After participating in the recent Jobs Fair and Skills Expo for Persons With Disabilities, I feel deeply saddened about the current state of our brothers and sisters who have a physical impairment. Despite the unrelenting government’s efforts in showcasing skills and crafts of disabled people and putting up these job hiring programs even as far back as I can remember (Hey! They have already been doing that for 31 years!), still, a great majority of them remain unemployed. What gives?
I’m not discounting the efforts made by the Philippine government. I truly am grateful and very supportive of what they have been doing for our PWD citizens. I have lauded their labors and blogged about their successes a few times here, here, here, and here. But I believe there is something amiss with this system of conducting job fairs for PWDs.
Most Deaf people are jobless
It pains me to see that nearly 80% of those who sought job placements are deaf people as compared to other persons with disabilities. Don’t get me wrong. This is somewhat a positive trait. Deaf people don’t want to stay idle. They want to fend for themselves and don’t want to depend on their parents for survival. They want to be productive.
The activity’s main emcee pointed out that deaf people comprise the majority of job seekers because of their strong and vast networking. One deaf can easily send text messages to all his friends and immediately, nearly all of them responded with enthusiasm. Another reason might be because they are very mobile. No access barriers can hinder them from trooping to the venue. The same thing may not be applied to those who move around in wheelchairs or are visually impaired.
Still, I cannot discount the observation that most deaf people are either unemployed or underemployed. I’m starting to believe that job fairs are a waste of time and resources.
Sorry, we can’t hire them because…
Ever since I became involved with training deaf people and job matching them for nearly 20 years now, I am in constant contact with some employers and industry leaders and have kept abreast of the latest trend in computer technology. From MS-DOS to Windows Vista, Lotus 123 to Microsoft Excel and dBase III+ to MySQL PHP programming, data encoding to web page developing and graphics animation. I self-studied them and even made specially designed manuals to keep our deaf students updated.
But every time I assist our graduates with possible employers, the majority of them have the same apprehensions. Most companies and hearing employers think it’s difficult for the deaf to work in the office because of these reasons starting with the phrase “Sorry, we can’t hire them because…”
- they can’t hear our instructions.
- we don’t know sign language. We need to hire a sign language interpreter just to accommodate them.
- the deaf can’t hear their voices so they cannot control them. It would be a bother to the rest of the office workers.
- it will be difficult to talk to them.
- they can’t understand English or Tagalog. They can’t lipread. We don’t have time to write instructions on paper.
- we don’t have time and additional manpower to train them. Maybe they are difficult to train.
- they are not aware of what is happening around so they are prone to accidents.
- we’re sure deaf people cannot adjust to pressures in the office.
To some extent, these perceptions may sound true. Now how do we deal with these negative notions?
Employer or employee problem?
I believe that these reactions are unfounded and highly judgmental. They haven’t experienced hiring a deaf person and yet, these non-constructive responses are already in their mindset.
During the event, there was a lecture about how to make a good resume and other things to prepare a job hunter before going to the company. When she asked the audience if they have questions I volunteered to inquire. I asked about what pointers can she give to the deaf applicants.
She replied honestly that she has no special pointers to give them except to be prepared for the battle ahead. She even solicits other responses from others who experienced hiring deaf persons. Sadly, no one replied.
Is it a problem with the employer’s perception? Or, it’s the deaf person who has the power to change these common misconceptions, accept the challenge, improve himself and do something positive to counteract this negativism? Any ideas anyone? 🙂
Sorry po. The name of the eloquent lady speaker slipped my very dull and aging memory. I’ll inquire about her name later.