How to develop your career with deaf mentoring
During my early entrepreneur days, I relied on a mentor to help me clarify my business vision and get me super focused on achieving my goals. We had monthly meetings during which he guided me toward clarification using his business experience.
My current mentor is Alisdair Inglis. Alasdair keeps my business focus razor-sharp. I have a tendency to want to take on too many things, which results in distracting me from my true strength and expertise – remote real time captioning.
Everyone, deaf and hearing people, can benefit from the guidance of a mentor.
Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are a greatly underutilised source of future contributions to the business world. If given a chance and with the support of someone knowledgeable in removing the barriers to entry, deaf people can make a tremendously positive impact.
A quality study of deaf graduates of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York found that those working in predominantly hearing settings achieved greater career success when paired with a mentor.
When you are deaf, like me, people often underestimate your potential. However, when you have someone helping you in your pursuit of professional greatness the possibilities are endless.
How can I develop my career?
To gain a competitive edge in business, many employees and entrepreneurs have turned to mentors for guidance and advice.
A mentor can be your greatest ally in your journey toward professional development and ultimate success.
I have had a few mentors in my life that provided me with a great deal of support. The best mentors have an invested interest in your success and share their wisdom and knowledge freely.
When carefully selected, a mentor can have a profoundly positive impact on your career development and future business aspirations.
What is a professional mentor?
A mentor is also referred to as a role-model, a person experienced in personal and/or professional development and dedicated to helping you achieve your career goals.
Like a teacher or counsellor, a mentor encourages you and believes in your skills. They teach you what you need in order to succeed in your job while developing your confidence and ability to grow in your career and expand your horizons of possibility. A professional mentor assists you to:
- Discover which profession is best suited to your specific interests and skills.
- Acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for a satisfactory career and professional advancement.
- Set and achieve goals as well as receive feedback on your progress.
- Establish yourself and build business relationships.
- Socialise in the company culture.
- Increase your salary and get promoted.
How can a mentor help deaf people?
Many factors contribute to the low success rate of people with disabilities, like being deaf or hard of hearing. Some deaf people are not accepted by their peers and experience isolation at work, thus limiting their access to company information and possible career progression.
The lack of encouragement and low expectation from employers contribute to hard of hearing people not fulfilling their potential. All of these factors contribute to the lack of self-determination and employment preparation, often resulting in mediocre career choices.
A mentor can help you break through the barriers to achieving career success. They do this by:
- Providing guidance and support.
- Offering encouragement and advice.
- Sharing their life experiences.
- Helping you learn from their mistakes.
- Teaching you the ins and outs of effective communication.
- Connecting you with the services in your area that provide the tools and technology needed to excel in a hearing work environment.
- Advising on how to work with hearing people unaccustomed to working with deaf or hard of hearing colleagues.
- Providing networking opportunities with both hearing and deaf peers.
If you’re a graduate or young professional looking for career opportunities, a mentor can assist with:
- Job searching.
- Writing your CV.
- Writing a cover letter and applying for jobs.
- Preparing for the job interview and providing interview training.
- Presentation skills.
- Working in groups.
- Making your voice heard.
- Applying to Access to Work Deaf Services for support.
- Confidence building.
How do I find a mentor for deaf people in the UK?
Before searching for a mentor, write down what you expect from the relationship and the specific outcome and goals you want to achieve.
If you already have a job, try and ask people in your organisation if they’d like to mentor you. Look for the people actively demonstrating their knowledge and skills and ask if they would be open to teaching you.
Before asking, prepare for the discussion. Know what you want to learn, why you want to learn it and why you chose this particular individual. Then it’s only a matter of planning a schedule that is convenient for both of you.
121 Captions has experienced and certified career consultants that can help you to discover the career path you are meant to follow. We have a passion for what we do and can help you build your confidence and improve your networking skills.
Remploy helps deaf students overcome the challenges of looking for work by providing online advisors to assist with any employment concerns and questions you might have.
