Each month, Hear 2 Work talks to someone about their hearing loss at work, and finds out how their experiences could help you.
Ellie was born profoundly deaf and having just completed her A’ levels last year, she has started work as a marketing apprentice for a domestic abuse charity. In her busy life, Ellie also holds down a number of additional positions and responsibilities in the community and some of you may also know her as @deafieblogger. Here she talks about what drives her to achieve her ambitions.
- Can you tell me a bit about your hearing loss?
I’m profoundly deaf and have been since birth, I rely heavily on lip-reading and speech. I don’t sign but I would love to learn in the future. I wear Phonak Sky Q hearing aids and as well as my personal blog: Day in the life of a deafie, I also write for Phonak ‘Hearing Like Me’. I used to have a radio aid FM system at School but I don’t use anything like this at work (as not currently needed.)
- What do you do at work exactly?
I’m a marketing apprentice for a domestic abuse charity, working on my Level 4 Business and Marketing Qualification (equivalent to a foundation degree). I also lifeguard two evenings a week. I am an Avon Representative and a Girlguiding Adult Leader in Training. Occasionally on the weekends I work for Archant doing Events and Promotions. Whenever I get a spare minute, I write blogs!
- That sounds very busy! So what does your average day consist of?
During the day as a Marketing Apprentice, my role is basically to promote the charity and raising awareness of domestic abuse mostly through social media and marketing. I also monitor the promotional materials, like the leaflets and posters that we distribute to the public and other organisations. We receive a lot of donations, so I have to check these are suitable for delivering to the refuges.
In the evening, I lifeguard for an hour! Generally, this is ensuring the pool users are in a safe environment and being there to help anyone who gets into difficulty. When I get home, I usually have a blog to write so I start up my laptop and crack on with it.
- How long have you been a marketing apprentice?
I’ve just completed my A Levels last summer so this year is the first proper year I’ve had in employment. I used to work in retail quite a bit from the age of 14 in a charity shop, then moving onto an independent department store as a shop assistant. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary job but I really enjoyed it! I also did some work experience at Archant before working there- designing a newspaper! It was fantastic to see the way they produce these publications. Both these jobs made me consider career routes in retail or design, but that’s changed since I’ve started blogging!
- How does your hearing loss affect you at work?
Being in a hearing environment is difficult because there will always be communication barriers. Sometimes I find it hard keeping up at meetings or in group conversations. If I have to come into contact with the general public, this can be quite challenging because deafness is an invisible disability, so unless you make them aware- they won’t know how to communicate with you. Some people are impatient, others don’t like disability, so I just ignore them if they show any offence to me.
My hearing loss affects me to a certain extent as a lifeguard but I still managed to pass my NPLQ (National Pool Lifeguard Qualification). For me, it’s all about the visuals. Not everybody makes a noise when they drown- there’s silent drowning. The only things I can’t hear are whistles or alarms but my colleagues are aware of this and would inform me if anything happened.
- Have you had any issues with work colleagues?
My colleagues in both jobs are very supportive with my deafness as they always get my attention before speaking, they ensure I can lip-read them etc. There will always be somebody who forgets, so even though it is a pain- I keep reminding them! If I feel that the staff aren’t deaf aware, I’m very willing to offer them some deaf awareness training in the hope that it will educate them for myself but also if they encounter another Deaf person in the future.
- Did you find it hard in the beginning?
Oh yes, well everybody does! It was a huge transition for me coming out of school and entering the ‘real world’. There’s that element of freedom which I love, but a part of you will always miss school because it is the easiest part of your life! Some of my colleagues often forget how young I am because they refer to situations in life which I’ve had no experience with i.e. marriage, getting a mortgage, pensions etc.
- What has helped you to succeed as you’ve moved into work?
Motivation and determination! Never give up on your dreams. There will always be obstacles along the way, especially with a disability. If you can prove that you can overcome adversity and never take no for an answer, then you will go far in life.
There have been many times where I have been turned down for jobs I like. Whether that’s because of my disability or not (I know they aren’t allowed to discriminate, but it is still out there), I always highlight my achievements before stating my hearing loss because I want people to see what I’ve done, not what’s stopping me.
- What is the most difficult thing for you at work?
Not being able to answer the landline phone! It’s a pain sitting there in the office when everybody else is off, with a phone constantly ringing in the background!
- Is there anything you can do to try to resolve it?
I’ll never be able to answer the phone, but to make calls; I have requested a work mobile phone, where I use the Next Generation Text Relay Service app. It connects to my computer so I can type to the receiver. However, some people aren’t always patient with it and it can become an issue, but I like to try and be independent.
- Finally, is there one piece of advice that you would give to someone starting out in their career?
Well, my motto is: Deaf people can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support. So don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling your ambitions. You might have to start at the bottom and it might not be the best, but if you work hard, the rewards are worth it!
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