Utilizing Opportunities as a Deaf Adult
While I try to use this platform as an area relevant to offering practical and useful advice from my personal experiences as a deaf person, I want to address something a bit different in this article. Innovation, technology, and auditory experts collectively provide deaf and hard of hearing individuals with a miraculous potential ability to live their lives with infinitely expanded opportunities. CHF in particular, works extremely hard to expand the opportunities of all deaf and hard of hearing children in Taiwan. However, what happens when a hard of hearing child becomes an adult? Currently, I am a profoundly deaf, yet hearing, young adult; a wonderful result of years of experimental surgery, hard work, auditory verbal therapy, frustration, dedication and sheer joy. I am the result of CHF, Cochlear, and the amazing efforts of my family and experts in this field, all working together to provide me with unlimited opportunities.
As a consequence, I am faced with valuable questions both deaf and hearing people need to address as young adults: How am I going to live my life, with purpose and contribute to society? What is the best way for me to utilize the opportunities I have been given, and how can I give back to the community, the country, and the world that has nourished and raised me? I believe it is a duty of every capable human to contribute to society in a manner that is meaningful and helps make the world a better place. Not surprisingly, the number of ways this can be done are infinite and exciting. In this article, I want to address some crucial strategies I have learned as a young and deaf adult entering the work force.
One tactic that is particularly crucial for deaf individuals who will soon grow up to be independent adults themselves is to have experience, particularly work experience. Due to our hearing disabilities, we have different experiences in both school and work than our hearing peers, even if we are able to cope successfully in the hearing community. My experiences in the business world are vastly different from those of my co-workers. They are also extremely different from my own experiences in school. While growing up, I was extremely focused in and dedicated to school. As a result, I dedicated less time to working at an earlier age. Anyone who is fortunate enough to have held a steady job can confirm the experiences one has, the problems one faces, and the lessons one learns in work are vastly different from those in school.
As parents, we spend a great deal of time trying to perfect our children’s experiences in school. We learn advice, tips, and strategies to help our deaf and hard of hearing children have the best school experiences possible. This attention to detail is completely ignored in most working environments. Many customers will not make sure they are speaking slowly, clearly and facing you when talking. The environment is often going to be extremely noisy. The boss is not always going to ask everyone to be quiet in a meeting the way a teacher might at school. It is guaranteed that no matter what field a deaf or hard of hearing person goes to work in, it will be vastly different from being a student in school. As a result, it is crucial deaf and hard of hearing students get work experiences from a young age, because with time and experience, they will develop a variety of valuable coping mechanisms for different situations and problems faced in the workplace. I would like to share a few specific strategies I have learned from my experiences in my young adult life.
I recently returned from a work trip in Europe which was filled with back to back meetings and trade shows. Here are some crucial tips I learned as a deaf person:
1) You will not hear everything that is spoken in the workplace, Learn to be okay with this. This is an obstacle I struggle with due to my experiences in school and my desire to micromanage the knowledge I was attaining. In school, I felt it was necessary not to miss details in class. However, in most workplaces, it is often the big ideas, the principle concepts, the crucial details matter far more than the micro details one may be missing. Learning to identify and grasp the crucial ideas, pieces of knowledge, and wisdom is a skill that comes with a learning curve and can be improved upon through experience.
2) During group meetings with important clients, write down all the questions you have, and ask a trusted co-worker after the meeting.
3) Once your meeting notes/questions have been reviewed, always follow up with the question: “Is there anything from the meeting that I definitely need to know?” This is a question I am constantly asking because I do not know what I do not know. Oftentimes, my co-workers provide valuable information I would not have known to ask otherwise.
Learning to be successful in multiple work environments through experience relates to deafness and the valuable work CHF does because it addresses the question every deaf child who leaves CHF a successful, happy and capable adult will need to face: Now that I am capable of living in the hearing world, how am I going to live my life with meaning and give back in a purposeful manner?