My name is Jess, I am 21 and I have recently just started at Enterprise Rent-A-Car as a Management Trainee. I also happen to be a part of the superpower community who have hearing impairments.
I am partially deaf in both of my ears, with a moderate to severe hearing loss, which affects me everyday. In order to help me get the best out of this ‘bad’ situation, I wear bright pink and sparkly hearing aids in both of my ears.
I was born with my hearing loss, although it wasn’t picked up until I was in primary school, and as my impairment is degenerative my hearing has, over the years, gotten worse. I started using my aids in secondary school and if I continue on this progression, I may be qualified for a Cochlear Implant later in life.
I graduated from The University of Lincoln with a degree in International Tourism Management and took a job in recruitment for a couple months before I started my career with Enterprise on their Graduate Management Training Programme.
What are the main challenges facing people with disabilities?
I can only speak for those who are deaf, and then again, I can only truly speak for myself, explicitly. There is a great article on the RNID website that outlines ‘Dinner Table Syndrome’, which explains the social isolation in loud, busy and group situations in better words than I could. Social exclusion, mostly through no one’s fault is a huge challenge I face. On top of this as well, confidence is another challenge I face, in my younger years I was called ‘robo-girl’ when I started wearing my aids, and I have faced discrimination at many points in my life due to my hearing loss.
What was your experience of the recruitment process
I was open from the beginning as I don’t ever want to hinder myself. I explained that I will need to not be penalised for needing anything repeated, as I know that can look like I am trying to stall to have more time to think of my answers. I was met with a great response, the lady from HR was so patient and tried to find a live subtitling service that can be added onto Zoom, which I decided against using as I hadn’t used it before and I am usually okay with Zoom, as long as I am given the opportunity to have anything repeated that I may need. I rely heavily on lip-reading and body language, so Zoom is usually good for me. When it came to face-to-face interviewing, I made everyone aware that I was deaf and I use my aids, and again no one batted an eyelid, and I was able to have everything repeated to me and everyone has been very patient with me. I had never had such a non-hostile reception to my disability in interviews before, I knew from here on I would be looked after properly at Enterprise.
What is your organisation’s approach to disability.
In my first week I brought a booklet with all the accommodations that are available to deaf people in the workplace, and that was that. I was ordered an inline amplifier for the phones so that I can hear on the phones. My managers did not even bat an eyelid at paying for and ordering the equipment for me and have said that if I ever need anything else then consider it done.
What unique skills and strengths has your disability given you which have been an asset in the workplace?
I spoke with my Branch Manager and Assistant Branch Manager as I was unsure what skills and strengths my disability actually gives me and how that can make me an asset in the workplace. They made me realise that being deaf causes me to have to focus in on what everyone is saying and concentrate on taking in what is being said. Meaning that I rarely, unless I cannot hear, need instructions repeated to me; I can get on with tasks in a timely manner. I also then realised, that one of my skills is that I am more receptive to reading body language, which in a customer facing environment is a huge asset, as I am able to mirror their demeanour and make them feel relaxed and comfortable which in turn helps with building rapport and a loyal customer base. My main asset, in life personally and in the workplace is my ability to lip-read, almost perfectly. Which is a little superpower that I have, meaning that if I am looking at you and I cannot hear you, I can still work out what you are saying! Pretty cool if you ask me!
What advice would you give to disabled students applying for graduate positions/ going through the recruitment process?
Do it. Apply. Don’t hold yourself back. There are places out there that will accept you with open arms. I know, from personal experience that it can be really scary not knowing how you are going to be treated, but everyone, fully abled or less abled, is deserving of working where they want to. Being disabled myself, having faced discrimination in the workplace before, I was so scared to go to my in-person interview with Enterprise, but I have never been happier that I did, as in a non-cheesey way, my faith in humanity (in the workplace for sure) was restored. There is a perfect workplace out there for everyone.