Amy McMillan, 24, has recently completed a Masters in Digital Media Communications at Ulster University. She has degrees in Photography and Graphic Design and has just started a job as a Junior Digital Marketing Assistant.
Amy’s journey to employment has not been easy, however. She believes that many employers see her deafness as a barrier, and are consequently less likely to consider her for a job.
“I’m always in two minds about whether to mention my deafness on application forms. Legally you’re meant to declare a disability but once you tick that box you’re putting yourself in a box and separating yourself from other candidates. I want an employer to judge my CV based on my qualifications and skills; not on a box that I’ve ticked.
I was on the GB & Ireland Deaf Badminton team – I was sponsored by the Royal Mail and Mary Peters Trust and it’s something I’m very proud of. I used to do tutoring through the National Deaf Children’s Society but when I put that on my CV I never heard back from employers – when I took it off it was fine. It was something so little but I felt like employers were honing in on it and disregarding all my other skills.
I’ve been to an interview where they didn’t write anything down. I’m pretty sure I was interviewed because I was a ‘disabled candidate’ but they obviously had no intention of offering me the job, they just assumed I wouldn’t be able to do it. I have the skills and qualifications – I wouldn’t have applied for the job if I didn’t think I could do it. It worries me that employers could pre-judge me because of a disability – why bother with the hard work if it counts for nothing?”
Although Amy is confident about her abilities she admits it hasn’t always been this way:
“I struggled in school as I relied heavily on lipreading which can be exhausting and I’d often fall asleep on the bus. I didn’t do that well at school but I did really well in my degree – I found a way of learning which worked for me and never looked back.
I’ve often found that people are surprised by my abilities which frustrates me – I can’t hear but everything works in the middle! I saw one of my old teachers a while ago and explained that I had just finished my Masters – she was surprised and said she hadn’t expected me to do a Masters. I asked her why and she couldn’t answer.
My family have been vital for building my confidence. My mum has always said ‘there’s nothing you can’t do’ – It’s only people outside my home who have said otherwise.
Amy had a very positive experience in the interview for her current role. She said:
“The interviewers were really considerate: they asked me if the room was ok and they didn’t speak over each other. It meant that I could ask them to repeat themselves – they were very friendly and I didn’t feel under pressure or uncomfortable – I’ve never had an interview like that before. They commented about my sporting achievements and were really positive about it which opened the door to talking about my deafness.”
Amy believes that employers could be missing out on talent by not considering candidates with a disability. She says:
“There’s always a way around things – I might need a different phone but that’s it. I think being Deaf actually gives me an edge – I can’t hear so I’m more visual which helps with things like arranging merchandise and branding. I’m also more aware of how to help others with disabilities – I used to work for Edinburgh Woollen Mill which has an older clientele. Lots of customers had a hearing loss and they would talk to me because I would make an effort to speak to them, look and them and not turn away when I was speaking to them. I was more aware and it made my colleagues more aware.
I hate it when people assume I won’t want to do something or question my abilities because I’m deaf. It annoys me enough to want to prove myself to people. I’ll always ask for feedback after an interview – and if that feedback isn’t good enough I’ll say ‘what was different about my interview?”. I believe that the only limitations are the ones I make for myself – the only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Amy uses a blog, Chasing Amy, to channel her creative thoughts and share her experiences.