October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to workers who have success in the workplace despite disabilities such as blindness or deafness.

Commissioner Pv Jantz of the Arizona Commission of the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, talks more about the challenges faced by workers with disabilities. Jantz, who is deaf, is accompanied by his interpreter, Dustin McLaws.

Jantz thinks it’s important to think of people with disabilities as people first. “We have to think about that mixture of life. Everyone has their own challenges.”

According to Jantz, one of the biggest challenges he’s encountered is with other people, who don’t know how to work with a person with a disability. “We are people first.”

Ted Simons: October is national disability employment awareness month, a time to put an extra focus on disabled workers who've succeeded on the job. Here to talk about the challenges faced by disabled workers, we welcome commissioner p-v jantez of the Arizona commission of the deaf and the hard of hearing. Jantez, who is deaf, is accompanied by the group's president, Vicki bond, who will serve as interpreter. Good to have you both here. P.v., define disabled.
Jantez: That's a good question. It's a very broad category. What we like to emphasize is that we are people first. That concept of able-bodied, or normal people, if you think about that in the process of aging, everyone will have a disability at some point in their life. Age, accident, illness -- to say that there is a difference between people who are disabled and people who are not disabled, we have to think about the mixture of life. Everyone has their own challenges.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about challenges. Challenges you might face in the workplace, challenges a sightless person might face. What's out there? What needs to be addressed?

Jantez: That's a good question. The biggest challenge I have noticed regardless of disability is other people. They don't know how to work with a person with a disability. I like to remind people that we are people first, and you have to think about that. You have to think about how to work with us. When you talk about the blind community, there are so many resources available. You need to know who to get in touch with. The resources are out there. They vary state to state, but they are out there.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, how does a person deal with someone who is facing a particular challenge?

Jantez: That is another good question. From the employer's perspective, the best thing I can say is, don't think about what this person can and can't do. Think about how you are going to work with this person, and then ask the person with the disability what they can do. They are the expert on their disability and they are familiar with their resources. Ask them to get involved. They know about the resources available. Employers can also communicate with vocational rehabilitation. That's a program available in Arizona. It's a state funded agency to help people with disabilities get and keep employment. We have counselors trained on providing resources, information, tools, assistive technology and whatever help is necessary to face those barriers. The employers need to know how to get in touch with those resources, and they can work with their community in order to provide whatever accommodations are needed.

Ted Simons: what do you hear most from those deaf and hard of hearing in the workplace?

Jantez: The biggest thing I hear is that people don't want to hire a deaf person because they don't know how to communicate with a deaf person. They think there is no way to communicate with a person who is deaf, so they end up not getting hired. If you have a person that speaks a foreign language, their willing to gesture with them, but when it's a deaf person, people are more afraid to approach them. People are shocked that deaf people can drive. I ride my motorcycle to work everyday. I have no problem doing that. Deaf people now can become pilots. There is no problem with that according to the FAA. I used to be a volunteer firefighter. There are no limitations for me.

Ted Simons: What do we take from employment awareness month?

Jantez: Well, for employment awareness month, I have to thank the Arizona commission for the deaf and hard of hearing for getting the word out to the community, and to educate the community to tell them we are a good resource. I'm a commissioner on the board. We meet with employers, provide training, resources -- we want people to know we are here as a resource. There are different networking opportunities out there. If you go online, you can research a website called "ask jan.org. It's a free website. You can select a category and see a list of accommodations. It's a guideline to give you a good starting place.

Ted Simons: ask jan.org.

Ted Simons: That's good information. Congratulations. You have quite a life going there. We appreciate you both joining us here on "Arizona Horizon."

Jantez: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: You bet.

Jantez: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear how the valley is being used as a laboratory for the future of urban development. And we'll check out some home-grown efforts in Guadalupe to push back against poverty. Those stories in the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. ºº

Pv Jantz: Commissioner, Arizona Commission of the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing
Dustin McLaws: Interpreter

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