Dylan Thayer, a determined 26-year-old, had been working part-time at a restaurant since high school graduation about 5 years ago. As with most first jobs, Dylan began to outgrow this position and wanted to find a new challenge. After speaking with family, he decided he was ready for full-time employment and the responsibilities that go with it. As one of the close to 1 million people in the United States who are deaf, Dylan was eligible for services through the state of Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Dylan worked with his VR Counselor Michelle Willenbrock to enroll in the Employment Services Plus (ESP) program at MERS Goodwill serving individuals who are deaf or have a hearing impairment.
Through the ESP program, Dylan received specialized services designed to provide comprehensive vocational evaluation and job placement services while also providing support and guidance once the individual is employed. These services are provided by staff who have been trained in cultural aspects of being deaf, and who are also certified as basic or advanced interpreters by the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Missouri Interpreters Certification System (MICS).
Upon meeting with his employment specialist, Katie Boller, Dylan began a discovery and exploration process to determine what sort of position he would enjoy that would match his work skills and abilities. Dylan was able to try out several types of jobs that he was interested in, and ultimately decided to continue to focus on food preparation and service, with additional interests in retail. “We worked together to determine what Dylan was looking for in a job, while at the same time learning new skills he would need in the workforce,” said Katie. “Dylan excelled and had his choice of employment that fits him best.”
When it came time to begin job searching, Dylan and Katie knew effective communication between Dylan and the employer would be crucial to his success. While Dylan has cochlear implants, he is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), his primary form of communication. Katie has earned an MICS Basic Certification and holds an Interpreter License. With only 250,000-500,000 people in the U.S. able to communicate using ASL, Dylan and Katie worked on simple communication strategies both for Dylan and the employer.
“Communication was always one of the biggest obstacles I have faced in the work place,” signed Dylan. “Through the services provided by MERS Goodwill, I am able to come up with different problem-solving techniques that I have since been able to apply in my new job. My co-workers are supportive and many of them have even expressed interest in learning ASL.”
Dylan expressed interest in working at TGI Friday’s as he has experience in the restaurant industry and the location is close to his home. Dylan was able to complete a trial work experience at Friday’s during his discovery and exploration services. That experience quickly turned into a “working interview” that combines the traditional question and answer format with an opportunity for Dylan to showcase his work skills. The hiring manager told Dylan he was impressed with his speed, dedication and motivation. Dylan was quickly offered a full-time position as a dishwasher and has been happily employed there since that time.
Once on the job, Dylan received support of a job coach who is also familiar with ASL for his initial training period. “With the help of Katie and MERS Goodwill, I was able to create a plan that would help me reach my goal of full-time employment,” signed Dylan. “Working at TGI Friday’s is a great experience and I enjoy my new job and responsibilities.”
“Working to place individuals in a job that is not only a good fit but also one where the individual thrives can be challenging at times,” said Katie. “Working with Dylan reminded me of why I love my job and why I continue to do what I do. I am so proud of everything Dylan has accomplished.”