Monday, September 26, 2011

Say What? "School basement"

My wife was complaining to me about how some people's sign language skills are abysmally bad. I was trying to explain to my wife about the level of signing in our area versus other cities due to certain deaf schools.

Me: You have to understand that the schools here place a huge emphasis on oral education...
Wife: Yes, I know that.
Me: Let me finish, okay? With the school environment like ours, I am not surprised that people who went to those schools have not progressed much at all despite having signed for a quarter of century or more.
Wife chewed this over with her face contorted into a puzzled look and said, "School basement? Huh?"

It was my turn to lose it because she has had her fun at my "Say What?" moments. I was almost in tears from laughter. ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Part 2 of "A new workplace = anxiety"

If you will recall, I talked about my experiences at the county government center 5 months ago (see posts #1 & #2 for more). I will discuss the other experiences that helped cement my unyielding intolerance for all forms of discrimination against deaf people.

When I worked for the 1st manager, she always got me an interpreter for meetings and seminars. She knew I had something that would greatly benefit the department and she made sure, through her actions, that I would want to contribute. When another deaf person was hired and struggled mightily to understand how to do her job, the manager went out of her way by hiring an interpreter to stay with the new worker for a full working week (the new worker had an interpreter for 2 days beforehand). The deaf worker ended up getting fired for playing with her pager too much while in training.

The first incident occurred when HJIC (see the hyperlinked posts) called a meeting without bothering to set up an interpreter to announce who he had hired as the 3rd manager (the Bitch). I had to rely on co-workers to tell me what was going on. The second incident happened just one month into the Bitch's tenure when she tried to minimize the need for an interpreter by telling me, "Oh the meeting is just 5 minutes...don't worry about it." We walked out of the meeting 20 minutes later and I understood not a thing. I lost my faith in the county government.

The county never hired another deaf person. Ever. I was hired in 2000 and the last one was hired in 2002. The last deaf worker, who was hired about 5 years before me, finally quit about 3 years ago when she figured out that nobody was going to promote her despite all the sacrifices she made for the county.

I was hired away from the county as an advocate and I was able to bring a lot to the table for the company that hired me. I became a heavy hitter for the deaf community and I made a lot of hearing people nervous. I toured around many police stations to give lectures on the rights of deaf citizens. When the deaf community learned of my tours, they were indignant because they have had personal experiences with the police which soured them on the cops. My response? "Call me when something happens to you and I'll help."

My first call was when I had to advise a deaf citizen to file discrimination against the police department (in my hometown, no less) when I found out that after arresting him for suspicious activity, they mocked his speech and denied him the right to an interpreter. I went to the police station and told them to stop patrolling his house or I would consider that to be a form of harassment since the client filed a claim of discrimination against them. The client let me know he missed the deadline to file, but the cops had kept their distance ever since and his life had gotten better.

My second call? I threatened a police station with legal action when they refused to let her wear the cuffs in front when I visited her in her cell. There was no way she could communicate with anyone, let alone me or an interpreter. She was arrested for a hit and run and they wouldn't get her an interpreter. I brought my own interpreter and after the cops finally agreed to comply with my demands with the deaf woman, they asked to interview her as a possible witness to a crime that occurred in her neighborhood. Naturally, she refused to cooperate with them after what happened to her in the cell.

After I left, I followed up on her the next day and I learned that the police had asked for a psych evaluation on her and I had to threaten them again when she was evaluated without an interpreter. The person I called was incredulous about the whole thing, even said to me "What does it matter to you if she had an interpreter or not?" I responded with, "Imagine if you were being held in a foreign country, you don't speak their language, and you weren't given an interpreter. How would you feel about that?" The person said incredibly, "We aren't in another country. I don't get the point." I hung up on her without saying another word since it became painfully clear to me that she wouldn't work with me and I promptly called the police commissioner. That call shook things up.

The point? If you think you are being discriminated against, SPEAK UP! Edmund Burke said it best, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Silence = consenting to or accepting what happens to you
Silence = not fighting for your most basic right
Silence = letting them do it YOU

Monday, September 12, 2011

A new workplace = anxiety for various reasons

Furry Bottoms' post about the struggles of being a deaf person in a hearing world inspired me to write a post about workplaces.

I am always anxious each and every time I start working at a new job. The first reason is communication and learning how. The "learning how" part refers to how everyone uses their mouths...some people will talk tiny while others will mumble. What I mean by "talk tiny" is little mouth movement which makes it hard for me to lipread. Oh boy, that reminds me of a story for another post and that will be published in the near future...I promise! :)

The second reason is discrimination. I have seen far too much and experienced way too many times to not allow any wiggle room on this matter. I will not entertain or accept any argument on what is pretty much the white elephant in the room for those who have never known firsthand what it is like to experience discrimination as a person with disability in a workplace.

Here we go...

