Deaf, at work - Giving top-class service in the workplace
Sheldon Williams, Gleaner Writer
If you are regular shopper at the John R.Wong supermarket in New Kingston or the Loshushan supermarket in Barbican, St Andrew, chances are you would have encountered a female employee who doesn't say much.
You may also have come across some of her male co-workers who don't say anything at all either.
They are deaf.
Kemeisha Laidley has been employed at John R.Wong in the meat room as a meat clerk for the past decade and is the most outspoken of the mutes as she is able to read lips. Her inability to speak clearly did not muffle her message as she said, "I love it here."
It was with her help that The Gleaner was able to interview and interpret what Jason McKoy and Selvin Shuriah, who are also deaf, were saying.
Mckoy and Shuriah are both wrappers in the customer service department at the New Kingston store. Shuriah has completed a year there, while Mckoy has been employed for the past three years.
Laidley explained that they all got jobs there through the help of their friend who died recently. During their job interviews, Laidley said their job interviewer knew sign language. Scribbling answers to questions in a notebook, she said, "Our friend helped us for a stint. My friend is now dead. He used to work here, he was sick," she said.
She said customers who are not aware she is deaf would approach her asking for help to find items in the supermarket and she would always smile at them and mutter, "I am deaf".
She said initial reactions are usually mixed, but after a while, when regular shoppers get used to her, they don't want help from anyone else but her.
Donette Bryan, assistant store manager, said that "sometimes they (customers) call her phone even though they know she can't hear them".
"She would give the phone to someone who can hear and they will take the orders for her. Sometimes them even text her and don't want help from anyone else," she said.
Bryan said the employment of disabled workers was also a passion for the late business owner,
"I've been here 17 years, and when I came here, there was a deaf person on staff. He was the one who got these jobs," she said.
"Sometimes on Sundays, we work with a skeleton staff, and I prefer to work with them rather than with those who can hear," said said, while testifying to the commitment of her deaf workers.
Bryan said about eight deaf persons are on staff between the two locations in Barbican and Kingston, and that they are treated equally and receive equal compensation.