American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual, gestural language used by approximately 250,000-500,000 Americans. Due to a lack of understanding or knowledge of existing resources for ASL translation, many deaf/hard of hearing job applicants face barriers to employment, despite their qualifications. Qualified Sign Language interpreters act as essential links for conducting communication between hearing and Deaf individuals and can promote mutual success for both businesses and employees.
PRIDE Industries focuses on providing opportunities for deaf/hard-of-hearing employees by providing communication tools and resources. Job Coaches trained in ASL are at some of our larger contracts to facilitate communications between employees and customers. PRIDE has assistive technology and on-site video translation available at sites nationwide.
PRIDE Ascend, a training initiative supported by generous donations, enables people with disabilities, including those who are deaf/hard-of-hearing, to gain technical skills and attain industry-based certifications in El Paso, TX, and Sacramento, CA. Participants receive an assessment and meet with PRIDE’s dedicated staff to explore career interests and job placement. Accommodations and instruction are tailored to each individual while they receive the training needed for the workplace to ensure success.
Job Developer Sezne Hernandez has been with PRIDE Ascend since 2016. She has worked with several businesses in the El Paso region to place people with disabilities.
“I started learning American Sign Language in 2014, after finishing my general education courses at El Paso Community College (EPCC). I was enrolled in classes at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to study speech therapy. My college advisor suggested I return to EPCC to complete a few ASL classes to accommodate any potential deaf/hard of hearing clients.
I signed up for one class and became hooked. Observing my deaf professor working together with his interpreter interested me so much that I decided to continue studying ASL. I earned an Associates of Applied Science in Sign Language / Interpreter Preparation with a Certificate of Completion in American Sign Language-Deaf Studies.
I completed state-required courses through the University of North Texas’ Workplace Inclusion & Sustainable Employment (UNTWISE). I am Texas-certified as a Job Coach and Job Developer and provide sign language interpretation. In July 2016, I was hired as a Job Coach/ASL Interpreter at PRIDE Ascend in El Paso, TX, and promoted to Job Developer in 2018. I am expanding my skillset with Vocational Adjustment Training (VAT) to support clients in other programs that PRIDE Ascend provides.
I work with a caseload of 15-20 individuals to prepare and place them in employment. I conduct employment training, tailor resumes, practice interviewing and support pre-employment training for individuals referred to PRIDE. I also assist clients with job applications and with navigating through the interview process.
While meeting with different employers to establish partnerships, I passionately explain PRIDE’s mission and how we partner with businesses to meet their needs by providing qualified candidates. I also share our available services, such as on the job support and trial internship opportunities (funded by PRIDE’s generous donors). Some employers are intrigued by our unique services and mission; however, some are skeptical. Often, I serve as an educator to help change the common stereotype that an individual’s disability will affect their performance.
Once clients are hired, I facilitate job coaching to get through the initial job transition and to check on their progress throughout their employment. Working with deaf/hard of hearing clients, I make sure that employer and employee can overcome obstacles to communication and properly use video relay services.
My most memorable moment was job coaching a client on a construction site last year. Initially, the owner was skeptical if the client could do their required job or drive a vehicle. However, after hiring the client, the “bridge” to success was created. The client began conversing with his team, introduced deaf culture to them, and we worked together to teach his colleague’s sign language and gestures. His team opened up, and the client began to thrive. He became a manager only after three months!
It’s always the best feeling when my clients get a job, especially if they have been searching for a long time. It encourages me to be a part of someone’s life success.”