I am 30 years old, and I am profoundly deaf. I was born this way.
In my early life, I had to face many challenges, such as miscommunication, or people mocking me and teasing me when I was using sign language.
Growing up, I struggled when communicating with some of family, as only half of them could sign. I was so appreciative of family members who actually learned to sign to try and communicate with me with more success.
As a child, I always wanted to be in the army. Of course, being deaf, I couldn’t go to military school, or join the army. I was so annoyed and upset. All I wanted to be was a soldier.
I attended a school for deaf students, and I tried to discover what I really wanted to do. Being a soldier was now off the list of my career options…. What would I do? What can I do? became disillusioned and dropped out of school.
When my grandmother passed away, I realised that I wanted to be a nurse just like her. I enrolled at Wyong TAFE (tertiary college) and studied in “Health Support Service – Certificate II”.
I was always constantly told that I would not succeed as a nurse because of my disability. People would say “no offence intended”, but I was offended, and took things to heart. You can imagine the joy and satisfaction I felt when I completed the certificate. I proved people wrong and showed them I can do anything.
I went on to apply to study “Aged Care – Certificate III” and again there were obstacles and doubters in my way. I was over the moon when my friend and I were eventually accepted and invited to enrol. As workplace training became necessary I was again reminded of my disability and how it would be difficult for me to communicate with aged care residents due to my lack of speech. I was asked to use an interpreter, to which I replied, “I don’t need one”. I overcame all obstacles, acquired more qualifications, and received my certification.
I applied for many Assistant in Nursing (AIN) positions and was continually turned down. On most occasions I was told that my disability would create an unsafe environment for residents in their own homes. My heart was breaking with every rejection. I wasn’t giving up! One night, I applied for a job, and was granted an interview within thirty minutes. I got the job! Another obstacle conquered, yet another waited around the corner.
I was being mistreated constantly at work. People judging me, looking at me like I did not belong, thinking I couldn’t perform in the job. People eventually realised that they were wrong, and could see I was proficient, professional who achieved tasks in a timely manner. So then the victimisation started, gossip, rumours, defamatory attitudes all behind my back all because I cannot hear.
Unfortunately, a lot of people would try to make me feel like I do not belong. The more they try to make me feel like this, the more I want to stay and show them I can do anything!
I eventually resigned, and they learnt quickly how much they missed me. They would beg me to stay but I chose to leave because bullying in the workplace was a problem they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) resolve. I told them I will not be back unless deaf awareness is provided in the work environment.
Eventually, I found work with an organisation that treats me equally, just like everybody else, and made me feel like I belong. I am now a support worker with Autism Central Coast, and I cannot thank Rosa and her team enough. I BELONG!