Vanessa Vera and Sally Fraustro Guerra: Promote workplace diversity

COMMENTARY: Vanessa Vera and Sally Fraustro Guerra: Promote workplace diversity

March 19, 2014

We would like to cordially invite area employers to attend our first annual, Stepping Out conference on Friday to promote diversity in the workplace by helping employers throughout the Rio Grande Valley understand how best to hire and work with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at South Texas College’s Pecan Campus in McAllen at the Cooper Center, 3201 W. Pecan Ave., and includes breakfast and lunch. It is absolutely free and is designed to promote awareness about deafness as well as help local businesses to identify free and low-cost resources and support services that are available when hiring a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual. Presenters include Rudy Martinez, regional director for the Department of Rehabilitative Services, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and a keynote lunch address by U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas.

This conference was born of a need in the Valley to engage employers in the discussion of the benefits of hiring individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and to help provide and direct employers to the many resources that are available to facilitate this process.

Deaf individuals and those who are hard of hearing often face distinctive challenges when seeking employment. Many times these individuals obtain higher education degrees and certificates but are forced to take employment in fields other than their degree specialties. This may be due to the lack of awareness and understanding for the capacity and ability of a deaf individual to complete their work tasks in comparison to a hearing individual. In reality, a deaf individual may be more effective in completing work tasks because they do not have the audible distractions as that of a hearing individual.

We believe that employers will only truly appreciate the benefits and contributions that a deaf or hard of hearing individual can provide to their business if they open their minds and hearts and give them an opportunity to prove their talents.

The conference includes discussions on job placement services; benefits of hiring deaf individuals and those hard of hearing; communication workplace available technology, and how to help these individuals transition into the workforce. Stepping Out is being hosted by a collaboration of community partners that include: Workforce Solutions, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Communication Axess Ability Group, University of Texas-Pan American, South Texas College, Valley Association of Independent Living, South Texas Interpreters for the Deaf, McAllen ISD Regional Day School Program for the Deaf, IBC Bank, and Advance Employment Services.

Please promote diversity in your workplace and learn more about the benefits of hiring an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing by attending Stepping Out. Seating is limited so register today. To register or for more information contact Vanessa Vera at (956) 720-2421 or Sally Fraustro Guerra at (956) 458-0085.

Sally Fraustro Guerra and Vanessa Vera are on the Stepping Out committee that is organizing this McAllen conference. Vera is a rehabilitative counselor for the deaf and hard of hearing with the Texas Department of Rehabilitative Services. Guerra is a local realtor and mother of a hearing-impaired student in McAllen ISD.


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