Deafroots helps deaf and hard-of-hearing people identify their skills, abilities and qualities that will enhance your chances of attaining the career path you were destined to follow. They also provide volunteering opportunities for you to gain vital employment skills.
Action on Hearing Loss provides you with information on services in the UK that offer deaf mentoring opportunities, support and guidance.
What to look for in a career mentor
The deaf mentoring relationship must be based on mutual trust and respect. Look for these 5 qualities when searching for a mentor:
- Patience and understanding, preferably someone who has previously mentored deaf people and know how to communicate with them.
- Empathy and concern for others, always ready with a word of encouragement.
- Appropriate job behaviours and social skills.
- Experience in the particular field you’re hoping to develop a career in.
- Networking abilities and communication strategies you can learn from.
Being mentored takes consistent effort and dedication. Expect to work hard and know that success will not be instant; it is, rather, a steady climb toward personal and professional growth.
Information, guidance and emotional support are essential characteristics all mentors must possess. A mentor can provide you with a significant advantage if you want to transition from your current job into a career you’ve been dreaming about.
The mentoring relationships can be highly beneficial to your career development. The right mentor can help you with socialisation into the company culture, leadership development, salary increases and increased job satisfaction.
If you would like to offer deaf mentoring opportunities, please introduce yourself in the comment section below.
Teaching deaf students in the inclusive environment
I stood up in my kindergarten class and began to read from the book, Ballerina Bess, by Dorothy Jane Mills. My teacher looked at me with surprise. She grabbed my hand and ran down the hall with me to read for another teacher. Forty years later I am just now realising why she found my being the first in the class to read so astounding
– Nadene Eisner
Nadene has moderately-severe-to-profound hearing loss in both ears, yet her inability to hear did not deter her from her love of reading and learning.
To equip teachers to teach well and adapt to the needs of deaf students, I hope this article provides you with some inspiration on how you can adapt your classroom to support every student.
Deaf students – The mistaken belief of slow-wittedness
Despite incredible technological advances and our perceived open-mindedness toward diversity and acceptance, there remains a lot of misconceptions about deaf people.
On many occasions, deafness is wrongly associated with helplessness or being less competent, which can have a negative impact on a deaf student’s self-esteem. In truth, most deaf children have normal cognitive abilities.
With the help of a supportive and inclusive learning environment, deaf students can and do succeed in school, even completing their PhDs.
Lack of academic success be due, not to the fault of the deaf themselves, but to our failure to stimulate them intellectually during their school years
– Dr Bill Watts.
Education is a powerful tool to help deaf students and hard-of-hearing pupils break down institutional barriers and build self-confidence.
Challenges experienced at school
There are many challenges and difficulties around providing education for deaf students. This might be due to an absence of interaction and effective communication among deaf students and their peers, or in some cases between deaf children and their hearing parents.
The biggest problems deaf and hard-of-hearing students experience in class are:
- Hearing what goes on in the lectures and seminars.
- On-site captioning and subtitling services are not always provided.
- Insufficient breaks from lip reading.
- Split focus, when more than one person is speaking.
- Trouble remembering and recalling information.
- Burn-out from constant stress and working too hard.
- Hard-of-hearing students do not feel a sense of belonging in the class during the lesson.
Deaf students are not simply students who cannot hear; they are students with specific academic needs, who have different strengths than their hearing peers.
Being deaf does not only involve the loss of hearing but includes the limitation of their ability to acquire language and speech naturally and spontaneously.
Studies have shown that deaf students generally have less confidence and positive ideas about themselves, than hearing students do. The delayed language development experienced by most children with hearing loss results in limited opportunities for effective education.
The ideal teaching environment for deaf students
There are three main avenues for schooling deaf students:
- A specialised school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
- A “mainstream” school, where deaf students attend school with other hearing children from the same community, but education may or may not support their specific hearing needs.
- Inclusive schools refer to the idea that all students are entitled to an appropriate education in an environment that will provide them with the best opportunity to learn and socialise with their peers.
The latter is the most widely advocated approach and is referred to as inclusive education. Inclusive education encourages deaf and hard-of-hearing students to participate in communities, cultures and extra curricula activities.
