My Story – Hazel

My name is Hazel and I have been deaf since birth. I joined BSO in April 2018 as a Human Resources Assistant. Before this I was a full time mum to 3 children for 14 years until they got to an age where I decided to try to return to work.

I approached Action on Hearing Loss at a job fair to ask questions and before I knew it I was enrolled into the HSC Regional Organisations’ Disability Placement Scheme. (Action on Hearing Loss are one of a number of disability organisations who are linked with to recruit to the Placement Scheme.) I was lucky to be placed in a very welcoming team in HSCB; the placement gave me 6 months of really good experience of an office environment. I then applied for a job on HSC recruit and was successful in getting onto the Band 3 waiting list. A short time later I was delighted to be offered my current post in BSO.

I manage everyday life by either lip-reading, writing things down if I don’t understand the person or British Sign Language (BSL), which is the easiest form of communication for me.

Finding work when you have a disability is a struggle. When people find out I cannot hear they think “Oh she’s deaf, how will she cope?”, but ask yourselves how I cope every day? There is such a stigma with Deafness; it’s a hidden disability and people seem to be afraid of trying other ways of communicating, which can exclude deaf people from all aspects of life.

When I started my new job, I had mixed feelings as I was returning to work full time after being a full time mum for 14 years. I worried people couldn’t cope with my disability, that I wouldn’t be understood and not understand others, especially my boss as he is the one who would be giving me work to do and how could I do it If I didn’t understand him?

The first week in my job I attended some meetings. I had an interpreter, which made it easier, but I have to be honest, I came out of it feeling such a failure, feeling inferior to everyone and feeling incredibly stupid. This was because I felt overwhelmed going into a full time job and feeling like I was being thrown in at the deep end. I had to overcome being out of work for 14 years, my deafness and my depression.
My confidence has grown since then as I have learned things and picked the job up more quickly than I ever imagined and my line manager is extremely supportive.

Something to bear in mind in large groups when there is a deaf person present, whether at a coffee get together or in a meeting, is to try to not talk over each other, as a deaf person can only follow one person at a time.

I really enjoy my current work place; I have lovely colleagues and a very good manager. My boss has been very accommodating in providing me with all the help I need to carry out my role. I absolutely love the work that I do and love being busy, as there is nothing worse than sitting trying to put your day in.

I actually have two hidden disabilities; the second is Depression which I have lived with for over 20 years. I struggle every day with my Depression but with medication it keeps on a level peg to help me get through the day. People should never assume that a person who has a constant smile on their face is feeling ok inside.

From the day that I spoke to Action on Hearing Loss at the job fair, saying “I am only thinking about it” to 2 years down the line – look at me now! I am very proud to have successfully gained a full time job, after 14 years being a full time mum and having 2 disabilities. I do think sometimes, ‘am I dreaming?!’ as it all happened so quickly.

Please do not let your disabilities hold you back and Employers don’t be afraid to take a chance on an employee who has a disability. Ask your disabled employees questions about their disability – most will be happy to talk about it.

Finally, all I ask is that if you see a deaf person please do not feel you cannot approach us as we are human just like you, the only thing that makes us different is that we can’t hear.


Posted in Staff Experiences.