Accessibility refers to a wide variety of different things, including being able to get something, enter somewhere, use, or understand something with ease. In terms of workplace accessibility, it’s important that all employees have the necessary apparatus and support to do their job. For some companies, this may mean you need to purchase equipment and instil practices that didn’t previously exist inside your business to guarantee an inclusive environment for all.
Our Service Manager, Maria Green, has been kind enough to share her story surrounding her past and present experiences with accessibility within the workplace – and how Tisski has helped her to feel valued as part of the team.
Maria was born deaf and, throughout her childhood, underwent several operations in an attempt to gain hearing. Initially they worked well, until Maria developed mastoid cancer at just seven years of age. This took more of her hearing and resulted in her having 50 per cent hearing in her right ear. At 13, she was diagnosed again with secondary cancer which resulted in her inner left ear being removed, rendering her completely deaf on one side. As of today, Maria has had a total of 37 operations on her left ear, and over the last two decades her hearing has depreciated to only 18 per cent in her right.
“Due to my hearing issues, I have always been able to lip read and used to sign fluently as a child, however, I haven’t used sign as much in my adult life so feel a little out of practice now” Maria said. “I view my issue as an opportunity to develop my abilities in lipreading and signing, rather than a disability.
“To me, a disability is something that stops you from being able to do certain things or live a fulfilling life; my hearing has never held me back from doing anything I have wanted to do.
“11 years ago, I had an operation to fit a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA), which was wired through my skull to conduct sounds and enhance my hearing. Although this helps increase my level of hearing, I find it can be quite confusing as everything, including background noise, is amplified to the same level. Due to the BAHA, using a conventional headset at work is unfortunately not an option. Instead, I need to use a specialist headset when communicating using a phone or Microsoft Teams.”
In previous companies, Maria has experienced difficulties when asking for the specialist equipment from her employers. “When I first joined Tisski, I was incredibly nervous about asking for the headset” Maria explained. “They are not cheap, and when requesting the equipment in the past my employers have found a way to terminate my contract. I feared the same may happen again at Tisski. However, when I mentioned the headset to my manager, I was instantly reassured that the request would be approved and there was no need for any concern. It was a huge relief.” Maria received the headset shortly afterwards and has since used it daily to help with her work.
Accessibility within the workplace doesn’t just stop at providing specialised equipment; it also extends to how we treat employees and co-workers during, and outside of, the working day. Maria notes how her manager, Mark Smith, has always been supportive and goes above and beyond to ensure she is comfortable in meetings.
“I have never found it an issue to ask people to repeat themselves in meetings. Nonetheless, Mark will often pre-empt this if he thinks I may not have heard someone and repeat what they have said in such a way that no one questions why he is doing it. This is often by confirming or clarifying their key points” Maria said. “Mark always puts his camera on during Teams calls, too, ensuring I can lip read, and he actively encourages others in the meeting to do so as well. He doesn’t explain to those in the meeting it’s directly for my benefit, which is important to me and something I value deeply.”
Maria has never felt like her deafness has held her back at Tisski. “Tisski has always viewed my deafness in such a positive manner” said she. “No one has ever made me feel different or disabled in any way – I genuinely feel like a valued member of team Tisski. It’s great to be working for such an inclusive, forward-thinking company.”
For people to succeed within a role, they need to be treated with fairness and equality. At Tisski, we’re proud to be an inclusive company and will continue to support all our team, including making sure everyone’s accessibility needs are met.