There are nearly 10 million people who are hard of hearing in the United States. Jamie Winkelman, a Relay Resources team member since 2004, shared her story last month at the 2018 QRF Showcase in Keizer, Oregon, and showed that a hearing barrier doesn’t need to be a barrier to employment.
Jamie was born hard of hearing, but then completely lost her ability to hear at age eight. She quickly learned to read lips and mastered sign language shortly after. When she moved from Portland to Colorado as an adult, she found a job at a deaf and blind school.
After deciding to move back to Portland 15 years ago to be closer to her family, Jamie found many employers were unable to look past her hearing, despite an impressive resume and skill set. She even recalled being laughed at by an employee at a coffee shop when turning in an application.
“They thought it was a joke,” she said. “I thought that if I just have to wipe the tables or help somebody find the bathroom, I can prove that I can be a team member. I might even be able to make coffee when somebody gives me the order. I thought I could work my way up. But apparently, that wasn’t what they thought.”
Undeterred, Jamie applied to work at Relay Resources after hearing about an opening in the document services business unit. She was hired for the position and has remained a key part of our team for over 14 years. Jamie currently works as a clerk, handling data entry and file retrieval for the Department of Human Services with a focus primarily on Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.
“I like being challenged to use my logical and analytical skills, whether that’s figuring out how to do my job better or solve a problem,” she said. “It’s always been fun. I really enjoy the fact that it’s not punch-in, punch-out, nine-to-five. There’s some new challenge every day.”
Although plenty of individuals who are hard of hearing possess quality resumes and skill sets, significant employment issues remain throughout the United States for this population. Data released by the National Deaf Center in 2014 shows that 48% of people who are hard-of-hearing are employed, compared to 72% of people without a hearing impairment.
Relay Resources is proud to be among the organizations that address this issue by removing obstacles to employment for talented workers like Jamie. We strive to provide our team members with a greater sense of purpose through meaningful work .
“Relay has shown me that it’s okay to be me. It’s okay not to hear. I appreciate that there’s room for me here,” she said. “I feel like everything fits now.”