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Trudy Suggs on How Virtualization Allows Deaf Community Roots to Remain Strong

Trudy Suggs on How Virtualization Allows Deaf Community Roots to Remain Strong
August 24, 2016 CSD

[Video Transcript]

It’s so nice that you get to work from home and don’t have to deal with stress!

I thought you didn’t work. You’re a stay-at-home mom, aren’t you?

Oh, wow! You work? All this time I thought your husband was supporting the family!

You’re so lucky you can work from home in your pajamas!

Although I’ve worked from home for 14 years now, I still deal with a lot of misconceptions about working at home. The questions are getting better nowadays, given the proliferation of teleworking — thankfully. Even so, the number one question I get is, “How do you do it?” I’ll answer that in a bit, but first, let me talk about why working from home is so beneficial particularly for the Deaf community.

The work-from-home model served me well when my family made the life-changing decision to move from Minnesota to Maryland in early 2014.  Unlike many other couples going through similar experiences, we didn’t have to worry about employment. My husband had already been offered a job, so we only had to sell our house, pack up, and move east without worrying about how we would afford it. This was because my employment situation wasn’t changing; I was just changing addresses.

People always have had to relocate for job opportunities, but this is especially true for Deaf people, who may want to be geographically near other Deaf people rather than a remote location with limited access. For example, during World War II, Akron, Ohio, was a popular location for Deaf people simply because of the Goodyear and Firestone factories hiring them in droves.  Other areas well-populated by Deaf people often were, and are, where Deaf schools or agencies serving Deaf people exist: Frederick, Md., Austin, Texas, St. Augustine, Fla., or Faribault, Minn., just to name a few. While this clustering has many benefits, it also creates a unique set of problems — and virtualization is a fantastic solution.


The CSD website states, “Our employees are leaders. By going virtual, we’re able to keep them exactly where they need to be: in their own communities. By keeping leaders in place, we keep our Deaf communities strong.”


Exactly! Instead of making Deaf people uproot their entire lives and families, leave the area they’ve grown to love (or even grown up in), and leave their friends and activities for a job — they can continue thriving in their home communities with their friends and loved ones. They can go to their favorite restaurants, their favorite stores, and their favorite spots. They don’t have to sell the houses they’ve worked hard for, or give up anything. As anyone who has had to relocate for a job knows, especially for those who are Deaf and not necessarily in an accessible location, it can be challenging to rebuild networks, meet new people, and learn the local culture.

Within these local networks are state associations affiliated with the National Association of the Deaf, many of which are struggling to maintain membership numbers. One reason for this struggle is the departure of key community members to their new job locations. By going virtual, CSD — one of the largest employers of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing — can nurture thriving local organizations and close community ties. As CSD’s website says, “Decentralizing our operations allows us to widen our reach. Together, we are strengthening our communities and changing the world.”

Let’s not forget the daily commute. People don’t have to battle the highways (anyone who has driven the 270 and 495 to Washington, D.C., during rush hour knows exactly what I’m talking about) to get to work. Instead, they can get out of bed, get dressed — not in pajamas! — and get to work.

Virtualization also makes balancing work and parenting a lot easier. Parents don’t have to make sacrifices or difficult decisions anymore; instead, they can work around their children’s schedules, and schedule work activities in between games, school events, or meetings. While this does take some impressive juggling (thank goodness for shared calendars!), it can be done.

By now, you know the answer to how I do it, especially with four young children: technology. When I first established T.S. Writing Services, in 2003, people could not fathom how I could make money because the technology was still so new. I remember taking a business owners course in 2004, and I was the only business owner who had an Internet-based company. Without video technology and the Internet, T.S. Writing Services would never have made it this far. I’ve put together a wonderful team of writers, editors, and designers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and they all get to stay right in their communities — thanks to virtualization.

For the revitalized and forward-thinking CSD, this virtualization is a wonderful step in the right direction. This approach strengthens our Deaf ecosystem, nurtures local communities and organizations, and fosters a stronger sense of unity among the people we share our lives with, locally and nationally.