Inclusion considers how a student fits into the school learning community by being included in regular classes from the very start, providing all students with an equal opportunity to learn.
However, this type of schooling does require specialist support, resources and facilities, like interpreters and notetakers.
According to Bailey Plessis (1998), most educationists agree that for inclusive education to work, money, space, planning and a smaller number of students per classroom is essential.
Benefits of an inclusive learning environment for students with a hearing loss
It’s assumed that deaf children can improve their language through adequate exposure and practice. Providing nonverbal strategies and tools for communication in the classroom may improve their development of verbal language skills.
Instead of segregating students with hearing difficulties, education has evolved into special institutions and schools to meet the diverse needs of all students, with the help of specialist teaching.
When provided with an environment rich in language for both hearing students and students with hearing loss, learning together, success is achievable.
Teaching strategies for an inclusive learning environment
An environment sympathetic in acoustic terms
Ambient noise can be very disruptive to hard-of-hearing students. A lot of teaching rooms use air conditioners which make it difficult to hear, plus most classrooms have a lot of hard surfaces, low ceilings and fluorescent lights, which can make tinnitus worse.
Hearing aids will pick up and amplify every detail of sound, so the noisier the environment is, the more difficult it will be for the student to hear the teacher speak.
Keep class and background noise to a minimum. Consider acoustic hushboards for your classroom to reduce background noise by 40%.
Deaf learners should ideally be seated near the front, slightly to one side of the teacher at an optimum distance for lip-reading (less than 6 feet).
Encourage students to manage their own learning space by adjusting their seating and manoeuvring themselves into a good listening position.
Some students might prefer buddying up to another student who they trust and can help them keep updated on what’s being said and occurring within the class.
Sign language interpreters
It’s important to augment teacher’s speech with sign language for sign language users. Studies have found simultaneous communication beneficial for deaf pupils.
A sign language interpreter is a great addition to the inclusive classroom. They should participate in the life of the classroom, as well as help adapt the curriculum.
Teachers should provide copies of the lesson or lecture notes, with handouts and course content, in advance, including a reference list so that students can go through the material in preparation.
Students who need to wait for information to be transcribed from tapes sometimes have to wait a significant period of time, which could lead to them falling behind.
121 Captions allow deaf students to keep up with lectures by streaming live captions word for word at up to 350 words per minute.
More tips when teaching students with a hearing loss:
- Allow students to record lectures.
- Any videos and films used in class, where possible, should be captioned.
- Schools and universities should use notetakers to help deaf students follow instructions.
- Use wall space wisely. Avoid distracting wallpapers and pin boards.
- Consider installing acoustic hushboards to reduce background noise by 40%.
- Ensure your classroom has good lighting, so it’s easier for students to lip read.
- Do not allow more than one person to speak at a time.
- During classroom discussion ask students to speak one at a time.
- Try not to speak when writing on the board. Students won’t be able to lip read when your back is turned to them.
- Provide sufficient breaks. Lip reading and intense concentration on communication can be tiring and can result in difficulty remembering what’s been taught.
Inclusion means participation. When teaching deaf students, include them in the decision-making process and ask for their feedback before implementing new strategies.
Students with hearing issues do have severe challenges in the learning process, but they can be overcome, and certain improvements can solve many if not all the challenges associated with teaching deaf students.
Inclusive education for students with a hearing loss should be a priority and can be accomplished with time and your sincere investment.
Bailey, J. & Plessis, D. (1998). From them to us. An international study of inclusive education. London, Routledge.
Eisner, N. (2012). Engaging deaf and hard of hearing students in the school library. The University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign.
How do deaf people juggle work and family?
I intended to write this article to share with you how fellow deaf and hard of hearing people cope with juggling work and family life. However, what I discovered was that my deaf friends and associates also struggle and had no specific resources to offer.
When I asked the question: “As a deaf parent, are there any tools or systems you use to make work/family life easier?” Their answer: “If there are such tools and systems, we haven’t found them.”
