Would You Hire This Man?

By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff

William Haines lost his job when the factory he worked in went bankrupt in November 2011. Like many Canadians, he’s had a hard time finding another one.

But he faces an additional barrier — he’s completely deaf.

Haines, 44, is working with an employment counsellor at the local chapter of the Canadian Hearing Society to find another job.

“I just want to be treated the same as anyone else,” he said.

“We have the same rights, just make sure you treat us fairly.”

May is Hearing Awareness Month, and part of the CHS mission is to match employers to workers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Haines went to George Brown College and has since worked as a welder, forklift driver and manual labourer.

The biggest challenge he faces in finding work, he says, is discrimination.

“By that I mean, a lot of times they ask, ‘Can you drive a forklift? How can you drive a forklift if you can’t hear it?’

“And I say, ‘Other people here are wearing earplugs because of the noise of the factory, so it’s very similar. I’m just more visual,’” he said.

Communication is also often a concern for employers.

Haines says he often writes or texts to communicate with co-workers.

“A lot of times, because they’ve never had experience with a deaf person, they assume it’s going to be a safety risk or that they can’t communicate with you,” he said.

“So that’s frustrating.”

Health and safety issues top the list of myths she strives to dispel, said employment counsellor Janet Dunlea.

The Canadian Hearing Society can work with employers through the interview, hiring and orientation process, explaining what accommodations can be made when employing a deaf or hard of hearing person.

“They think it’s going to be expensive. Most of the accommodations don’t cost anything. People think . . . they’re going to have to have interpreters in all the time,” she said.

But most deaf people have learned to implement their own communication strategies with co-workers, friends and the general public.

“(Employers) don’t realize that people who are deaf have been that way for a while — they live in a hearing world.”

Dunlea, who works with about 30 clients each year, has seen plenty of successes, from jobs at McDonald’s to jobs at universities and everything in between.

But a Statistics Canada survey from 2006 shows that people with hearing limitations have a far higher unemployment rate than their hearing peers. Only 47 per cent reported being employed.

But Haines doesn’t want you to hire him because he’s deaf.

“I just want to be judged based on the skills that I have,” he said.

Reproduced from http://www.kitchenerpost.ca/news/would-you-hire-this-man/