Companies praised over equal opportunities
Mr Hollis, who is deaf, is an accountant and administrator for Rawlinson and Hunter.
What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy dealing with clients’ affairs on the work/project at hand.
Has your hearing impairment been an obstacle to your being considered for employment?
At first, I had problems looking for work in my field. Despite having quite a number of years’ experience, I felt that the attitude of some employers changed when they realised I was hearing impaired.
Due to the frustration of potential discrimination, I omitted that I was deaf when responding to an online advertisement. It only became known at the interview with the accounting manager at the time. Whether this was a shock or not, I could not tell, and it did not seem to be an issue. The interviewer was more interested if I was capable to do the work. Knowing my hearing impairment was a setback in previous job applications, I did not get my hopes up. However, the very next day I received a job offer, and now I am in my 15th year.
Does your hearing impairment bring with it any challenges for the position you are working in?
Although I am not able to communicate with clients over the phone obviously, I am able to correspond via email and fax. Technology has enabled me to overcome those challenges and barriers.
Has your hearing impairment ever been a hindrance to you getting a job you felt you could do regardless?
I previously worked in the hospital as an Orderly, but as my hearing was decreasing (now completely), I decided to change to a career that would not be as dependent on my hearing. This limited the field of jobs I could enter.
At times I felt as if I was discriminated against for my inability to hear for jobs I knew full well I was capable of doing, which was very discouraging. I feel that back then there was more of a stigma attached to the disabled and an unwillingness to deal with, or make adjustments for, the disabled. Bermuda has made progress in this regard, but there is potential for more to be done.
Do you believe Bermuda has more to do in terms of getting capable people with disabilities into work?
There is always room for improvement. It can be difficult for the disabled to find work when competing with others who are not disabled.
Do you think International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a positive event?
I believe so. It helps for the community to see and understand that many of the disabled are not incapable to do certain things. It also helps to break down the stigmas and false stereotypes. Many disabled people have amazing and unique skills. I can recall of a gentleman, who was paralyzed from the neck down, was able to paint with this mouth. I really liked his Bermuda Gombeys painted on Christmas Cards.
What advice would you give to those with disabilities who are finding it difficult to be accepted into work?
It depends on the job at hand and the nature of the disability. Definitely do not give up. It took me time to find an employer that was accepting of my disability and to find an accepting environment. Individuals should not be discriminated against by an employer solely for a having a disability.
Six companies were recognised for ensuring equal opportunities for people with physical and mental problems yesterday.
The Disabilities Advisory Council named Sousa’s Gardens and Aberfeldy Nurseries as businesses that employed people with disabilities on a full-time basis, and Vineyard Vines and Astwood Dickinson for providing good access for people with limited mobility.
Supermarkets Lindo’s and The Supermart were also recognised for hiring disabled people in part-time posts.
Sita Ingram, chairman of the DAC, said: “What makes today important is that we would like Bermuda to recognise that there are companies across the island that do support people with disabilities, so that they can live and function like every other person in this country and provide for themselves independently.” “However, not enough of this is occurring in Bermuda.
“The DAC participated in this joint initiative with the Department of Ageing and Disability Service to identify two companies that hire people with disabilities and two companies who have made their buildings accessible. There are other businesses and agencies in Bermuda that have made it a point to do so.”
Ms Ingram was speaking as the island marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The DAC was set up to advise the Minister of Health on disability work and also to support organisations and individuals with disabilities.
Ms Ingram said there were businesses in Bermuda that employed disabled people and provided the necessary opportunities and support, but that more work needed to be done.
She explained: “We do have quite a few businesses around the island who hire people either on a temporary or full-time basis and will accommodate them and support them with their challenges whether they be physiological or mental health challenges.
“There are multiple adults in the community who rely on social support to be able to function day-to-day because without transport they cannot access employment — these go hand in hand.
“Some employers identify hiring persons with disabilities as a privilege to the disabled but it is really not, employment is a right to all persons whether they are able bodied or not.
“We are not doing someone with a disability a favour by giving them a job. We are giving them the opportunity to be functioning and contributing members of our society, just like everyone else.”
Ms Ingram said the DAC and other agencies were looking to create a national disability register to help understand demand on the island.
She added: “There will need to be proper public consultation to determine what that would look like.”
Anyone interested in learning how their business can better support people with disabilities can contact Ms Ingram by e-mail at email@example.com or call the Department of Ageing and Disability Services at 292-7802.
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