My first negative experience happened on the first day of my first job. How's that for an auspicious beginning of my work career? My dad knew this guy who was the supervisor of bag boys at the commissionary and the supervisor's deaf son also worked there. For those of you who don't know what the commissionary is, it's basically a grocery store on the military base. The bag boys there did not work on a hourly basis - they worked for tips only. I had been stiffed few times and the smallest tip I ever got? A fricking dime. Jeez!

While on a break, I sat down to read a newspaper. One of the bag boys came over to me with an incredulous look on his face and said, "You can read that?" When I told him I could, he did not believe me and asked me for the newspaper. After giving it to him, he randomly pointed to an article elsewhere in the newspaper and asked me to read it out loud. I lasted only two months; when the supervisor told me if I left early again due to my illness, I should not bother to come I didn't. I didn't appreciate that despite coming in to work every day.

I worked in a warehouse for a company that primarily dealt with retail and rental stores for movies and music. You can imagine how vast the place is - it takes 10 minutes to walk from the front entrance to the back exit. The company was amazing in terms of working with my deafness. I first started as a warehouse worker who did whatever was asked of me. They realized the potential in me and promoted me to being in charge of a locked enclosure containing promotional items of high value. They paid for a phone signaller so I could hook it up to my TDD. Every time the phone signaller flashed, I would know the call was for me and that meant there was a special job for me - a customer was going to get the goodies. I never messed up an order because the TDD always printed out the conversations so I could easily refer back for accuracy. For those who don't know what a TDD is, it's a teletype device for the deaf which looks like this:

The shortest duration ever on any job was three days at Wal-Mart in 2009. Worst two days ever and I thought nothing could come close to what I experienced in my job at a government center. Wal-Mart came extremely CLOSE SECOND to that. I skipped the 4th day (Friday) by claiming that I was unable to find a babysitter for my girls. Then the weekend came and went and I called few minutes before I was supposed to start on my "5th day" (Monday) to say I wouldn't be able to work anymore due to babysitting issues. 1st day was nothing; I was paired up with a worker who had been there 10 years and he showed me everything I needed to do. We got along just fine. He asked me about me and why I was here.

Then...along came 2nd day...I was paired with a female worker who was slightly older than me, but alcohol had taken its toll on her - making her look to be in late 50s instead of mid 40s and I could smell it in her pores, as if she had taken a sip right before coming in to work. She acted like I was the stupidest guy she had ever known. She insisted on showing me how to take out a trash bag in the office area and how to replace it. She did not believe me when I told her I had already taken care of trash in the break room - she made me follow her to the supposedly full trash cans. Yeah...duh. When I was cleaning the bathrooms, she put up a sign on the door that said, "Closed for cleaning". I saw what she did and went back to cleaning. She came over to me and told me to go read the sign...I told her I had already read it. She became indignant and demanded that I tell her what the sign said while blocking my view. I repeated the sign verbatim and said, "I can read." Things were tense between us the rest of the time.

3rd day...oh boy...the worst was yet to come. I was supposed to work alone, but the alky must've complained about my attitude instead of telling the truth so I was paired with a young man. Everything seemed to be going well until it was time to clean the bathrooms and I discovered how ugly and petty people could get. In the ladies' room, he immediately sat down and started working on the sink pipes with a rag at a leisurely pace. I shrugged and cleaned the stalls and moved on to the men's room. 5 minutes later, a supervisor came in and sternly told me to clean the ladies' room. I tried to explain that I did while that guy cleaned the pipes, but the supervisor wouldn't listen. Fine. I re-mopped the floor. The guy came in and watched me mop. I left to clean the men's room.

Guess what? I got chewed out...because she said I didn't clean the toilets. Oh yes, I did the first time around. Fine. I got another bottle of bowl cleaning solution and used up the whole bottle in all 4 toilets. The supervisor watched me the whole time. Then she ordered me to clean the men's room and I got yet another bottle and she watched me while I cleaned everything all by myself. Yep, that young worker claimed he did the work while I goofed off. To punish me for that, the supervisor made me help workers re-stock the products. Haha...I actually enjoyed that part and the supervisor came to fetch me at the end, thinking I'd be wishing I was cleaning the bathrooms. Her shocked reaction upon seeing my face (I had enjoyed the re-stocking and was rocking at it) was priceless!

I guess I will write in depth about my job at the county government center at a later time (in two weeks) since this post was SO LONG. Sorry about that. Just sharing my experiences and you'll see why there is absolutely no wiggle room left by the time you finish the second part.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Say What? "Frozen seeds"

I was eating dinner with family and friends at their house when I noticed that the bread was cold.

Me: Has the bread been baked?
Friend: Yeah, but I can do it again for frozen seeds.
Me: Huh?
Friend looks at me, wife starts to smile as she looks on...
Me: Frozen seeds?
Friend: Wha..."Frozen seeds"? What are you talking about?
My wife says something to him
Friend: Oh! I said forty seconds. (Chuckles at me)

And I curse my brain's autocorrection... ;)