September 19 through 25, 2022, is International Week of Deaf People. This week is celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and its national associations and affiliates during the last full week of September every year—culminating with International Day of the Deaf on the last Sunday of the week.

DID YOU KNOW?

Approximately 28 million Americans are currently living with some form of hearing loss.

To celebrate International Week of Deaf People, we are highlighting one of our employees who is hard of hearing (HOH)—Dot Foods Mt. Sterling HR Manager Amanda Wallace. Amanda has been hard of hearing since she was around 10 years old. She remembers having a really bad earache for several days. After that, she started to lose her hearing.

Facing challenges in the workplace

Amanda has always loved working with people—leading to her extensive career in customer service and HR. She started at Dot Foods in 2001 as a customer service representative (CSR). Over the next 20 years, Amanda moved up within the Customer Service team until she transitioned into her role as HR manager in January 2021.

Early in Amanda’s career, the biggest challenges she had to navigate were hearing customers on the phone and participating in meetings in large meeting rooms where it’s harder to read lips and people are more likely to talk over one another.

“Sometimes, it was challenging to hear customers on the phone,” said Amanda. “Especially if there was a lot of background noise. I tried to be upfront with customers and share that I may have issues hearing them. I wanted to answer their questions as effectively as possible!”

Workplace support

“My managers and teammates have always been accommodating and supportive,” said Amanda.

When Amanda was on the Customer Service team, her teammates were always willing to listen to voicemails she was having trouble hearing or help in any other way they could.

In 2021, during Amanda’s first in-person HR planning meeting, the group was taking a mid-morning break. The meeting was taking place in a big meeting room with lots of people, so Dot’s VP of HR came over to check in and make sure the room setup was as inclusive as possible.

“Matt Holt came over to me to make sure people were speaking loud enough and the table was set up in an acoustically accommodating way,” said Amanda. “It meant a lot to me that he thought of me and checked in to see if anything needed to be changed.”

What can people do to make communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing easier?

“Speak up when talking to the person,” said Amanda. “But also be patient when they ask you to repeat something. HOH or deaf people don’t want to be viewed as someone who doesn’t pay attention in the conversation, but it can be challenging to understand every detail.”

Amanda also encourages everyone to avoid covering their mouths when talking.

“Often, people cover their mouths without even realizing it. I am guilty of it, too!” said Amanda. “But, for lip readers, covering your mouth takes away an aspect of communication we rely on. Plus, your voice doesn’t project the way it normally would if your mouth is covered.”

If you could have Dot employees understand one thing about being deaf/HOH, what would it be?

“Unlike glasses or contact lenses, hearing aids can’t get you 100 percent of your hearing back,” said Amanda. “There will always be situations where HOH or deaf people struggle because of this technology gap. But, with all the advancements in technology since my first pair of hearing aids, I am sure we will get to 100 percent hearing recovery someday!”

Amanda has a second plug she wants to share with Dot employees who are also HOH. Despite Dot’s health insurance not covering hearing aids, Dot has a discount program that can save employees up to 50 percent off.

“Hearing aids can be expensive,” said Amanda. “But don’t let the price deter you from making a difference in your life. Dot is here to help in any way we can. Reach out to your location’s HR representative for more information on those discounts!”