Celebrating our diversity: International Week of the Deaf 2023

Celebrating our diversity: International Week of the Deaf 2023

Liz, an Intensive Case Management Worker shares her experience working in the homelessness sector with a hearing disability.

In recognition of International Week of the Deaf 2023, our Diversity Equity and Inclusion Supervisor sat down with Liz, an Intensive Case Management Worker at Homes First.

“I am very happy to have the opportunity to talk about my hearing disability.

I was not born hearing disabled; I lost full hearing in my left ear in 2013 and 60% hearing in my right ear in 2014. I do not know what caused my hearing loss.

Pictured: Elisabeth (Liz) Peterson

I currently work as an Intensive Case Management Worker at a non-24 housing site, Bellevue, in the beautiful Kensington Market. I have found the majority of tenants and staff have been amazing, and we have developed our personal communication methods. Just by being on the staff, I feel I am teaching people about communication with a hearing disabled person, despite there have been some bumpy roads along the way, but I am grateful to still be doing what I love.”

Liz also remarked that she has to work twice as hard in almost every situation.

“What I personally do is I introduce myself to each person and let them know I have a hearing disability. I then let them know what devices I use – live transcription, for example. I have to rely on my hearing aids, lip reading and this may only identify 30% of a conversation. I also have to rely on body language and observing facial features. With COVID, it became even more difficult to hear conversation and lip read.

Homes First Society has been wonderful in allowing me to still work in my position with some adaptive devices, as well as working at a quieter building. I have closed captioning for my zoom meetings, and I have a device on my laptop to amplify volume. I also have a microphone that I give to another person to speak into which amplifies their voice. I have a boogie board which is a quick item to write things down. I have closed captioning for phone calls (although if someone talks low, the captioning is not 100% reliable, but it can help). I also have a live transcribe app on [my] phone…which works best for one to one conversations.”

Deaf communities worldwide work to ensure policies and programs reflect the lived realities of deaf people’s lives. As Liz and the the World Federation of the Deaf remind us, more work still has to be done to better equip all spaces to support safe, meaningful engagement for people with hearing disabilities.

Liz consistently demonstrates her unwavering dedication and commitment to making lasting impacts on the lives of her clients. Her determination and compassion inspire not only her clients but also those fortunate enough to witness her dedication. Liz’s work reminds us that with resilience and a compassionate heart, we can continue to make meaningful and lasting differences in the lives of those we serve.

“…I think my disability is relatable for some tenants who may have other disabilities because it allows us an opportunity to try to understand how to work together. I have always found throughout the years that by talking with people about their challenges that has allowed me to understand better.”

Other Stories