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Disability in the workplace: Nicola's story

I am just like you in many ways, I am sociable, sporty, a wife and happy mama of four beautiful children. I can also speak Spanish. So, at first, you may not notice that I am differently abled. 
 


A bit about me

I was born with severe bilateral congenital sensorineural hearing loss – let me translate – I am deaf in both ears (bilateral) and have been since birth (congenital). It is genetic and caused by damage to the auditory nerves (sensorineural) that carry messages from the ear to the brain. This type of hearing loss means that I am unable to convert sound vibrations to neural signals that the brain can interpret into relevant sounds and words. My ears work, my brain works, it is just the bit in between that doesn’t (think of the auditory nerve as a rope that carry sound to the brain, then think of a severely frayed rope – that is me).

I have never been able to hear like you can. Even with the latest powerful hearing-aids, sounds and voices seem muffled (they are not like glasses where you can instantly see, they just help amplify the sounds), so I rely heavily on lip-reading to follow what is being said. I chose from a young age not to use sign-language, preferring to use speech so that I could be just like everyone else. I speak clearly although there are some words that I am unable to pronounce, or some that I cannot say as well as my hearing peers. 

I was born into a hearing family. It was when I was six months old that my grandmother, whose lap I was sitting on, pointed out that I didn’t flinch when a door slammed shut. Everyone else in the room had jumped, apart from me who was still happily babbling away oblivious to what had just happened. After a series of tests and two operations (no such thing as new-born hearing screening in those days!), I was formally diagnosed as severely deaf in my left ear, profound in my right ear and fitted with my first hearing aids at the age of 18 months. Until then I had not heard a single sound. So there was a lot of catching up to do…

My parents were both unknowingly carriers of the Connexin 26 gene, the cause of my deafness, until it manifested itself in me. It is a recessive gene mutation that must have been present in both my mother and father. Both my parents and siblings are hearing. Whilst all four of my children are hearing, genetic testing has confirmed that they are also all carriers of this gene. However, I imagine technology will be very different in the next few decades and provide the workarounds as standard to enable all of us to live in an equal society. 

Technology already has come on a long way over the years. I wear state-of-the-art hearing aids and have a few handy gadgets to get me by. I have always relied on subtitles on television. The biggest, positive impact in the workplace has been the standardisation of live captions in videoconferencing – technology advanced by lockdown. It has given more of an equal platform. It is by no means perfect, but a lot better than nothing at all. 

Deafness shaping my strengths

Everyone has their own life challenges with different pressures and perspectives developed from their unique situations. As a result of mine, I exhibit impressive patience and flexibility in the face of a challenge. This type of versatility enables me to have a different way of thinking and creative problem-solving skills that can be beneficial to our clients looking for unique solutions. 

Communication is a must in every work environment. I am detail orientated and where necessary, follow up meetings in writing so that everyone is on the same page (and to confirm that I haven’t missed anything). I am also a good listener, which may seem odd considering my deafness, but it’s true. Hearing people can take listening for granted; I tend to listen with more intent out of necessity. I prefer to have face-to-face conversations, either in person or via Teams, rather than pick up the telephone (which I can now finally use thanks to a speech-to-text technology app installed on my iPhone).

Being part of Moorhouse 

Although hearing loss is part of who I am, I don’t let it define me. My work ethic is second to none. I have had to work harder and be more determined in everything I do to keep up with my hearing peers and to get to where I am now. Moorhouse have been hugely supportive and have demonstrated that Inclusion and Diversity are at the top of their agenda. For example, over 200 clear facemasks have been ordered for all staff to wear in the office with the objective of inclusion for all whilst best protecting ourselves from Covid-19. Another example is that we have all been encouraged to have our own say with regards to the fit-out of our new office that we are shortly moving into. I have suggested we furnish our meeting rooms with round tables rather than square or rectangular to allow me to see every face to lip-read. This is a point that may not have previously been considered. To date, I have found that Moorhouse not only just listen, but they also take action.

It is so refreshing to be in a place where I feel valued for being, just simply, myself.

A diverse workforce are invaluable assets to the business. By ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to and influence every part of a workplace reflects positively to a firm’s overall success. Moorhouse is going in the right direction, and I am excited to be a part of that. 


We are currently hiring at every grade across all sectors. Find out more and how to apply here.

 

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An experienced business change management specialist with a strong track record in helping clients drive value out of complex technology and change programmes.

Nicola Crow (nee de St Croix) Manager

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