Deaf And Unemployed: 1,000+ Applications But Still No Full-Time Job

Amanda Koller is getting her second master's degree. She has applied for more than 1,100 jobs in the past year. She hasn't gotten any full-time, permanent job offers.

She is also profoundly deaf.

The unemployment rate among the deaf is staggering. Fewer than 40 percent of those with a hearing disability work full time, according to the Yang-Tan Institute at Cornell University's analysis of 2016 American Community Survey data. Despite improvements in technology and accommodations that are making it easier for deaf people to work and communicate, deaf job hunters say employers still don't believe they can do the work.

"I apply to grocery stores and I can't even get a job there," said Koller, who lives outside Washington, D.C. "If you can't hear or speak right, you're not going to get a job. I don't think it matters what the company is, or what your background and work experience is."

On paper, Koller's background is impressive. She has a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University and a bachelor's in health sciences from Temple University. She's currently working toward a second master's in health care quality management from George Washington University.

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Ada native wants to put training, technology to work

ADA, Okla. – Donald Gore only missed six days in the fourteen years he worked at Folger’s Drive-In in Ada.

“I like to work and be on time,” Gore said. “It’s no fun to stay around the house and be bored.”

Problems with increasing vision and hearing loss led Gore to seek help from Roy Alexander, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Chickasaw Nation.

Gore, who has Usher Syndrome, is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

The genetic condition combines hearing loss with retinitis pigmentosa, resulting in progressive loss of side vision due to degeneration of the retina.

Usher syndrome is the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision loss.

Alexander introduced Gore to Gayle Lee, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for Visual Services, which is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Alexander and Lee turned to a team of Visual Services experts to help Gore learn new skills and use technology to re-enter the workforce.

Lee contacted Visual Services’ specialists on deaf-blindness Jeri Cooper and Stephanie Butler. Cooper, a rehabilitation teacher who is deaf-blind herself, travels the state to help clients with vision and hearing loss. Stephanie Butler became Gore’s new vocational rehabilitation counselor due to her expertise in deaf-blindness.

Liz Scheffe helped him improve orientation and mobility skills so he could travel safely and efficiently in the community.

Sharon Shipe provided more rehabilitation teaching training to help Gore adjust to loss of vision and develop practical skills.

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