County's OneStop center now equipped to help deaf job seekers

Augut 11, 2008 By Lisa Miller, Mansfield News Journal

MANSFIELD - Landing a job can be tough, particularly in a struggling economy. Now try doing it without the ability to hear.

Kathyann Scott lost her position as a deaf mentor in Crawford County to budget cuts a while back. Through a sign language interpreter, she told the News Journal she has considered going into banking. New equipment at the Richland County OneStop Employment & Training Center can help make that happen.

"I was so excited when I saw it," Maggie Shiveley, an employment specialist with Columbus Speech & Hearing Center, said of the video relay service equipment now available at the Park Avenue West jobs center. "Deaf people are very visual," she said, noting that Scott's communication skills are very good.

"They can come in here and do the job search on their own," Shiveley said of deaf and hard-of-hearing job seekers, who can now look for work - via videophone - alongside other job seekers at OneStop. "Technology for the deaf has gone through the roof."

The center is under contract with the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, which is under the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, the state agency that helps people with disabilities get and keep jobs.

"For the OneStop itself, it's not a financial burden," Shiveley said, noting that there is no long distance charge but broadband service does have to be available. She would like to see the video relay service available in every county. BVR pays for the equipment, which she said costs a "chunk of change."

OneStop supervisor Jason McManes said, "The Richland County commissioners, our director Sharlene Neumann and the Local Area 10 Workforce Investment Board (WIB) are extremely supportive of the OneStop's efforts to make services accessible to all residents of Richland County."

The equipment, provided by Sorenson Communications, lets a person talk to a potential employer via a sign language exchange with an interpreter over a video screen; the interpreter, who is wearing a headset, translates in this three-way conversation.

Scott, the mother of two adult sons, has a videophone at home. "My family loves this," she said, before demonstrating the OneStop equipment by having the interpreter get her husband, George, on the phone. "Hi, sweetheart," she signed to the man who relayed it on. "How are you?"

Scott said she would like to work again as a deaf mentor but is also looking for work in a bank. Other members of the deaf community need to look for work, but don't always know they can come to the OneStop for help, she said.

Sorenson Communications area specialist Steve Burford said there is no charge for the videophone. Sorenson provides the phones to meet deaf or hard-of-hearing needs to communicate with hearing persons. "They just need high-speed Internet for the videophone to work," he said. The Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation has videophone equipment in every county. Many businesses have videophones for deaf employees to be able to call out to do their work, Burford said.

"This is just a thrill," Shiveley said.

From Mansfield News Journal. Reprinted with permission. Back to Article List