Gene Webber is a deaf applicant who has been trying to get a computer-programming job with the state for several years. He recently spoke by e-mail with the Capitol Weekly.
[B]What is your current job?[/B]
Currently, I am a volunteer as support-staff for Office of Legal Counsel at Department of Toxic Substances Control for four years now. I am also a member of EEOAC (Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee).
[B]What is the job you are seeking?[/B]
I successfully passed four State Personnel Board exams, eligible for state services in: Programmer 1, Information Systems Technician, Office Technician, and Office Assistant. I have had many interviews for all of those classifications.
I have two Computer Information Science certifications, Database Management and Programming with honor roll status. I was not sure what majors I should concentrate on as I did not know what would make me most marketable and how accepting people would be of me being deaf. I felt very limited in career choices in this society with my disability.
[B]How did those job interviews go?[/B]
I have been unemployed for more than 10 years and, like most deaf individuals, I want to be part of the work force. I have had more than 150 interviews with various state agencies in the last seven years. I am able to promote myself through my resume but, when I arrive for an interview, it all changes when they meet me and realize that I am deaf. I have received some negative and discriminatory comments from interviewers who were concerned about my deafness. Some comments were fabricated and it made it difficult for me to be competitive with others.
[B]What are you doing to address these problems?[/B]
I have filed several discrimination complaints against some interviewers, but it is a lengthy process and difficult to prove claims of discrimination. As a deaf applicant, I may have to file a complaint each time because interviewers were not trained in “Know-How” to work with a qualified deaf applicant. So, I am putting an effort toward making a solution for interviewers and employees to take effective EEO exam and training to help them to be comfortable and be able to interview and work with diverse applicants with or without disability.
I have attached a copy of my old presentation: “Obstacles and Solutions to the State Hiring Process and Workplace.” DTSC has not adopted my proposed “Effective Equal Employment Opportunity” yet. If the State of California adopts the proposed effective EEO exam and training, we would be more confident in the interview process and more trained staff to work with diverse people in state agencies and public services. I believe that my proposed effective EEO is in Californians’ best interests.
[B]How did you become deaf?[/B]
I became deaf at 10 months old as a result of spinal meningitis. I am the only deaf member of my family. I was born in Sacramento and I am the oldest son but No. 4 of seven in my family. I have a deaf wife and three hearing children. My wife is employed with the Department of Education, Database Management Division.