Charles Perkins says there’s nothing special about him – but we beg to disagree.
Deaf since the age of two, Charles struggled with securing and keeping a job despite his obvious motivation and enthusiasm to work. People who are unaccustomed to working with individuals with sensory impairments can have misconceptions about communication and its impact on an individual’s skills. Although Charles had a series of temporary or part-time jobs, he could not find employment that would support full independence – until he found PRIDE.
Charles joined PRIDE in 2009, referred by Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS). During the interview, he was provided with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. This was the first time a potential employer had provided even this simple accommodation in order to learn more about him. His resume pointed to some experience with carpentry and plumbing, and a strong aptitude for electrical work. He began as a Maintenance Trades Helper on PRIDE Industries’ contract providing base operating support services to Ft. Polk. He was promoted within three months to General Maintenance Worker in the Electric Shop.
Given time and a chance to prove his skills, it was clear that Charles’ expertise in facilities maintenance was much more diverse than we knew. He excelled at his work, earning a folder full of awards including Most Improved Employee of the Quarter, 2011, Most Improved Employee of the Year, 2011, and numerous recognition awards for positive customer feedback over the years.
He was provided with an ASL interpreter early in his employment with PRIDE, but found it unnecessary. He excels at reading lips, and makes effective use of TDD lines for phone communication, as well as e-mail and texting – a very simple accommodation. Advances in assistive technology are occuring at a rapid rate, and have opened up opportunities for individuals with sensory impairments that didn’t exist even a few years ago. Smart phones and tablets enabled with text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and video relay services free individuals with disabilties to work in the field, and communicate directly with their peers and customers.
In June 2012 Charles earned promotion to Quality Control Inspector. “He is a real go-getter,” his supervisor says. “He arrives early and you just can’t stop him. He likes to be hands on and in the field.”
During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we celebrate successes like Charles who have moved from dependence, to independence with the help of a few tools, support and training – and most importantly, the opportunity to prove what he could do.