Enriching lives in Tempe, Arizona

Woman overlooking Tempe Arizona skyline

Work. There’s a lot more to it than just a paycheck. In fact, more than two-thirds of people — about 70% — find their purpose through work and seek psychological fulfillment from it. Indeed, individual purpose can help ease the damaging effects of long-term stress, especially during times of crisis. And a strong sense of purpose lends itself to greater resiliency overall.

For many people with hearing loss, continuing in their work can be tremendously important to their complete well-being. And the HLAA Arizona Working Adults Chapter (AzWAC) deeply understands this — which is why it works so hard to provide the education, support and advocacy that people with hearing loss need to be successful throughout their entire careers.

“The ability to be your best on the job is no small matter for many people — including those with hearing loss,” explains Peggy Staples, president of AzWAC. “Our chapter recognizes that these individuals want support as they strive to reach their full potential in the workplace. Given that many members of local HLAA Chapters are retirees, with meetings held during weekday hours, we formed our chapter about five years ago specifically to address the needs of working adults.”

Chapter meetings with expert speakers; educational sessions on assistive listening and other beneficial technologies; tips for managing workplace interpersonal communication issues; online forums so members can exchange information and discuss common concerns and solutions; social events for sharing experiences, ideas and insights with others facing similar challenges and aspirations — it’s all part of the support that AzWAC offers to empower those with hearing loss who are active in the workforce. And the chapter intentionally schedules all activities on Friday evenings, Saturdays or other times conducive to work schedules.

Critical to its success is the solutions-oriented approach that the chapter takes, putting in place opportunities for its members to learn from the expertise and experience of others. In September 2021, for instance, the chapter hosted a panel comprised of four working adults. Each responded to half a dozen prepared questions with an open question-and-answer session at the end.

One panelist shared her own personal journey — from hiding her hearing loss in the workplace to advocating for herself. “In the beginning, I was definitely very closed off about it — and it did not serve me well,” she explained “ … I ended up leaving the job, it was just so stressful … Then I had an experience just a few years ago … I was upfront about my hearing, and I was asking for an accommodation with these big meetings that we had to have …”

The end result? By familiarizing herself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — and by assertively advocating for herself for accommodations — the response was very positive: “… They bent over backwards to help me.”

For another event, they invited a speaker to talk about her experience in handling an emergency while traveling solo with hearing loss. She explained how she handled a five-car pile-up in a tunnel in New Haven, Connecticut, on her way to New York City. “You have to talk to the police. You have to talk to the wrecker driver. You have to talk to the people at the car rental place. And you insist on what you need. The wrecking company kept telling me I needed to call the rental car company. And I kept saying, ‘I can’t call the rental car company because I can’t hear. You’re going to have to call them for me.’”

The HLAA Arizona Working Adults Chapter was formed in 2016. The chapter provides an important resource for working adults with hearing loss in the Tempe-area — and since becoming more active virtually, has extended its geographic reach. The chapter started its Facebook Group in 2019. It also has a listserv for people, employers and organizations who would like to receive the information that the chapter shares at its meetings and social events. To add your name, email azworkingadults@gmail.com.