Learning to thrive with my disability at Avanade
- Posted on January 21, 2021
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
When I was a baby, I lost my hearing in both ears because of a combination of infections and medication. I am the only deaf person in my family, I am perlocution deaf, which means I became deaf before language acquisition. This made it very difficult for me to learn oral language since I was not able to hear my own voice in order to correct it, the volume, intonation, etc. Hearing aids didn’t help much because all the noise of the environment was mixed with the sound of my own voice, and it was impossible to discriminate sounds.
I began speech therapy to practice speaking, and I went to an integrated school more than an hour away from my house by public transportation. When I didn’t understand the teacher's explanations, I studied through the books and notes provided by my classmates, and I had tutorials to catch up. Though I passed the Spanish University Access Test, I didn’t go to university due to mental exhaustion from daily overwork, plus the fact that there wasn’t adequate adaption for the deaf. Instead, I went to higher vocational training where I obtained the professional title of higher technician, and I also obtained several official certificates from Microsoft.
After that I worked a few jobs, first in a neighborhood shop, setting up and repairing computers and servers, and then for an NGO, which made me more familiar with accessibility issues. I wanted to continue to grow and improve professionally and started working as an intern at Accenture, and after a few months, I was hired by Avanade.
My first project was a client from an African country, and I had the opportunity to learn a lot, to demonstrate my professional and personal ability to overcome this huge challenge and also to improve my English. I can’t hear English, but I have good reading and writing skills, and my colleagues and clients have also adapted to me knowing my limitations. It was an extremely positive experience for my first project.
But there is always more work to be done in creating a culture for inclusiveness, especially for those with disabilities. To accomplish this, my recommendation is to ask people with disabilities what would make them adapt and feel more integrated. I don’t feel offended when people ask me this; my desire is to be useful professionally and to be well integrated into the team. In my case, I don’t find it difficult to communicate in Spanish, but I always prefer that others write to me by chat or by email because I’ll understand much better and avoid misunderstandings.
There are people who do not recognize their limitations. Maybe someone is losing their hearing or vision as they age or suffer from an illness, but when they are asked about it, they insist they understand and don’t need any special accommodations. But this approach harms their ability to integrate to their team. The first step is to recognize your limitations and to not feel insecure about them; everyone, in one way or another, has them.
At Avanade, we want to normalize these conversations around disability in the workplace. We’ve launched an internal campaign to raise awareness and create a safe space for employees to be open about their experiences so they can get the adjustments they require to do their best work. Being a part of this campaign has empowered me to reach out to other colleagues with disabilities to foster a more inclusive and disability confident workplace. Avanade is a place where we can all thrive.