JULIEN NEAVES talks to account executive Maya Gabriel, a member of the hard of hearing community, about her struggles and successes.
Maya Gabriel has been working in the logistics industry for the past 12 years and one of the biggest issues she had to face is discrimination for being hard of hearing.
She shared her story during a recent interview. Gabriel, an international transport logistics account executive originally from Tacarigua, said that her mother is hard of hearing and her condition is a genetic one that develops over time. At around six years of age it was discovered in her.
She has moderate to severe hearing loss and wears hearing aids in both ears without which she would not be able to understand what people are saying.
She attended El Dorado Secondary where she had the assistance of Mrs Gulston from the special education unit. But after El Dorado Secondary she had to “fend for herself.” She left school at 18 and got certified in business administration and human resource management.
She spoke of some of the struggles encountered in her long career in the logistics industry. She said she worked under a manager at a point and for a performance appraisal the manager wrote: “Gabriel needs to learn to be more attentive.”
“How the hell am I supposed to learn to be more attentive?”
She had to counteract the appraisal and scold the manager who had previously commented that Gabriel felt she is “better than everyone” because of an incident where she was walking down the corridor and did not respond when the manager was calling to her back.
“I have had instances throughout my entire career where I had to deal with the corporate management ignorance of not knowing how to deal with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing. I’ve had people discriminate against me. I have had people threaten to take away my job because of this condition. And if I didn’t fight for what I knew what was right at the end of the day....... That’s why I got into HR; because I didn’t want people to walk all over me.”
She said she has to work twice as hard to hear what everyone is saying and the tiredness overcomes you. She added that with a four year-old at home there is no “quiet time.” she has trained her son to look her in her face to get her attention.
Gabriel does not wear her hearing aids at home as she does not want to hear every sound like a car passing. Around her family she may or may not wear it and they are used to her so they round their words and take their time when they speak and make sure she understands.
“My mother is hard of hearing so they knew what to expect.”
Gabriel is also customer relations director of her family-owned business Sieben Designs Ltd.
She said it is really tough for her to hear people as not everyone speaks at the same volume or frequency. Gabriel said you have to repeat yourself over and over to people and she feels like she is apologising for being deaf.
She said when she does not hear someone they have a tendency to laugh at her but it is not a joke. She said educating people about what it is like and what they can do which she described as tedious and exhausting.
Gabriel shared her struggles on her personal Facebook page and that morphed into the NGO Voice of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing of Trinidad and Tobago. She is no longer on the executive of the NGO but is still a member and the organisation is one of the things she is most proud of. She said the hard of hearing could help the deaf as they have better opportunities to go through mainstream schools and education.