Breaking the sound barrier

By Gerry Crispin, ITworld.com |  Career

We asked the students if they had indicated that they were deaf on their
résumés when they applied for jobs. They were aghast, pointing out that
our suggestion would result in zero responses. They generally state that their degrees
are from RIT/NTID and indicate a preference for communication via email. A couple
indicated TTY capability when putting down a phone number,
but most left it off. Imagine the surprise for the recruiter.

We got our most telling response when we asked the students how recruiters reacted
to them upon learning that they were deaf. The spontaneous laughter was
followed by an agreement that "they just don't get it." "Some recruiters ask us if we
are bringing an interpreter with us," said one student. Another chimed in that "they
almost never ask us about our skills. Instead, they want to know how
we would expect to handle communicating with the hearing."

Back home, we called 20 technical recruiting managers to see if they were
aware of NTID. Two were. One had hired a co-op (once) and said that "it was
difficult."

However, several companies have reaped great benefits by taking the time to overcome
the obstacles of the hearing impaired. Technology solutions can overcome most
communication difficulties. The reward: a new source of talent.

The effort required to break the sound barrier is not a trivial
problem, but the perception of the barrier itself is the biggest obstacle. Expanding
our notion of an applicant pool to include everyone with the necessary skills is an
exciting prospect for some and beyond the reach of others. As we equip our employees
with increasingly sophisticated tools for work, perhaps we should consider whether
access is an issue, whether dealing with people with disabilities is more (or less) an
accommodation than an adjustment. Someday, we may even reach for the speed of light.

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