Hearing Impairment and Open Office Essay examples

Submitted By TrueRolleeer
Words: 3081
Pages: 13

At 21, I'm the youngest employee at 1000memories, the startup where I work1. I'm also their first deaf employee. At a startup, I likely always will be the first. For a startup to succeed, the team must communicate well together. Since I can't hear, that presents a large challenge for my employers.
On top of that, there are certain things about being deaf that people have never considered, understate, or are mistaken about —so I must clear up exactly what being deaf means. Not understanding what it means risks my productivity and personal happiness. Being a programmer is my current profession, so there will be concrete examples about how being deaf affects me professionally as well as personally.
Solitude
I've been with 1000memories for almost a year, and I leave in two weeks to attend Hacker School. I still feel lonely sometimes. If your reflex is "everyone feels lonely sometimes," you would be right. But you would also be understating the loneliness we feel.
Deafness means I don't understand anyone. When someone talks at lunch, I want to know what they say. I miss out on the daily conversation, the back-and-forth, the friendships made after propinquity. And the worst part is that I don't have a choice in the matter.
Five years ago, I received a cochlear implant: a tiny technological machine implanted into my cochlea that fires electric bursts to help me hear. I had to learn sound all over again. I almost didn't qualify for the cochlear implant operation because, even at 16, I was considered too old. Teaching a child language gets exponentially harder as they grow. It's the same with hearing. I still can't tell the difference between "b" and "g," among many others. I might never, but there's no point not trying.
In the past few months, I've felt like I'm the last person to know about things. I'm constantly surprised when something happened or changed. Once, an engineer left to work from Seattle the same week the two other engineers on the team left to present at RailsConf 2012. When I discovered that I would be the only engineer in the office the entire week, it was after everyone else had all gone.
It seems like a solution is just to ask more questions. I knew the engineer who was presenting at RailsConf Wednesday, but maybe I should have asked who else was going and how long he'd be gone? Maybe. I need to work on getting these questions to occur to me. It's hard when I still don't know these people very well, and haven't learned the social norms because I've never heard them.
Another solution is to somehow know what everyone else is doing. The engineers use Google docs to store priorities and to-do lists. We started using Yammer to keep the team up-to-date. That one isn't working too well - we get an email about every two weeks by a cofounder to use Yammer more. But the idea is to keep everyone up-to-date. Basically, company-wide toilet tweeting.
Group conversations
In an open office like this, it's very easy to drop in on a conversation and add something. But without understanding what people say, the chance you can do that drops to zero. This is especially problematic in company meetings. The only way I can participate is with access services.
1000memories is still a startup, so we can't afford full-time access services. But for our most important meetings, the cofounders went through considerable expense to get me transcribers. With them, meetings are a bit better.
Since we work in an open office, parts of the team often chat with each other, especially at lunch. I always miss out on these talks, which are full of snippets of information no matter how bad the signal-to-noise ratio. This is really taken for granted. Any off-topic comment hints at an entire life to discover.
My best friend, then interning at Causes, kept telling me about random tips he picked up from other programmers because they were always chatting about new tricks they learned. This is how I learned about git log -S.
Have I told anyone…