As part of its commitment to an inclusive environment, PRIDE Industries provides support to facilitate communication between employees, including those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. At many sites, PRIDE has teams of Job Coaches, ASL Interpreters, and Rehabilitation Counselors to translate between team members and customers. These professionals also recommend assistive technology methods to help employees overcome communication obstacles.
At Ft. Bliss, TX, many PRIDE employees are multilingual in both spoken and sign languages. This includes Rogelio Ibañez, a PRIDE employee who joined in 2011 and has continued to thrive in his job helping our military customer, earning a promotion to General Maintenance Worker in 2015.
Rogelio is multilingual and can communicate in four different languages: LSM (Lengua de Señas Mexicana), Spanish, ASL (American Sign Language), and English. In recognition of Deaf Awareness Month, he shares his experiences and gives insight on how to communicate with Deaf or sign-language users:
“I was born in Mexico to hearing parents and had three older hearing siblings and a younger one who was also Deaf. My family initially didn’t know any sign language but communicated with me through gestures and lip-reading. When I moved to a mainstream school, they did not have an interpreter, so I learned both LSM and Spanish (both different languages in verb inflections, structure, and word order). One of my older siblings also learned LSM to serve as our family interpreter for school, church, and doctor visits.
When I moved to the United States as a teenager, communication was an issue, as I only knew Spanish and LSM. I distinctly remember one time that the police stopped me, and I couldn’t talk to them because they didn’t know Spanish or LSM. Eventually, I met my girlfriend (who would eventually become my wife), and she taught me ASL and English, while I taught her LSM and Spanish. I began to attend Deaf coffee socials in Dallas to meet more people in the Deaf community and improve on ASL. English, however, is still something I am continuing to perfect.
These communication challenges carried over to work. In former positions, I felt out of place and became frustrated. Joining PRIDE Industries made a difference, as now I am comfortable with the work and can easily speak to my team.
I occasionally help teach a course at El Paso Community College and enjoy educating others (it’s currently on hold due to COVID-19). I get the opportunity to teach basic signs in LSM and ASL to both American students as well as Deaf students from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It’s such an enjoyable experience to help connect with others who are looking to join this community. We all share our goals and obstacles in a supportive environment.
My advice for hearing people trying to communicate with Deaf or sign-language users is to utilize hand gestures or facial expressions. Of course, it depends on the individual’s preference; deaf and hard-of-hearing is not the same thing, and everyone has their own style based on how much they can hear.
Many Deaf people, including myself, rely on reading lips. During the COVID-19 pandemic, masks have sometimes been an obstacle, but wearing clear ones can help. Another option is to stand more than six feet apart so we can speak without covering our faces.”
Read more about Rogelio at: