I am literally half deaf. I have been for most of my life, but I only started wearing hearing aids a couple of decades ago. For years, I did everything I could to hide the fact that I am hearing impaired from my boss and the people I work with out of fear that, if they knew I was disabled, they would think that I am less capable of performing my job. I learned all the tricks to help my hearing capacity such as facing the person I am listening to (I can “hear” more with my eyes by reading lips, gestures, etc); sitting with my back facing a wall so that the sound bounces back; using conference calls vs face to face conferences because I can turn up volume on the phone, etc.
When Prudential promoted the “Count Me In” Program, they encouraged employees to disclose their disabilities confidentially, and also encouraged us to ask for needed accommodations. I hesitated at first, but ultimately decided to “own my truth” and disclose that I am hearing impaired. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt that I could talk about it without feeling threatened…without losing my job. I asked for accommodations and immediately received support. I was provided with an iPad for mobile closed captioning assistance, as well as other closed captioning resources, and eventually given a small office to work out of that enables me to have discussions with the door closed so I can hear better.
I embrace both positive and negative labels, as they make me “ME.” Jill Jenkins Vendor Management, IT Procurement, Prudential
Working in vendor management, my job requires me to be a full and active participant in a significant number of weekly in-person meetings, conference calls, supplier summits, and other engagements. I review and negotiate contracts, interact regularly with our legal team on complicated technical matters, and work with diverse teams of vendors, hiring managers, and consultants. Communication is integral to my job, and letting my supervisors at Prudential know about my disability – and the ways they have supported me – has enabled me to do some of my best work.
I embrace both positive and negative labels, as they make me “ME.” I want to continue to provide education and raise awareness about hearing impairment. It impacts 37 million people in the US, and most people I talk to know someone who has an impairment. The more familiar people are with disabilities, including hearing impairment, the less foreign (and discomforting) they will feel. I’m proud to be a part of the effort to change perceptions about disability, and to work for a company like Prudential, which works hard to foster an environment of inclusion.
In addition to her work at Prudential, Jill is actively involved in her community, including with Prudential’s ADAPT business resource group, community blood drives, veterans initiatives, children’s financial education, homeless shelter improvements, and – of course – Prudential’s Count Me In campaign.