Jobs for people who are deaf can be hard to come by. But at Fort Bliss, where PRIDE Industries has provided a broad range of facilities management services since 2007, it’s different.
“From the very start, we hired at least one deaf individual,” said Cynthia Baca, Recruiting Manager for Talent Acquisition at PRIDE Industries. “By the end of the year, several deaf employees were working here at Fort Bliss.”
Today 41 deaf people work at Fort Bliss, thriving in positions that run the gambit from general maintenance work to supervisory roles.
People of All Abilities Deserve Access to Employment
Envisioning an inclusive world where people of all abilities have equal access to achieve their employment goals, PRIDE Industries knows that abilities come in all kinds of packages. And, every day, the Fort Bliss team puts this vision to work.
PRIDE Industries’ late CEO Michael Ziegler said it this way: “The magic that happens when someone who typically cannot get a job finally gets a job—it’s incredible. Their lives change.”
Barriers to Jobs for People Who are Deaf
Unfortunately, many employers maintain a bias that is a barrier to jobs for people who are deaf. According to the Yang-Tan Institute at Cornell University’s 2016 analysis, fewer than 40 percent of those with significant hearing loss work full-time. A 2019 study by the National Deaf Center found that only 53 percent of deaf people were employed overall. Even more troubling—this marks a steep decrease since the 1970s despite deaf individuals earning degrees at four times the rate they did then. Experts in the field attribute this to continuing discriminatory hiring practices, employer misconceptions, and unwillingness to provide basic accommodations.
After experiencing these barriers with his former employers, Jesus Rosales, Facilities Supervisor for the carpentry shop at Fort Bliss, found the opposite at PRIDE Industries.
“From the start, I’ve had access to interpreters and training that I didn’t have anywhere else,” he signed through an interpreter. “I saw that deaf people could be promoted to higher positions. There is no limit here.”
Work Control Specialist Christina Turon concurs.
“With my previous employer, there were a lot of barriers to accessibility. No interpreters. No alarms. During meetings, I’d try to watch my coworkers’ lips at the same time I was watching out for forklifts and back trailers. It was all very obstructing to my abilities.”
Christina contrasts that with her experience with PRIDE Industries at Fort Bliss.
“Here, it’s amazing,” signed Christina. “I feel supported. They provide interpreters. They understand Deaf culture. There’s more accessibility and learning opportunities. Everyone here communicates the way I do.”
They Speak My Language
It’s important to note that many in the Deaf community don’t view deafness as a disability but, rather, as a culture—a vibrant one with its own language: sign.
“That’s a big part of why I feel so motivated to come to work every day,” signed Jesus. “The people here speak my language and understand me.”
“They speak my language” is a refrain among deaf employees on the PRIDE Industries team. That’s because, in addition to the Deaf community using it, the Fort Bliss job coaches are all trained in sign language.
While Deaf culture includes an emphasis on sign language, it doesn’t stop there. According to the World Federation of the Deaf, it includes “beliefs, attitudes, history, norms, values, literary traditions, and art shared by those who are deaf.”
That culture is alive and well at Fort Bliss.
“During Deaf Awareness week, the team organized and attended a number of local events,” said Cynthia. “They reached out to the community as well—to include interpreters, members of the sign club, and college students.”
A Work Ethic That Generates Results
The team’s work ethic is also on point, as is its capacity to generate excellent results.
So notes Tim Young, PRIDE Industries Vice President of Talent Management, who has spent the bulk of his career working in customer service environments.
“There’s a misconception out there—that the level of execution, performance, operations, and customer service would be different with an organization like PRIDE Industries,” said Tim. “And it’s not. All our employees provide a very high level of service.”
Specifically, at Fort Bliss, PRIDE Industries management received 1,764 positive customer evaluations in the last 12 months alone. Moreover, the team’s OSHA incident rating (number of safety incidents) clocks in at half the industry’s average.
When People of All Abilities Are Given a Chance
One deaf employee in 2007, 41 in 2023, a vibrant work culture, and business excellence—all part of the “magic” that happens when barriers to employment are eliminated.