It can be difficult for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to find jobs where they feel confident and understood. This is something PRIDE employee Rogelio Ibañez understands firsthand. In recognition of Deaf Awareness Month, he has shared his story with us and offers insight on how to communicate with those who are deaf or use sign language.
Helping Deaf People Find Jobs where Communication Isn’t a Barrier
At Ft. Bliss, TX, many PRIDE employees are multilingual in both spoken and sign languages. This includes Rogelio Ibañez, who joined the team in 2011 and has continued to thrive in his job at Ft. Bliss, earning a promotion to General Maintenance Worker in 2015.
Rogelio can communicate in four different languages: LSM (Lengua de Señas Mexicana), Spanish, ASL (American Sign Language), and English. His journey was one of perseverance.
“I was born in Mexico to hearing parents and had three older hearing siblings and a younger one who was also Deaf,” he said. “My family initially didn’t know any sign language but communicated with me through gestures and lip-reading. When I moved to a mainstream school, they did not have an interpreter, so I learned both LSM and Spanish (both different languages in verb inflections, structure, and word order). One of my older siblings also learned LSM to serve as our family interpreter for school, church, and doctor visits.
“When I moved to the United States as a teenager, communication was an issue, as I only knew Spanish and LSM. I distinctly remember one time that the police stopped me, and I couldn’t talk to them because they didn’t know Spanish or LSM. Eventually, I met my girlfriend (who would eventually become my wife), and she taught me ASL and English, while I taught her LSM and Spanish. I began to attend Deaf coffee socials in Dallas to meet more people in the Deaf community and improve on ASL. English, however, is still something I am continuing to perfect.”
Rogelio faced communication challenges as he searched for work, but then he found PRIDE. In an effort to build an inclusive environment, PRIDE’s job coaches, ASL interpreters, and rehabilitation counselors translate between team members and customers, helping bridge the gap for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive technology methods are also used to help employees overcome communication obstacles in their day to day jobs. This atmosphere of inclusivity and access was a true game-changer for Rogelio.
Preparing Others in the Deaf Community for Job Success
In his spare time Rogelio helps teach a course at El Paso Community College where he teaches basic signs in LSM and ASL to American students as well as Deaf students from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
“It’s such an enjoyable experience to help connect with others who are looking to join this community,” he said. “We all share our goals and obstacles in a supportive environment.”
Rogelio offers advice for hearing people looking to improve their communication with those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or use sign language. “Utilize hand gestures or facial expressions. Of course, it depends on the individual’s preference; deaf and hard-of-hearing is not the same thing, and everyone has their own style based on how much they can hear.
Many Deaf people, including myself, rely on reading lips. During the COVID-19 pandemic, masks have sometimes been an obstacle, but wearing clear ones can help. Another option is to stand more than six feet apart so we can speak without covering our faces.”