In one giant gesture of inclusion and compassion, associates with Goodwill Services Inc., have expanded their ability to communicate with deaf employees by embracing a basic, virtual the American Sign Language course taught by our sister organization Palmetto Goodwill in South Carolina. Goodwill Services Inc. is part of Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, but also holds contracts in Charleston, SC and New Orleans, LA.
“I feel like it has made a huge difference,” said Greg Hill, a project manager for Goodwill Services. “I was nervous at first because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sign very well. But after doing the course, I feel like I can connect more with our deaf workers and get to know them better on a personal level.”
There are an estimated 10 million people who are hard of hearing in the U.S. and about 1 million that are functionally deaf, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation. SIPP is one of a few national surveys that regularly collects data to identify Americans with hearing loss or deafness.
Palmetto’s seven-week course covers basic American Sign Language. Hill, who has about a dozen employees who are either deaf or hard of hearing working with him at the mammoth Goodwill Services Hanahan warehouse that serves the local Navy base, said he struggled to learn some of the simple motions, but with practice got better.
“I was trying to spell words out like ‘pizza,’ ” he said. “Then I realized that there’s just one simple motion for eating pizza. I’ve gotten better. But if you don’t use sign every day you lose it, so it’s something that you have to work at.”
Both Hill and NIWC Project Manager Dale Parmeley completed the program.
Making an Impact
The Palmetto ASL course started in September 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and now has nearly 400 graduates. The curriculum has been customized for warehouse work. “They learn sign for things like ‘forklift’ or ‘pallet jack’ – things that you need to learn when you work at a warehouse,” said Palmetto Goodwill Executive Director Reginald Hughes. “What we’ve discovered is that we are opening new doors for our deaf employees. It’s a game changer. I think we take for granted the challenges these folks face on an everyday basis.”
Alexis Perez, a warehouse specialist for GSI, noticed a difference almost immediately when his fellow workers got involved with the sign language course.
“When I first came here to work, I felt like some of my teammates would ignore me because I was deaf or they didn’t know how to talk with me,’ said Perez. “To see them trying to learn sign language has been great. The effort they are making to communicate with sign language makes me feel like they want to connect with me more.’
Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia is a mission-minded organization built on a foundation of core values, including respect, commitment, learning and innovation – all clearly at work in this Goodwill Services undertaking.
Said Hill, “It was hard to connect with some of our deaf employees on a personal level the way we were communicating. I knew that needed to change.”
Information from an article featured in The Post and Courier, the main daily newspaper in Charleston, S.C., was used to supplement this blog post.