This got me thinking, what can I do to bridge this gap in knowledge and help my friends, as well as myself? I booted up my computer and started delving into discussion forms, research articles and news reports, intent on finding and sharing information that might alleviate some of the stressors associated with being deaf and trying to juggle work and family. Here’s what I found.
What does it mean to have a work-life balance?
Work-life balance is defined as finding a balance between work, home, and family resulting in a feeling of increased fulfilment and satisfaction with life in general. A lack of work-life balance is associated with increased stress and fatigue. Thus, work-life balance is important for your well-being and the well-being of your family.
If you type “work-life balance” into Amazon search, it delivers a staggering 1400 book results. Now, try searching for “deaf people work-life balance”. Zero results. This is not a reflection on Amazon; I’m merely demonstrating that there is a profound lack of information on the subject.
It’s true that everyone, both deaf and hearing people, struggle to balance their professional life with their personal life. The literature shows that there are a number of ways you can improve your work-life balance. For example, making a list of your priorities, ranked by importance, and then organising your day-to-day tasks according to those priorities. That’s great advice and should be implemented.
Another work-life balance tip is to listen to audio books while driving to work, instead of reading them. Great advice and such a time saver. One problem. I’m deaf! I think you can relate to my frustration.
Work-life differences between the hearing and those with hearing loss
A 2003 work-life study performed in Sweden revealed that people with hearing loss felt exhausted more often after a regular working day than did hearing people. They also claimed to have less control over their work situation and were less satisfied with their work environment.
The employees with hearing loss felt they delivered good results at work, but that this was often at the cost of great fatigue, due to the high level of concentration required while working.
This study further highlights the importance of having and implementing strategies that can enhance increased control of your work situation. You must have access to some level of technical accommodation or support services designed to facilitate communication with your colleagues and management.
Living a balanced life has important implications for personal happiness. This is evident when reading some of the responses I received from my “how do deaf people juggle work and family” question sheet I sent to my deaf and hard-of-hearing friends.
Question: Does being deaf or hard-of-hearing make it more difficult to juggle work and family?
Answer: After a long day at work lip-reading and making sense of communication, I often feel I have less patience and stamina to listen to both of my daughters’ high-pitched recount of their day. I have to ask them to slow down and speak in their “low voice”, and often I can’t keep up with the conversation.
Answer: Being unable to use the phone and not relax during work breaks because I can’t keep up with everything that’s being said, definitely contributes to stress. As a deaf person, you have to work three times harder to try and prove yourself.
Answer: Trying to communicate with my kids can be more of an effort, especially when I’m tired at the end of the day. Keeping to a schedule becomes even more important when you’re deaf. Otherwise, we don’t have any real strategies for bedtime.
Answer: It’s difficult, especially with children in school, you don’t have the usual support mechanism hearing people do. For example, when I’m stuck in traffic, I can’t just phone the school to let them know we’re running late.
Strategies to finding balance
All working parents experience challenges in finding work-life balance, even more so if they are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Maintaining paid employment while raising happy and healthy children may lead to stress, but with determination and a little help, you can lead a balanced life.
Access to Work deaf services (for those in the UK): You are just as important as any other employee in your company. See if you are eligible for funding to implement word-for-word captioning services and never again walk out of a meeting confused because you don’t know what was being said.
Flexibility: Ensure you vary your communication approach to adapt to specific situations and the importance of the message. Send emails to make sure your instructions are clearly understood and use one-to-one sessions if your usual communication tools are not available.
Sometimes flexibility means you need to be able to change strategies in midstream. For example, ask one of your hearing colleagues, who knows how to communicate with you, to assist with conversations where your normal tools and techniques have failed or were not available at that moment.
Share your ideas: Get to know the managers at your company and describe your ideas on how they can make communication more successful, especially during meetings. Try and meet with them individually, so they can get to know you and understand your specific needs.
Educate hearing people: Teach others about deafness and take the lead in creating the best possible environment. Hearing people are often willing to make adjustments, but they won’t if they don’t know that you need it and why it’s important.
