Chelle: In 2012 I attended my first Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA) convention. A workshop I attended was called Landing That Job by Malik El-Amin. His message was to be in control of hearing loss, don’t let it control us. He shared his interview experience with us. How they questioned his cochlear implant and he gave them answers. He was knowledgeable about his technology, accommodations, and communication needs.
That was a new concept! At the time my hearing loss controlled my life. It took me two or so years to better understand. I learned proper self advocacy, and more about technology and accommodations. There was no big aha moment. It was a slow realization that I was now in control of my hearing loss.
I learned a lot from interviewing others in my last job. I was amazed at how many people did not know what they were applying for. While hiring Hard of Hearing (HoH) Assistants, most people went on the assumption that all HoH use sign language, therefore they would be working at the Deaf Center. *Tip: Do your research. Go online and research the position and the company. Find out about services, attend a prior event if possible. Bonus! It might help you anticipate interview questions.
While interviewing for the two jobs I had at the state agency, they gave us a printed copy of the questions and allowed us a few minutes to read before starting. It’s like captions in advance. There is enough time to read them without contemplating the answers. *Tip: Ask for interview questions before the interview, let them know it can be 5 minutes or less, just enough time to look them over to make sure you ‘hear’ them right.
Although not a job interview, I attended a meeting to request space in a park for an event. They did not have assistive listening and the acoustics were horrible. Reverberation plays hell on hearing aids, going into my forward focus mode reduced the reverberation. There were about ten board members spread out in a big U shape. I went early to make arrangements for my communication needs but all board members showed up late. I heard my name called and went past the table set up for people to make requests. I walked into the middle of their U and explained I’m HoH and use lipreading. I have a hard time locating sound so it would be good if they raised their hand when talking. They were agreeable and we proceeded, them with questions and me with answers. I moved around as needed to lipread different people. Tips: Show up early, scope out the environment and make plans. Be upfront about communication needs then show them it’s not that big of a deal.
Michele: As a young adult, an upcoming job interview was high on the list of anxiety-inducing events, in a big part due to my hearing loss. Back then, I had no clue of how to tell anyone that I had a hearing loss and no idea of what my needs were. The anxiety was that I would stumble, be found out, and judged as less than.
Thankfully, life experience teaches us that hearing loss and communicating differently isn’t always a detractor and can be an asset. I learned a lot from my years as a preschool teacher and caregiver and came to view my hearing loss as something that added to my qualifications and capabilities. As a flexible and visual communicator, I could often understand and communicate with preschoolers who had unclear speech, or assisted living residents who had communication barriers due to stroke.
A big thing that is missing when life renders you HoH—skill-building instruction on how to self advocate and present yourself with confidence. There was no mentoring or counseling to steer you toward putting a positive spin on hearing loss and what it can add to your life.
When I went back to work full time after my youngest son started school, I approached the job search and interview process with much more confidence and candor regarding my severe hearing loss. 1) I was beginning to define and manage my needs by that point. 2) I had to. Because my hearing had dropped to the point that lipreading wasn’t enough. I found that I could disclose my disability upfront in a manner that didn’t make it come across as a negative. It is much less stressful to control the narrative by informing than being on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable communication breakdown to happen.
I don’t disclose my disability on my resume or in early communication for a position I have applied for. However, I do disclose when setting up the interview. There is a need to get ahead of any job duties that might require special equipment or workarounds.
Julia: For businesses – Did you know most potential employees who have a hearing loss won’t let you know about their hearing loss at an interview? They fear of stigma and treatment from prior employment experiences.
If you use American Sign Language (ASL) or English as a Second Language (ESL) interpreter accommodations for interviewing, you should learn more about, and understand CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation).
CART is an appropriate accommodation listed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for the Hard of Hearing, at work and for interviews. Yes, I said at interviews.
When you see the person that has a hearing loss and wonder how you might help them, ask: “What does access look like for you?” If the person replies with “I would like to use CART for this interview,” that prospective employee wants to make sure he/she understand the questions and answers them to the best of their ability. They are intelligent, they just can’t hear well.
As an inclusive business, the dream is that you would already understand CART and say “okay” and schedule a CART provider. (We love you.) Gonna say once more, if you provide ASL or ESL interpreters, then you should add CART to the list. If the potential employee is that dedicated to communication, you as an employer might see their dedication, right? They are showing they know and understand their hearing loss and want to give you the best interview possible.
If you offer interviewees a day to interview with interpreters, ASL or ESL, you could also offer a day with CART as well. This immediately becomes an inviting place to work! This immediately sends the message that your business has an inclusive attitude which leads to a vested employee. Those with hearing loss are dedicated employees and loyal.
Conclusion: There is no one answer to the question of whether you should disclose your disability, or not. However, It is better to disclose than to be caught off guard when communication breaks down in a job interview. Determine what is right for each situation, and if you do disclose your hearing loss, set some goals:
- Present yourself with confidence.
- Speak knowledgeably about your hearing loss, your needs, and the accommodations that will help you perform your work duties.
- Describe any unique skill set that hearing loss has given you.
- Demonstrate how you’ve implemented workarounds and unconventional ways of overcoming obstacles in past positions.
- Seek assistance from your state Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Division (state agency) when you need a co-advocate to come up with solutions when prospective employers have questions or concerns.
- Anticipate issues that might come up and formulate answers or solutions before the interview.
Research on Requesting ASL Interpreters for Interviews (There’s not a whole lot available):
- Article on McDonalds refusing to have an ASL interpreter at an interview in 2016.
- 3 minute video in ASL with captions. She said not to disclose hearing loss/deafness until the interview is booked.
- Geared for employers and using ASL. It talks about Deaf Gain, maybe we can HoHs with Benefits. har har The Hearing Loss Advantage, maybe. Focused listeners, creative communicators once you get our attention.
- ADA help website
It’s not like the HoH will need CART all the time, just certain times.
Employers, it’s a good time to test out CART and find out its benefits. One in five people have hearing loss, it’s likely someone else would benefit. It is a great transcription service for meetings, who said what.
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