It was a warm, sunny spring day. A good omen for my first week at a new job. When I entered the office reception area, I was greeted with a “Hello, how are you?” – in sign language.
I first started working at the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) in 2009 as a co-op student from UBC. I have a profound hearing loss and use cochlear implants to hear, but it never matters to BACI that I have a hearing loss or that I cannot use the phone. BACI was founded upon an attitude of inclusion, and their focus is on supporting me and other staff members with extra challenges to perform jobs that we can do well.
Born with a profound hearing loss, I attended the British Columbia School for the Deaf (BCSD) and was later mainstreamed into regular classes with a sign language interpreter. I was fast-tracked through grades 10 and 11 English and I studied English Literature 12 in grade 11, receiving 92% on the Provincial Exam.
I can hear quite well with my implants in one-on-one conversations or in small group conversations in a quiet environment. But I will have a lot of trouble hearing when there is a lot of background noise, such as in a crowded restaurant, or when the speakers are further away from me, such as during a lecture or workshop.
I faced further challenges when I entered the workforce as a Co-op student in 2009. The UBC Co-op Program helps connect its students to various employers who hire students for 4 or 8 month work terms. This allows students to gain work experience before they graduate and to have practical experience in their chosen fields.
I had held a variety of volunteer and part-time jobs before, but that first summer in the Co-op program was my first taste of how competitive the wider work world is. Out of 10 jobs that I applied for, I had 2 job interviews, but no job offers. Then I had a job interview with BACI and was offered a job the very next day.
Since 2009, I have worked as a part-time casual staff member at BACI during my school terms. Now a UBC graduate, I am currently working as as an assistant in the BACI Finance Department and am learning a lot about accounting and finance matters.
At BACI, I have always been encouraged to push beyond my boundaries as an English Literature major, and to learn new skills that will be of help to me in my future career. In 2009, I laid out a new BACI Health & Safety Employee Handbook, with new text and graphics. This handbook is still in use today and is given to all new employees at their first training workshop. I also learned a lot about data analysis and collection from organizing the results of BACI’s annual satisfaction surveys; a task that I have been responsible for every year since.
I have also always had a desire to travel the world and to push the boundaries of what might be seen as usual. I was the first student with a hearing loss to participate in the Go Global student exchange program at UBC. In the fall of 2010, I attended the University of Hong Kong as an exchange student. At the time, I knew practically no Cantonese and was unfamiliar with the local geography. For several months, I lived in the university dormitories, learned how to get around as well as a local, and went out to eat dim sum at 3 am in the morning. I also traveled to China several times during my year overseas.
I encountered a wide range of attitudes towards deafness and disability during my time overseas, which made me further appreciate the sense of openness and inclusion that BACI promotes The staff at BACI have always exemplified this attitude, as shown by their interest in asking me new signs or by taking a few minutes out of their busy day to explain new things to me.
The BACI office is a warm and welcoming place where people work in harmony and the scent of fresh-baked cookies often fills the air. I hope to work here for a very long time to come.
By Rosalind Ho