

DeafTalent Everywhere! Part I

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

This year, the #DeafTalent movement caught on across social media as deaf people began to raise awareness about Hollywood casting hearing actors for deaf roles. Instead of hiring qualified deaf performers who are seeking work, of which there is a significant pool, Hollywood and theater productions have continued to select hearing actors and actresses to portray deaf characters. The Deaf community decided it was time to push back against the mainstream media, and began using the internet as a platform to bring this issue to light.

DeafTalent is so much bigger than the entertainment industry— it’s a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing brief interviews with ambitious people following their life purpose; people who just so happen to be deaf.

Jules Dameron

Director and advocate behind the #DeafTalent movement

jules-dameron-deaftalentInspirations:
When I attended a family reunion at seven years old, my uncle used a video camera to film the event. He hooked it up to the living room television and I saw on the screen whatever he was recording— I was hooked by the process. He let me hold the camera once and that was it. I wanted to make movies from that point on.

Barriers:
Filmmaking is a tough barrier in itself, whether you’re hearing or deaf. So being deaf doesn’t make much of a difference to me, personally. It’s different for everyone, but for me, I’ve been fortunate to be supported for the most part throughout my journey. If I had to point out anything— it would have been dealing with having interpreters on set, but I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing film set interpreters in Los Angeles, and I am grateful for their support, and working with me on devising an efficient system for working with deaf people on film sets.

Deaf Advantage:
I believe my brain works differently since I have learned in a mostly visual way, and filmmaking is a very strong visual medium. So anything visual-based plays to my advantage. I feel I have made a unique contribution to professional actors in general because I make sure that they tell their story visually, not only audibly.

Advice:
I say go for it, because honestly, there is no better field than filmmaking to tell your own story. I strongly feel that the film industry helps the deaf community, and worldwide awareness about deaf people everywhere. So if you have a passion for it, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I absolutely mean this. It is ridiculous to me to think that there are many deaf people out there who are being told not to be an actor, film director, film producer, screenwriter, et cetera because they are deaf. I think the fact that they ARE deaf contributes to those industries, since they bring a special spice to this world.

Andrew Baker

Doctor

andrew-baker-deaf-doctorInspirations:
I decided in third grade to become a doctor. I was not sure what kind, but wanted a career where I would always be comfortable and secure. Plus I like math and science.

Barriers:
One of the biggest barriers I had to overcome was getting teachers to look at me instead of talking to the blackboard. Boy, some teachers just wouldn’t get it!

Deaf Advantage:
It’s tough to say if being deaf gives me any advantages in this field, but I was able to create the first vision care clinic for Deaf people at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and it is still going strong 30 years later. Any Deaf person that wishes to pursue the medical field should have good interpersonal skills, unless they go into a research position where they spend all their time in labs.

Advice:
Study hard, get good grades, try to develop effective oral skills because others don’t know sign language, and go where the money is!

Sean Gerlis

Interpreter & Business Owner

sean-gerlis-deaf-business-ownerInspirations:
The deep passion for helping others to achieve in equal access to everything in this world prompted my desire to do advocacy work for the community. The advocacy work I’ve been doing has everything to do with the barriers I’ve experienced as an individual living here in this country. In the nutshell, I do not want anyone else to experience the frustrations/barriers I am currently enduring.

Barriers:
Inability to speak is often perceived as an uneducated individual. I have to show people that my intelligence is not as they believed. I have to show them I’m much more than not being able to speak fluently. Sadly enough, there are so MANY people out there won’t give us deaf people the benefit of doubt in the first place. The battle (barrier) still continues.

Deaf Advantage:
I believe my productivity/contributions as a deaf person have given me advantages. For example, I’m able to finish my projects ahead of time due to being distraction-resistant. Another example would be that I’m more observant on projects I am working with, which makes me being more contributing employee.

Advice:
Keep your minds open. Gracefully accept diverse perspectives and weight them accordingly. This will make you a better interpreter.

Shoshannah Stern

Actress

shoshannah-stern-deaf-actressInspirations:
According to my mother, I’ve said I wanted to be an actress for even further back than my memory reaches. She says that I asked her for an agent for something like my sixth birthday. I don’t know how I even knew what an agent was!

My sister is an artist and a writer, and I’m pretty sure we both get that creative gene from my mother. She has always had a deep appreciation for the arts and for the theater, and she always made sure we were exposed to that. We grew up in Fremont, and when I took my husband there to see my hometown a few years ago, he was shocked at how small it actually was because he always thought I came from the city. I told him I feel as if I did, because my mom would put us all on BART on the weekends. We’d go to San Francisco or Berkeley and go to the museums and watch foreign films (they had subtitles, after all!) and eat in small restaurants that served food from different places all around the world.

Barriers:
My biggest barrier is one that I’m still trying to overcome, and that’s just to keep working and to keep creatively pushing myself in different directions. I’m fine with that, though, because as a creative person you have to keep moving. It’s the same for everyone in this business, whether they hear or not.

I feel like Viola Davis said it best when she talked about opportunity being the only thing that separates women of color from everyone else. Every audition I get is a win for me, because it means that I’m still moving forward, whether I book that audition or not. Most mainstream actors talk about the frustration they get when they don’t book things, but I think for myself and other talented deaf actors, getting in the room is the biggest challenge of all.

