Deaf Student’s School Year Begins in the Toilet

An Omaha, Nebraska student with hearing loss reported that he was bullied by two students at school, resulting in damaged property. Other students publicly supported Hernandez.

Picture of a toilet in a bathroom
One place students don’t expect to find their homework: the bathroom toilet. Unfortunately, this is where other students threw the contents of his backpack. photo credit: Morning Light via photopin (license)

Alex Hernandez, a student at Burke High School, said that someone took his backpack during lunch at school, according to a report by KMTV.

His belongings were later found in a toilet, and the picture of it and a plea against bullying, possibly posted by his sister or someone close to him, went viral.

According to the KMTV report, his backpack contained “his tablet, school supplies, homework and debit card in a toilet. It also contained his cochlear implant – without it, he can’t hear.”

A later report appeared to clarify that the assistive technology involved was not the cochlear implant, but a battery for it, indicating the media’s difficulty in learning about technology used by people with hearing loss or deafness.

Hernandez made a stand against bullying: “Those students think it’s okay to bully a deaf student, but it’s not. It’s not okay to bully someone who is disabled, deaf or hard of hearing,” said Hernandez in the report. “Or anyone for that matter.”

According to a report from WGN, the two male students who took Hernandez’s backpack didn’t know him or that he was deaf.

Another student expressed his disapproval. “I actually saw it on Facebook, and it just absolutely sickened me,” said student Devon Fuller. “I can’t believe people at school would actually do that kind of thing,” according to the report.

Hernandez, according to a report from KMTV, is considering transferring to a school his friends tell him is more supporting of students who are hard of hearing.

The Deaf Community reached out to Hernandez. “They said they felt sorry for me and had me in their prayers. They said [they] were here supporting me and they know how it feels like to be deaf. So I’m very happy,” he said.

Despite community caring, Hernandez has “gone through years of bullying due to his disability.”

His mother plans to file a police report. “The bullies think they can continue with this behavior,” said Alex’s mother. “They need to be reminded that there are consequences to stealing and bullying.”

According to a WGN report, students quickly created a GoFundMe page to raise money for school supplies for Hernandez and reached their $800 goal in several days.

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Disability Study Points to Important Factors for Employee Retention

A national British study involving major employers and employees determined two major factors related to the retention of employees with disabilities: organizational values and reasonable adjustments, or accommodations.

The research was conducted by the Business Disability Forum, which includes businesses that employ 20 percent of the United Kingdom workforce. The study involved 352 employees. It follows an earlier employees with disabilities study conducted with 145 businesses.

Woman wearing business suit and smiling.
According to the report, retaining each employee saves a company an average of the American dollar equivalent of $43,000 a year. photo credit: Happy businesswoman via photopin (license)

According to the report, retaining employees with disabilities saves money for businesses, because it’s cheaper to keep them than replace them: “…staff turnover in just 5 sectors cost UK business more than £4 billion each year and the average cost of replacing individual employees is estimated at £30,000[1]. The business case for investing in retention is a compelling one.”

Wheelchair ramp placed at bottom of stairs.
Sometimes, employers and employees have differing views on what accommodations are needed. While the ramp is an accommodation here, a wheelchair can’t roll over the stairs. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)

One of the areas needing to be addressed were workplace accommodations. According to the study, employees with disabilities felt their employers knew their legal obligations to provide accommodations, while few employees knew where to get advice about them from within their place of work:

  • “Less than 7 in 10 employees with disabilities were ‘very’ or ‘mainly’ confident that their employer has the knowledge to manage legal obligations with respect to adjustments;” and
  • “Close to 3 in every 10 employees with disabilities indicated that they were ‘very’ or ‘mainly’ confident about where to source advice about adjustments from within their organization.”
Business people hold meeting with a man on video.
Advanced technology offers solutions for the needs of all employees. Sometimes, people don’t know the options they have to get the technology. photo credit: Skype panelist via photopin (license)

Existing programs could have provided accommodations for employees, but employees didn’t always know about the programs, according to the report. “Far fewer employees than employers report awareness of the Access to Work program which can assist with funding specific adjustments for individuals that would not reasonably be expected for all employers to fund.”

The Access to Work website says that employees can apply for grants to assist with accommodations.

In the U.S., Centers for Independent Living, resource centers for people with any disability, and vocational rehabilitation programs assist with accommodations for people with disabilities:

Human with a question mark
The study revealed that line managers need resources and support with employees with a disability. photo credit: question mark via photopin (license)

According to the report, organizational barrier to employee with disability retention involves what they refer to as “line managers”  most directly. Line managers need skill and confidence in addressing disability-related needs, and in some cases, employees said that line managers had negative attitudes toward disability.

Man with a cochlear implant
Does your company website include profiles of individuals with disabilities? photo credit: Cochlear Implant via photopin (license)

The report provides suggestions for employers, including:

  • giving visibility to disability, such as having employee testimonials on recruitment webpages and staff profiles, and having staff networks for employees with disabilities;
  • building the skills and confidence of line managers by providing “centrally stored, up-to-date advice and guidance on all aspects of how disability affects employers on the intranet” and providing support them when hiring new team members with accommodations needs;
  • having a “stand-alone disability-related absence policy and clear guidelines for line managers about how disability-related absence is managed;”
  • having a workplace adjustment process that involves employees in the accommodations process. Line managers need training and guidance with this, according to the report; and
  • “reviewing performance appraisal systems for unconscious biases that limit the progress of employees with disabilities.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See: HR REVIEW (Feb 2014)

The report, State of the Nation: Retaining and developing employees with disabilities – Stage 2,