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Preparing a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child for the Workforce
By Kathy Mignerey
Director of Workforce Development
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
Work is a major life activity for most people. We need to work to pay our bills, to give us purpose to our life, to give us an interesting and fun way to spend our time and a way to socialize with others and make friends.
The National Census Bureau's most recent Americans with Disabilities Report of 1997 indicates that 53% of adults with hearing disabilities are unemployed.
What limits a deaf or hard of hearing individual's ability to get and keep a job is not usually their deafness or blindness, but the other general work skills needed by all employees:
- A desire to work
- A good attitude and friendly personality
- Being a self-motivated and independent worker
- Showing respect for authority
- Being on time to work
- Staying on task and doing your job when you are scheduled to do it
- Having good grooming and hygiene habits
- Being honest
Any individual who has these skills will not have a problem getting and keeping a job. Their educational level and degree of disability may impact the level and type of job they are able to get, but they will definitely be employable.
As of January 2016, minimum wage is $8.05 per hour. For those working 40 hours a week, they will earn a monthly gross paycheck of $1,288.
SSI or Supplemental Security Income is a program from the federal government for disabled adults unable to work or for low income families raising disabled youth. The monthly stipend is $564, so though it helps, a deaf or hard of hearing person will always come out ahead by working if they are able to do so. There are some work incentives available from Social Security so that an employee can get a partial payment or continue with Medicaid until salary and benefits reach a certain level. Contact Social Security at 800-772-1213 or www.socialsecurity.gov for more information.
Vocational Rehabilitation helps adults with disabilities to prepare for jobs.
The Florida Consortium on Postsecondary Education and Intellectual Disabilities has information on jobs being held by deaf people in Florida, where they are going to college or technical schools, etc.
Florida Choices is a computer internet program paid for by the Florida Dept. of Education. It is free to anyone living in Florida and can help with career decision making or learning about jobs, postsecondary education programs, scholarships, etc.
Young adults with disabilities will often need more family help as they take their first steps to being independent. Some may need some level of lifelong support. Some will be able to become totally independent for every facet of their lives.
There is no stereotype of what a deaf adult can achieve. Helping deaf and hard of hearing children to develop their skills to their highest potential possible and not comparing their abilities and limitations to anyone else will help ensure success. Also, keeping focused on what the child wants to do and making them the center of the planning and development process is critically important.