Deaf Advantages:
The first piece of advice I got in acting class when I was starting out was to know your niche and if you didn’t have one, to find one, so that you could stand out from the crowd and be memorable. Many other students who weren’t deaf in my class were at a loss, but that wasn’t an issue for me. I feel like it still helps me now, ten years later, because I’ve always felt like acting is about finding the truth in things. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a deaf family, but I’ve never felt as if being deaf has made me any different from anyone else. It’s always just been a part of who I am. However, when I meet people who don’t come from my community, I’m almost always faced with the reality that the majority of them perceive me as being different from them. I think there’s something about that experience that has allowed me to stay connected to my own truth, and I’m very thankful for that.

Advice:
Push yourself, work hard, think outside the box and most of all, to create a space for yourself. I think we’re having such a great year with so many talented deaf people that are visible out there right now, and I’m so in love with that. The funny thing is that I’ve found that all that visibility has made me think about what’s invisible–and that’s the work that most of us never see. Without that work, the visibility we have now would never be possible, and I feel like there’s so much potential for more deaf people to do work like that. That’s work like producing, directing, writing, casting, or even crewing. I don’t see any reason anybody could give about why a deaf person couldn’t be a PA, a grip, or a makeup artist on set. No piece of advice is ever as easy as it seems, but I feel like if you really want something, you just have to figure out a way for you to show people that you can and will do it, no matter what that something is.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

Hiring and Supporting Deaf Employees

hiring-deaf-employees-01Applying for jobs can be exciting and nerve-wracking. You revise your resume until it is in top form, hoping your professional skills are strong enough about to be considered for the position. When a company contacts you to schedule a formal interview, gushing about how well qualified you are, they suggest that the job is essentially yours. It seems like everything is going great, right up until you inform the hiring manager that you are deaf and will need a sign language interpreter for the interview. “Oh, we will have to get back to you about that,” they say. But they almost never do.

hiring-deaf-employees-02It is well known in the Deaf community that a persons’ best chance of being considered for a job to bring their own interpreter for the interview– even though the ADA legally requires hiring entities to cover this cost. Sadly, instead of organizations accommodating the needs of a diverse workforce, deaf individuals have to accommodate for discriminatory hiring practices. And if they do get hired, after paying for their own interpreter, deaf individuals often continue to encounter both overt and subtle workplace discrimination.

supporting-deaf-employees-03Deaf people have to constantly push back against a society that was not designed for them to succeed. As an interpreter and CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), it can be hard to witness the structural injustice faced by my deaf colleagues and family members on a daily basis. I was recently on an assignment where the deaf consumer shared with me their frustration that the only times they were ever provided an interpreter was when it was absolutely necessary to moving forward on a project. This deaf individual works for a federal agency– an organization with plenty of funding to properly support their employees– yet has to work harder than any of their coworkers just to participate in the workplace.

Hiring-Deaf-Employees-of-ColorAlmost everyone has been in a work situation, at one time or another, where you were not provided the appropriate resources for the job. When you don’t have the tools you need, it can be difficult or even impossible to complete a task. This is discouraging and, if this pattern continues over a period of time, employees begin to feel disengaged from the organization. Employees perform best and are able to excel when they feel supported. The needs of deaf employees are a little different, and can vary from one situation to the next, but accommodations are generally not hard to make. Forming a positive relationship with deaf employees starts, just like any relationship, with a sense of respect.

hiring-deaf-employees-05Respect comes from understanding, from communicating, and from making a person feel appreciated. Before you even interview a deaf job candidate, do a little research on deaf communication and Deaf culture. We live in the age of the internet, where there is a wealth of information available; it only takes a short amount of time to give yourself a basic education. Nobody expects you to be a scholar on deafness– simply that you look beyond the stereotypes and approach the topic with an open mind. Learn that the deaf experience is different for everyone, about the different methods deaf individuals use to navigate the hearing world , and how to provide accommodations for equal access in the workplace.

hiring-deaf-employees-06Besides possessing the general skills required for the job, deaf employees can bring a unique perspective to your organization. Unfortunately, if deaf people do not feel like they are truly part of the team, they are unlikely to open up and contribute. If deaf employees are not able to participate equally in training seminars, team building exercises, meetings, or day-to-day office activities, they will probably not feel connected to the success of the organization. The best way to include deaf individuals in the workplace is to simply ask them what accommodations would make them most comfortable in each situation. Accommodations might range from from creating closed captioned training videos, to implementing Video Relay Service, to acquiring sign language interpreters. Reasonable accommodations will vary from person to person, but they are generally neither inconvenient nor cost prohibitive to provide. In the end, the entire organization benefits when they can get the most out of their employees.

hiring-deaf-employees-07In our current shifting social climate, organizations of all sizes are looking for ways to create workplace diversity. Diversity initiatives might be good intentioned, but many times they are poorly implemented, leaving these minority employees to sink or swim. Supporting deaf staff on an ongoing basis is like providing hardware and software updates, it is like making sure the break room has coffee– it is a crucial part of creating a healthy and functional working environment. It is simple, and the right thing to do.

LC Interpreting Services is pleased to offer sign language interpreting services and cultural competency training for businesses and organizations. Provide your deaf employees with the professional support they need; and learn how to truly benefit from having deaf employees join the team.