Communicating Her Talents: Jennifer's Work at Riverview Healthcare Community

By Sara Porcaro | Oct 28, 2022
Employment, COVID-19, Rhode Island, Disabilities, Work, Accessibility, NDEAM, Local Business
Jennifer and Brendin

It's a quiet day at Riverview Healthcare Community in Coventry. The street is misty, the weekend's rainstorm still lingering, and the colors on the leaves are muted without the sun shining through them. But inside this local care facility, all is warm and bright; leaves and scarecrows decorate the main sitting area, budgies nap in their big glass cage, and residents enjoy carving pumpkins with staff. And in the middle of the foyer, with a smile as bright as the place itself, is Jennifer--now halfway through her second month as an employee there!
Since September, Jennifer has been working with the laundry crew at Riverview, and she's been having a blast learning the ropes and getting to know her coworkers (including the animals, like the establishment's friendly dog). She helps wash, sort, fold, and put the laundry away three days a week, and she's always ready to help whenever someone needs a hand. When her tasks are complete, she takes the time to learn more about the residents, check in with her peers, or see the work her peers do in other parts of the building, like the kitchen and library.
"I really enjoy the job," Jennifer signs. "I like staying busy, so if I'm done early, I'm looking for other ways I can help."
But for Jennifer, who is a part of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHOH) community, communication is sometimes a challenge with her hearing coworkers. The job is hands-on, and for the most part, it's easy to demonstrate by pointing and gesturing, but other times messages get mixed up, as the staff don't know American Sign Language (ASL). That doesn't stop them from trying, however--and it was Jennifer's supervisor, Brendin, that decided to bring in a whiteboard to help them all be able to better write and draw out their messages while Jennifer teaches them certain words and phrases in ASL.
"This has really helped us think outside the box for all of our staff," says Brendin. "Everyone has a different communication style as it is, and with the whiteboard, sometimes it's easier to draw out what people are trying to explain than to write it out."
"I can do my job independently, but sometimes people think I'm asking for help when I'm actually asking if I can help them," Jennifer explains.
As one of the residents at Riverview is hard of hearing, the facility has a contracted ASL interpreter who was able to facilitate the interview. However, when it came time to do Jennifer's orientation and training, the interpreter wasn't available, and the facility was more than happy to contract Perspectives' interpreting team. Doing so made sure Jennifer had the supports she needed to learn at her own pace and get comfortable with the job, which made it possible for her to show everyone exactly how talented and hard-working she really is. It's clear to see the Riverview team respects her and puts in the work to make sure everyone can communicate as smoothly as possible--something not always easy to come by when searching for a job as a member of the DHOH community.
"Her coworkers are wonderful," says Perspectives Career Developer Julie Cordeiro. "Sometimes you see people who are afraid to interact with members of the DHOH community because they don't know ASL, but everyone here is always trying to communicate with Jennifer in any way they can."
"Having Jennifer here has been great," says Brendin. "She's like any other employee; she works hard, is eager to learn, comes on time, and is always ready to help out. We love having her. We're making sure she's comfortable with the work she does, and then we'll be training her on new tasks with the crew."
For Jennifer, learning new things and getting the chance to do more with the team is a delight in itself. But as she continues to learn about the residents and the work the medical staff does, she's found a new goal: obtaining her CNA license. She's interested in having a more direct role with helping others, and she could see herself continuing that career path at an accommodating and friendly place like Riverview. For now, though, she's excited to be a part of the team, learning about as much of the job as possible and giving it her all. Fantastic work, Jennifer!


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