DARE TO ASK: The deaf are strong part of work force
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
What do deaf people do to earn a living? I rarely see deaf people in my
corporate role, in retail or service industry roles, or anywhere else.
Laura, 48, Jacksonville
OK, now that I have calmed down . . . I have many friends who are deaf. My
ophthalmologist is deaf. They work for the federal government. They are computer
technicians, own their own businesses, are artists, work in banks. They work at
Wal-Mart and Publix. My boyfriend was the first deaf member of the carpenters
union in Connecticut. Most of all, they are proud of their culture, which starts
with a capital "D"!
Carol, 52, Jacksonville
I've had several co-workers who were deaf and could read lips and speak so
well you wouldn't have known they were deaf until they told you. And for those
who can't, I know here on the First Coast there is the Florida School for the
Deaf and the Blind. I'm sure for those people, being a teacher at a specialty
school for deaf children or something along those lines is an option.
Cassy, 22, Jacksonville
You can find deaf people working in jobs such as data entry, as cashiers in
stores and also as educators, readers to the blind, etc.
Michele D., 38, Jacksonville
Listen, and listen good, says Karen Black, spokeswoman for the National
Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology:
Deaf . . . people . . . work!
"There are deaf engineers. IT specialists. Chemists. There are deaf people in
the courtroom, operating room, boardroom. In fact, there are so many more
higher-educated deaf workers in recent years that it's caused a shortage of
According to a study published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Academy
of Audiology, 58 percent of deaf people in the 18 to 44 age bracket were
employed, compared to 82 percent of the general population in that age range,
while 46 percent of deaf people ages 45 to 64 were working, compared to 73
percent of the general population that age.
Deaf people often tend to cluster in cities and companies that are most open
to them, Black noted. For example, at nearly 13 percent, the Rochester, N.Y.,
metro area has the largest deaf population per capita in the U.S., according to
a New York Times article published in December. Nationally, employers such as
Raytheon and Citigroup have attracted large numbers of deaf employees, often
using NTID as a resource.
"With excellent lip-reading, hearing aids, cochlear implants or hair that
covers the ears, you may not even know a deaf or hearing-impaired person is
working with you," Black said.
"I know at first I was intimidated and felt unable to communicate with deaf
people, so I avoided them. But people with hearing loss are the most patient,
kind people. They just want to communicate. They don't want to be isolated in
the workplace. So please make the effort."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.