I never wanted to go in business for myself.
I had a great career going. I worked for the federal government straight out of college. Then worked for two major telecommunications companies for 10 years.
So why would I take the chance to be self-employed?
I knew from the get-go that it would be challenging as a person who is deaf.
It will make it harder to find new business. After all, the reality is that it’s not easy to talk to me on the phone even with technology.
The Nightmare During the Phone Call
Here’s what happens.
A prospect asks if we could have a phone conversation.
My response? <Deer in headlights look.>
I would love to have phone conversations. But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that I use a caption phone.
It’s clunky and the captions resemble autocaptioned videos, which have earned the nickname craptions.
Picture this. You’re on a live call with me.
I’m staring at the screen waiting for words to fill it.
You pause as it’s my turn to talk.
I’m still waiting for the screen to tell me what you said.
You think the line is dead and say “Hello? Hello?”
“I’m waiting for the captions to finish,” I reply.
And not only that but also the captions contain many typos, especially when talking business. Then I have to ask you to repeat.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
I’m grateful to have the technology to make it possible for me to do phone calls …
But it puts me at a disadvantage before people get to know me and my abilities.
They think “It’s too much work to communicate with this deaf person.”
Turning a Disadvantage into a Superpower
While it’s against the law to discriminate against anyone, it’s hard to prove.
Fortunately, there are many communication options today.
I’ve successfully worked full-time and remotely as a self-employed digital marketing pro since 2005. And I’ve made it work well and with few face-to-face meetings because most clients aren’t local.
My goal is to make my clients’ jobs easier. To get them the results they want.
Yes, being deaf may add a couple of barriers.
But we all have something.
Some people struggle to get organized.
Some struggle to pay attention.
Some struggle to finish things on time.
Some struggle to put their thoughts into words others understand.
The list goes on.
The very things that make us different also make us stronger in something else.
Being deaf is a superpower.
I never want people to view me as incapable or too much trouble. Thus, I work harder in all aspects of my life and go out of my way to make clients and managers happy.
Some people with a supposed disadvantage work harder in life to live and work like everyone else. They want to achieve goals and make a difference for their clients, managers, teams, and organizations.
How Inclusion Helps Companies
Being deaf gives me a unique perspective to see things differently.
When I suggest adding captions to videos, the response is often “What a great idea! I would’ve never thought of that.”
And that idea helps the company’s video get more views. Because, after all, 80 percent of the people who use captions are not deaf or hard of hearing.
[There I go again quoting that statistic. This makes what … the third article that I mention it?]
The simple act of adding captions to a video can lead to more views, which leads to more clicks, which leads to more revenues.
Diversifying your workforce could lead to tax incentives such as Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Accommodations aren’t always needed or can cost much lower than expected.
Helena Berger, president of the AAPD, tells Inc. that people with a disability may be a better problem solver because they “approach problems from a more creative standpoint.”
The turnover rate tends to be lower for employees with disabilities according to a study from Washington Mutual, Inc. Companies report that employees with disabilities have higher problem-solving skills, lower turnover rates, and higher productivity in articles like “Why Hire Disabled Workers?“
Wouldn’t you say it’s worth working with people who are different and may take a few extra steps to get started?
Instead of thinking “It’s too much trouble,” think “Let’s learn more.“
Back to the opening question. Why did I go into business for myself? It started out as a side gig that grew into a full-time role. I loved working with the clients to help them achieve their goals and take a load off their plates.
Image source: productionpollockco