Todd Morrison is an exceptional communicator -- who happens to be deaf. I met Todd through my networking in the deaf community, which I undertake as a recruiter who is committed to giving the best IT opportunities to all job seekers, including people with disabilities.
Through years of successfully navigating the hearing world, the IT support specialist has perfected the tools that he needs to be successful on the job. Rather than go into an interview or work situation with expectations about what the company can do for him, Todd instead takes full ownership over each communication with his hearing colleagues.
Todd has an on-the-job toolkit to facilitate communication. It consists primarily of Apple products. First and foremost, he uses his iPhone to text with everyone, including me, and I have found him to be an excellent written communicator in text and email. Todd also carries around an iPad, which he uses as a videophone application to communicate with hearing individuals via a Sign Language interpreter. This allows for real time conversation, as though he is Skyping with an interpreter, who is talking on the phone to the hearing individual. The interpreter, in turn, relays dialogue to Todd via the iPad videophone app.
As part of his efforts to further integrate into the hearing world, Todd has learned to read lips and vocalize certain words. Todd’s efforts are impressive, but not unheard of. Many people with disabilities who have achieved success in the workplace have done so by taking their work lives into their own hands, literally and figuratively.
Take Chris Baty. The nuclear engineer turned Android programmer, who has Cerebral Palsy, has developed a tool called Spazzkeys, a keyboard that adapts to the physical needs of the person typing.
The overall employment rate for people with disabilities has been stagnant since the Americans with Disabilities Act’s passage over 20 years ago, but people like Todd and Chris are refusing to rely on the largesse of corporate or government entities to improve their employment outcomes. With more professionals like them in the workplace, everyone wins.
Adam Kaplan is the Founder and CEO of Big Tent Jobs, LLC, a Michigan-based recruiting agency which places talented IT professionals, including those with hidden and visible disabilities, in positions at leading companies. Adam was recently appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to serve on the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services. He can be reached by calling 877-366-6562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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