Helping Expand Sign Language Education in the El Paso, TX Community

Melissa Cruz wordpress

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language involving signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many Americans who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and estimated to be utilized by 250,000 – 500,000 people.

At PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss site in El Paso, TX, many employees are deaf and hard-of-hearing. To facilitate communication between all employees and our customers, PRIDE’s Rehabilitation team of Job Coaches, ASL Interpreters, and Rehabilitation Counselors is ready to translate from English or Spanish to ASL, as well as Spanish to LSM (Lengua de Señas Mexicana/Mexican Sign Language) when needed.

Working to help individuals in the El Paso, TX community who want to pursue a career in sign language interpretation, PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss Rehabilitation Department annually partners with El Paso Community College (EPCC) to host two sign language student interns in the spring. This opportunity allows future interpreters and communication support personnel to gain hands-on experience, learn vocational sign language and practice their counseling skills.

In November, EPCC invited PRIDE ASL Interpreter and Job Coach (and EPCC Alumna) Melissa Cruz to present a lecture on Specialized Vocabulary for the students attending EPCC’s Sign Language course. Before joining PRIDE, Melissa worked in many different interpreting settings including post-secondary education, medical, mental health, and vocational trades.  She shared her insights on how to interpret on unfamiliar topics and/or specialized vocabulary (including vocational terminology), using her experiences in translating between employees and our military customer at PRIDE’s Integrated Facilities Management contract at Ft. Bliss. She received the following letter of appreciation from EPCC:

Thank you for partnering with the El Paso Community College Sign Language Interpreter Preparation Program on November 14th, 2018. I appreciate you taking the time to come in and share your experiences and knowledge with the students, who all left feeling inspired and energized. You taught our students how to acquire specialized vocabulary as a Sign Language interpreter, and they learned a great deal that they could immediately apply to their practice. It is indeed a gift when working interpreters come in to share their experiences and advice.

Thank you again for your time and energy in presenting to the interpreting students. It was truly my pleasure.”

“Hopefully my insight will give these students some preparation for an ever-changing profession,” said Melissa. “I’m so proud of where I work.”

PRIDE Industries is also proud to provide scholarships to students with disabilities enrolled in colleges and universities in specific areas where we operate, including EPCC.

Assistive Technology Program Helps Individuals With Disabilities Advance

Assistive technology can make a significant impact on opportunity creation for people with disabilities. Assistive Technology is any tool or computer program which helps individuals with disabilities at work. PRIDE Industries’ Assistive Technology Program uses a wide array of tools and computer software enabling individuals with disabilities to succeed in jobs that would otherwise be unavailable to them. PRIDE Industries Foundation’s Assistive Technology Program purchases items such as tablets, hearing aids, and computer accessibility software to help our employees succeed in their careers. Recently, two PRIDE Industries employees were supported through the Foundation to obtain hearing aids, and have shared their stories with us.

Joseph Beccera

Joseph Becerra joined PRIDE Industries in 2011 as a Maintenance Trades Helper at PRIDE Industries – Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He has bilateral hearing loss and a prosthetic right eye. With the help of hearing aids, he is able to hear loud noises such as the beeping of a truck backing up and sirens; however, his primary form of communication is American Sign Language. PRIDE’sJoseph Becerra_01 Rehabilitation team at Fort Bliss is particularly well-equipped to support employees with hearing impairments – all job coaches are quad-lingual (English, Spanish, American Sign Language, and Mexican Sign Language). With these supports and a lot of hard work and determination, Joseph was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker.

In February 2014, Joseph asked to relocate to PRIDE’s Fort McArthur site in Los Angeles, CA to be closer to family. PRIDE approved the transfer, and Joseph now works as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer at Fort McArthur in Southern California. Other staff members soon noticed that Joseph continued to struggle with hearing. They found out that he was using a friend’s old hearing aids because he could not afford his own. These hearing aids were not molded to his ears, or prescribed for his type of hearing loss. Joseph was also unable to qualify for financial assistance from the California Department of Rehabilitation.

PRIDE Industries Foundation stepped in to help fund new hearing aids. Joseph said that the new hearing aids have changed every area of his life – he is now less dependent on his wife, children, and co-workers for communication assistance. He is thrilled to continue as a PRIDE Industries employee, especially since he now has much more autonomy and can communicate with co-workers and customers.


Soledad Rosal

Soledad Rosal_01Soledad Rosal has worked as a custodian for 15 years at PRIDE Industries’ Travis Air Force Base location. Her duties include general cleaning and building maintenance. Before joining PRIDE, Soledad worked as a food preparer for a restaurant. She is hearing-impaired and struggled in the job because her employer did not provide accommodations such as sign language interpretation. Fortunately, the California Department of Rehabilitation referred Soledad to PRIDE Industries. Soledad is thriving in her job at PRIDE – Travis AFB where she is provided with supportive training and a sign language interpreter or Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) – ASL when needed. “I really like my job and the opportunity to work in a team environment,” Soledad says.

PRIDE Industries Foundation funded new hearing aids for Soledad, which will help her communicate more easily with co-workers and customers. “I want to thank you for the hearing aids, Soledad says. “Now I will be able to communicate more effectively with others, including being able to respond when someone calls my name or hearing a knock on my door.”

Assistive Technology and Accommodation at PRIDE

PRIDE’s program goes well beyond reasonable accommodations, including equipping conference rooms with an Audio Loop System. The system enables individuals who wear a hearing aid to connect by blocking distracting noise in the environment except for the speaker. Also, some of PRIDE’s employees are provided with devices such as smart phones with two-way communication capabilities for real-time ASL translation. These tools enable individuals to advance into positions where – without the technology – completing the essential tasks of the job could be a challenge.

A few technologies used at PRIDE Industries include, Tobii PCEye an eye-tracking tool that allows people with severe physical disabilities (such as Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, and Lou Gehrig’s disease) to control a computer with their eyes instead of a mouse. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a speech-to-text software tool for individuals who have jobs that require computer use.

Candace MC02Earlier this year Candace McCain was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and has been battling the affects since. “It has caused me to go blind in my left eye,” Candace says. “I am not sure if I will ever get my vision back, but thank you PRIDE for installing the ZoomText program on my computer.” Without the program, Candace would not be able to do her job. “It helps by magnifying everything so I can see with my right eye. It also has a talking feature which reads everything I am doing.” Computer accessibility software helps PRIDE Industries employees succeed in their careers. “The program is awesome. I do not know what I would do without it.”

PRIDE’s Assistive Technology team works closely with our vocational counselors and case managers to identify potential accessibility needs. Technology guru, Robert Lao, keeps PRIDE up-to-date on advancements in technology to best serve the needs of our employees. PRIDE provides Assistive Technology services to people with disabilities at all of our locations across 14 states and Washington, D.C.

Assistive technology changes the way individuals with disabilities access and contribute to the workplace. These tools create opportunities for people with disabilities otherwise not available to them. The benefits go beyond the job. The ability to communicate is priceless.

Want to learn more about Assistive Technology? View the video below.