“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” ~~ Nelson Mandela
Jose “Rogelio” Ibanez is an employee at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss contract. In the multicultural city of El Paso, TX, he can communicate in four different languages: English, American Sign Language (ASL), Spanish and Lengua Senas Mexicanas (LSM – or Mexican Sign Language). Not only has this ability helped him build a strong career in the carpentry shop at PRIDE, but it has also opened a new door into the education field.
Rogelio has had a remarkable journey to PRIDE. He was born deaf in Durango, Mexico to hearing parents. This difference created a language barrier early in his life, and Rogelio struggled with communication until he attended a deaf educational morning program to learn LSM. He also gradually acquired Spanish by learning to lip-read on his own. This was no easy accomplishment, as LSM differs from Spanish on verb inflections, structure and word order.
When he was a teenager, Rogelio moved to Texas with his family for a better life in the United States. Although he found a better economic environment, moving to a new country presented many new cultural and lingual challenges.
Rogelio landed a job in the construction industry and learned to weld, but had difficulty communicating with colleagues who did not know LSM and he struggled with finding steady employment. After becoming acquainted with local members of the deaf community, Rogelio gradually learned both ASL and English.
Seeking employment that would provide a steadier and more supportive environment for his disability, Rogelio was referred to PRIDE Industries by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) in 2011; he was then hired as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer (GML). In this position, he maintained Fort Bliss parks and streets – making them look their best for our nation’s soldiers. For his excellent work, he was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker (GMW) in 2015. As a GMW in the Between Occupancy Maintenance (BOM) department, Rogelio maintains soldier barracks between deployments.
“I am very fortunate to work for a company that hires and embraces people with disabilities like myself,” says Rogelio. “There needs to be more access and fewer barriers for people with disabilities to advance in the workplace.”
When communication help is needed, PRIDE’s job coaches at Fort Bliss are there to facilitate; they are also fluent in English, American Sign Language, Spanish and Mexican Sign Language. Rogelio’s smartphone is also configured with assistive technology (Purple Communications) that provides on-site translation. With a supportive network, Rogelio has thrived, and he has been recognized for his contributions to the base upkeep.
Aside from his attentiveness and dedication to his work, Rogelio is always willing to help translate and teach LSM to interpreters at Fort Bliss. Recently, an instructor from the El Paso Community College asked Rogelio to help teach an LSM workshop in April 2017. The class was a success; he had a full group of students ranging from advanced interpreters to Interpreter Training Program students. Rogelio now plans on becoming a Deaf Certified Interpreter (CDI) to improve his ability as a language mediator between LSM and ASL.
In addition to his teaching aspirations, Rogelio plans to earn his GED and attend a technical training school to become a certified welder and aspires to own a business in automotive body welding.