As someone who is hard of hearing, asking people to repeat themselves has always been embarrassing for me. Once the pandemic hit the world, a new task had been added to the list of embarrassment: asking someone to pull their mask down and having to explain why.
Aside for my passion and interest in IT, I chose my career because computers can’t talk. Reading from a monitor instead of reading lips is convenient and much easier to interpret. I never would have anticipated that the challenges that I and the hard of hearing community face would have dramatically increased.
As a fresh graduate in the times of the pandemic, getting my feet in the door of employment when everyone was getting theirs out was one of the hardest challenges I had to face. How am I going to hear on virtual interviews when I am already struggling with phone calls? Thanks to video conferencing platforms with live captioning, this has become more feasible than I thought.
When captions failed, I had to come up with excuses as to why I was unable to hear. Glitchy internet and poor speakers seemed to do the trick because otherwise, it is extremely easy for an employer to lose confidence in a job applicant when they realize that I have a hearing loss. Being able to receive phone calls in IT is mandatory and there are typically minimal, if any, accessible alternatives provided in these circumstances. I found that every time I choose to disclose my hearing loss to a potential employer, I am doubling my chances of being not considered for the job. When I choose not to, I am advancing to the next step. This is more than a coincidence.
I can hear your thoughts: what about employment resources available for people with disabilities? As a hard of hearing immigrant, these resources were out of my reach. I had to pave my own road in navigating the system. I had to continuously prove that I am capable to do the job despite my hearing loss.
After many job applications and interviews, six months later, I am now signing my first IT support contract during the pandemic hoping that I be retained in the workplace for the future.
A future that has changed for the world and has compounded many of the challenges we face.