By Daily Nation
“I am lucky to have made a career both as a customer experience executive in one of the leading telecommunication companies, as well as a sign language trainer in a local college.
As a person living with a disability, and especially as a child, growing up, it’s almost impossible to escape the burden that comes with it, ranging from being seen as a burden, to coming into contact with bullies.
But in my case, I almost didn’t experience harassment or discrimination, as my family always protected me.
However, this doesn’t mean that I wasn’t allowed to grow up and explore like any other child. My parents taught me to expect the good and bad, which sort of prepared me for whatever life threw at me. Also, from the beginning, they had an interest in sign language, a trait they also nurtured in me.
They taught me the importance of working hard and being humble. This has helped me when it comes to relating with other people, as well as in getting assistance.
This also somehow prepared me for my current job. Customer care and training entails communicating to people and requires patience. Some problems cut across all employees whether one can hear or not, but some are unique to my condition.
The most common challenge has been a communication barrier. Some staff phone me on voice especially if an issue hasn’t been solved, which can be awkward. Others mix English and Swahili in emails, which makes it hard for me to understand.
It was also very challenging to find work. Already finding a job, for a fully-bodied person is a hard task, now try to imagine what it’s like for a person living with a disability. It’s frustrating. I sent countless job applications and got no response.
I have also come face to face with discrimination. There are times I have missed out on training opportunities, where only people with hearing ability are selected. This limits your career growth. Then there is the bias I face when buying or renting property.
But I do not like focusing so much on negativity, because every day I try my best to live a fulfilling and positive life. I don’t let that take my joy, and one of the biggest reminders of how wonderful life is has been my husband.
We’ve been married for two years. He has been my rock, supporting me in everything I do, career-wise or otherwise.
He also keeps the conversation going. Perhaps one thing that has ensured that we succeed, is the fact that he too has a hearing impairment, and we sort of understand each other.
Also, I have friends from all walks of life. This variety somehow creates a strong support system for me. These are the people who ensure that I also have time to have fun, and reconnect with both worlds.
As I mentioned, I would call myself lucky bearing in mind what I have been able to achieve. Every day, I keep reminding myself that many people are living with disabilities who aren’t so lucky, and who struggle every day.
That’s why I advocate for changes to be made to make work stations more favourable and non-discriminatory, not just for the deaf, but all people living with any kind of disability.
For the deaf, flickering lights in all major areas are a necessity. Offices should ensure that front office staff or security guards are trained on basic sign language, to make our life as the deaf easier. Also, the physically challenged should have more opportunities at their disposal, especially career-wise.
This doesn’t mean that it should be an entitlement. No, they should work hard for their success. It’s important to master the written text as well as to be patient, especially if others do not understand the deaf culture.
For me, my future aspiration is to succeed at the managerial level, advance my education, as well as advocate to ensure that the deaf can communicate easily with other people.”