Cultivate key informants: No one likes to be the last to know the office gossip or miss a joke. Forge relationships with key hearing persons who are sensitive and willing to share what they know with you and keep you in the information loop. Maintaining contact and positive ties with key informants can help you keep up with conversations.
Know your rights, but don’t be unrealistic: Be aware of when you’re pushy and alienating people while securing your rights. Find your balance between self-advocacy and alienating others. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but be diplomatic.
Clearly, define your stress management techniques
When faced with stress, families adopt strategies to cope and regain a level of normal functioning. These strategies need to be created before the stressor occurs. Get your family involved and create a plan of action, ensure all members know what’s expected of them and their role in the plan.
It’s important that you take time out when you start to feel your concentration lapsing or when you begin to feel stressed. Create and simplify your daily routines.
You need communication rules at home
Effective communication with your children is very important for their psychological development. According to a study done by Burns & Persons (2011), family communication is divided into three primary categories:
- Joking around
- Recapping the day’s events
- Relationship talk
Keep these categories in mind when communicating with your children. Establish clear rules about how your hearing or non-hearing children should communicate effectively with you and vice versa. Ask them to share their ideas and work on establishing the rules together. For example, interrupting or talking over one another is not acceptable, a rule can be made to wait until a person has finished speaking before you start talking.
Get your family’s support. Schedule regular family weekends to discuss your current communication rules and if and how they can be adapted to be more effective.
Communication tools and apps to help you
Apps for communication
Examples of apps and tools you can use to communicate more effectively:
- Aud 1: Modulates how sound is shaped in your listening environment.
- Capital: Making phone conversations accessible.
- MotionSavvy UNI: Translating American Sign Language into speech, and speech into text.
- RogerVoice: An app that converts voice to text on phone calls.
- HearYouNow: An app for hard-of-hearing people, it customises sound according to your specific needs, for example optimising foreground sound.
It might be worthwhile to install an app or purchase a technical device that alerts you to sounds or movements in your environment, especially when you have a teenager trying to sneak past you.
Alerting systems can also be used to notify you of your alarm clock going off, door knocks, baby monitors and smoke alarms. These systems usually alert you using lights, high-frequency sound and vibrating notifications.
I’ll leave you with my friend Maria’s advice.
I think the best advice I can give is that in spite of all the difficulties, the things that keep you going are lots of love and affection, sitting down and having a chat with your children and spouse, that’s the only thing that works really.
If you have any tips or can recommend any tools that have made your life as a fully employed deaf parent easier, please share in the comment section below.
Backenroth-Ohsako G.A.M., Wennberg P. & Klintberg B.A. (2003). “Personality and work life: A comparison between hearing-impaired persons and a normal-hearing population”. Social behaviour and personality journal. 31(2), p 191 – 204.
Todd, K. (2011). Children of deaf adults: An exclusive assessment of family communication. The University of West Florida.
Photo: William Iven
A deaf job opportunity worth exploring
The old adage goes ‘do what you love and the money will follow’. A friend of mine loves organising, managing events, and scheduling appointments. Being asked to make lists and colour coordinate files make her giddy with excitement. She would love nothing more than being a personal assistant or office administrator, a humble yet fulfilling career.
My friend is almost completely deaf. She’s unable to get a job as a PA because managers don’t want to take the time to clearly communicate with her. They believe that taking notes, answering phones and making their jobs easier is her responsibility, not theirs.
Equal opportunity employment for hard of hearing and deaf people has always been a struggle. Even though many would say you should focus on your ability and not your disability, the truth is the job you get is dependent on whether hearing employers hire or reject you.
The easiest way to avoid this is by cutting out the middle man and becoming your own boss. Many deaf and hard of hearing individuals have ventured into the landscape of self-employment, most recently the profession of Virtual Assistant – opting to work online from home, instead of in an office.
Mistakes & errors convey carelessness. Academic proofreading provide recruiters with a creative, well written CV & adds professionalism to your writing.