No one wakes up one day and decides to be a catalyst for change. Being an agent for making an impact is usually provoked through the process of circumstance, experience, and emotion. When my son was diagnosed over 8 years ago with sensorineural hearing loss, I could have never then known that my inner activist would be unleashed. In those years since, I have been in the role of activism and advocate for my child, as well as, many others.
The privilege to improve the outcome of deaf/ hard of hearing children has its rewards, but there are many days that have left me wondering if it really achieves anything in terms of affecting the severe unemployment/underemployment gaps. After all, shouldn’t this aspect be improved as a true representation of all these efforts? Going after legislators to implement better policies, improving inter-agency cooperation, early intervention, and challenging schools that are faltering on their legal obligation to provide proper support are undoubtedly worthy causes. My issue of deep concern is that with all these valuable reinforcements in place, shouldn’t the career outlooks improve along with that paradigm? After having many discussions throughout the years with friends who work in areas of tech, it dawned on me that we were missing out on a valuable opportunity which undoubtedly can change the equation. With the job market becoming increasingly hyper specialized, what are we doing for our kids to build their arsenal? When the job market is already challenging to those without a disability, the hopes to improve the stats for our kids will be under increased pressure. There is a strong national discussion regarding the fact that tech skills are a foundation to almost all sectors. There are virtually no companies, careers, or institutions who do not function on some level or entirely without the use of technology. The chief marketing officer at content management system for Magnolia Christopher Justice says, “Employers everywhere are looking for tech-savvy job candidates for non-tech related positions. This means that administrative, creative, sales, marketing and other non-IT job seekers are required to have relatively strong tech backgrounds and skill sets to stay competitive. Tech skills like basic software development, fundamental graphic design and elaborate are no longer restricted to tech-heavy positions,"
The National Science Foundation has taken this issue into a national discussion because they understand the value of honing these skills as the need of today’s world, as well as, the future. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor the demand for computer science skills in the workforce far outweigh the supply. Since 2014, the amount of computer science based jobs in the US tops over 1,000,000. Even with a large increase with funding nationally, a majority of high schools still do not offer any computer science classes that provide any skills or inspiration for students. Having basic computing skills is a different category than truly understanding the power of writing or developing programs. The Deaf Kids Code initiative believes that by taking matters into our own hands and not relying on already overburdened educational institutions, we can change the equation.
Ayah Bdeir founder of littelBits stated that she created her award winning kid friendly electronic learning gadget because of the need to ‘democratize hardware’ as a way to empower everyone with the tools to solve 21st century economic, medical, and environmental challenges. She also says, “If our lives today depend on technology, then those who truly understand it have an outsized influence over the rest of us.”
Based on this notion, why not empower our kids with the tools to be the leaders of the next generation of innovators? Why not put our efforts towards empowering kids, like my son, with the skills the world needs? Better yet, if need is the mother of invention, why depend on others to control the technology that impacts their lives? By building deaf/ hard of hearing student’s arsenals with the knowledge and know how, the employment gap can be impacted regardless of their auditory or communication challenges.
There is ample evidence to suggest that these fields are viable, and even almost perfect, for those who are deaf/hard of hearing. According to the latest data, employees working remotely has increased to over 65% in small companies (employs -250), 55% in medium companies (employs 251-500+), and 69% in large companies (employs 501+). Even data on government employees show over 70% work from home. This trend may only increase as data shows a measurable incline of productivity in correlation to the individualized work mode. In terms of coding skills, if you understand the computing language (Python, C+, Java, ect.,) you can execute any task. With communication increasingly done via email and texting, bridging those gaps that normally prevail in the traditional work environment can be almost eradicated. According to Kevin Kruse a contributing editor for FORBES who has written extensively on employee engagement and leadership states, “The perceived benefits of working from home have enabled me to hire top talent with no local geographic limits. It’s enabled me to steal away top talent from competitors.”