The other day, I was talking to one of my deaf friends, and the subject came up that he was planning to continue to attend school. This was after the fact that he’s almost finished with his MBA. His aspirations were bigger than anticipated, so he decided to pursue another degree in Management Information System (MIS). I encouraged him by telling the story of a hearing friend who graduated with his Masters and got flooded with offers from different companies even though he was not actively looking for a job. But, my deaf friend had a different version of the situation. He said that his particular degree was basically useless without the other, and that positions like the one my hearing friend got (who is now a project manager for a technology company in New York) were the kinds of jobs that most deaf people couldn’t obtain easily.
My first reaction was to disagree with him. I initially focused my attention on the fact that he’s got the credentials and experience to get any promotion available for him, or easily get a new job within a matter of days. His degrees show many qualities that a successful professional ought to have, which most companies would definitely want. Then it struck me. I was ignoring a piece of information that made his argument valid: his disability playing against him to achieve his goals. And that is what got me thinking.
Truth be told, any kind of disability do work against smart people in many ways. First, getting a good job is challenging as it is. Scratch that. Getting ANY kind of job during economic recession is difficult. I never really realized the adversities presented in the process: some decide to hide the fact that they have a disability to improve their chances of getting a job. Others don’t, but companies often do not call when they realize that candidates use a relay service. Hearing people have many challenges during the face-to-face interviews. How do those really go for people with disabilities? I cannot begin to imagine. The possibility of frustration from one after another is just one of a few examples of all the problems that people face in order to get in.
Second, the work environment is a jungle on its own. With many ways of discrimination, such as bullying, omission, un-equal remuneration and lack of opportunities to advance, are just a few where disadvantages are reflected. It doesn’t matter if you have the experience, the know-how or the credentials with the conviction, people are likely to take you for granted, maybe even toss you to the side.
Still to this date, I believe that companies are very passive when dealing with this situation. They need to step up and make an effort to be more disabled-friendly. Like Bangalore, where companies are understanding that the disabled are a great resource, and are changing their culture to take advantage of this talent. Below is a snippet of an article from a firm at Bangalore.
“Of late, Bangalore’s private firms, including IT companies, are showing considerable amount of interest in training and recruiting persons with disabilities,” said M Srinivas, chief executive of the Karnataka chapter of National Association for the Blind.
“However, one thing has to be kept in mind — companies don’t recruit disabled people out of sympathy, but because they are efficient,” Srinivas said.
Now consider this deaf friend of mine who has a lot of experience in the computer field, and worked for several companies in the industry. I’m quite sure he had helped companies in ways that they may never realize. Of all the companies he has worked for, only ONE company was really disabled friendly.
Creating this type of environment is hard and takes time. But in the long run, it’s a good change for both disabilities and business alike. The variation of possibilities and such diversity could dramatically improve and impact companies’ outlook regardless of products or services they provide. This is especially in the realms of technology where deaf people heavily rely on. There’s just too much talent wasted, and if done right and put to good use, the rewards for the effort would be much more than compensated. I, Oswaldo Rodriguez, am a hearing person and never understood what it took for disabled people to get and maintain a good career until now. I am currently working with a deaf person, and he has proved himself time after time. He’s one of the most valuable assets of the company, and nobody takes him for granted. Not even himself.