by Carrie Jackiewicz, Special Services Coordinator
We recently held a virtual alumni panel called Life in the Workforce. We had four Child’s Voice graduates on the panel, who have had a variety of experiences in the financial industry, in health care, in the restaurant and service industry, and in information systems. The panelists discussed a variety of topics about work as a person with hearing loss, including accommodations, self-advocacy skills, and social skills.
When we discussed accommodations, the panelists emphasized the role of technology in aiding their comprehension of conversations and meetings. The panelists discussed their use of captions on Zoom, through the Live Transcribe app, or through CART, which stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation and means real-time captions. One panelist shared that he is able to get better access to sound by using Bluetooth to put phone calls straight into his hearing aids. Another panelist uses a Mini Mic, which is a microphone that transmits a speaker’s voice directly to her hearing devices; she uses this microphone to help her hear table conversation during meetings. They all noted that as technology improves, their access to sound and information improves as well.
During a conversation about the use of self-advocacy skills, all of the panelists shared the importance of humor when communication breakdowns occur. They all have used humor in some way to express how challenging it can be to hear in noise, or to understand someone wearing a mask. Several of the panelists said they have a “3 times” rule – they will try to understand what someone said three times and then they move on. This was excellent insight and a reminder to be patient and attempt to help others understand in any way you can, by repeating or writing something down if need be.
One of my favorite self-advocacy skills one of the alumni shared was sending an email summary to co-workers following a conversation or meeting. This ensures that the alumni understood everything and helps fill in the blanks if he did miss something. This educates the co-workers about the challenges of having a hearing loss and it could help them find other ways they can support him.
My favorite idea that one panelist shared was having coffee chats with new co-workers or new connections. Larger group conversations are challenging listening environments for people with hearing loss; small group and one on one conversations provide a better listening environment and allow for easier conversation. By having these chats, this panelist also learned which places were better for listening, such as a private office instead of a busy coffee shop.
I learned so much from our panelists and I am so grateful for their time and willingness to share. I look forward to having more of these panels in the future, so we can learn more from our alumni’s experiences.