During my fifty some years on this planet, I have met literally hundreds of thousands of people. Between my jobs and my activism I have worked beside hundreds of people. Today I would like to focus on two of those people, who greatly impressed me. They were alike in several ways. Both were intelligent young and female.
Study # one
When I worked for Perkins, our store was very close to the RIT school for the deaf, so as one of the trainers, I frequently worked with deaf people. Usually the deaf student were assigned jobs, like bus boy and dish washer. One of the young ladies, wanted more out of the job and life. She asked the manager, if she could work in the kitchen for more hours. The store manager gave me the task of finding more for her to do. I decided that she could help in the food prep area. She worked very hard and had no problem learning any of the tasks after being shown once. Something many of the hearing trainees couldn't do. Shortly there after the prep cook quit and I suggested her for the job. The manager said it couldn't possibly work, because, the prep cook brought stuff to the line when the cooks called for them. I said lets give her a shot as at the moment we have little choice and she is trained for the job. I showed her how to tell when something was needed and to keep everything stocked at all times. Suddenly the kitchen was transformed, nothing ever ran out and all the shouting was gone. Amazed the manager said we should have deaf people working in all the prep rooms. An idea that was shot down my upper management because it couldn't possibly work... A clear case of corporate prejudice, but I'll get back to that...
Study # two
I worked a second job at the Centre Daily Times for awhile when I lived in State College Pa. The job was over seeing the "special people", a group of deaf and slow persons. Their job was to put the inserts into the weekly pennysavers. I had to admire this group, they only worked once a week for several hours and got paid by piece count. Yet they were happy all the time as they didn't worry about the cares of the world war, politics and such. One of them was a young girl, who had no ears. Yep no ears at all, just two little lumps, the size of marbles. She was actually rather pretty in an alien space way. Her main communication was what they called an utteral grunt, once she had your attention she would point to what she wanted.
Some of the group could count and stacked their own papers to be bundled, and one day she indicated to me that she wanted to count her own stacks. Once I figured out how to communicate with her I realized that she was intelligent, that she could read, do basic math and had a good understanding of life. Her "handlers" from the group home, had told me that she was uncommunicative. They were amazed that we could communicate.
When I think of these two amazing young ladies, I also think of Marlee Matlin, one of about four deaf actors. Could not either of them been as successful as Marlee, if they had not been stereotyped and prejudged?