If You Have Any Questions, Ask Jeffrey

Jeffrey Heinrich checks the supply of fresh fish by the lobster tanks at the Vernon Real Canadian Superstore. Carrying a small LCD writing tablet with him, called a Boogie Board, he then sets off to complete the rest of his daily tasks. He stocks shelves with fresh and frozen seafood, occasionally stopping to communicate with a customer or co-worker, using his tablet.

“I want people to know that being deaf doesn’t mean that I can’t communicate with people.” says Heinrich through an interpreter. “I think it takes a little understanding when people are not sure about how to communicate with a deaf person. All they need to do is ask.”

Skill for Learning

Originally living in Armstrong, Heinrich moved to the Lower Mainland where he attended a school for the Deaf. Proficient in ASL (American Sign Language), Heinrich did well in school, particularly in math and English, and has a special knack with statistics. He gained work experience cleaning busses, but after school, he struggled to find a job.

In 2018 he moved back to the North Okanagan, where he continued looking for work. “I was familiar with the supports for people who are deaf and have other diverse abilities in my area,” explains Heinrich, so he reached out for that support.

Heinrich approached the WorkBC Centre in Vernon through its partnership with the Kindale Developmental Association. There he met Case Manager Celena Sandaker and Employment Advisor Jerry Ward.

“We assessed his needs, what his strong points and interests were, then we got started on job preparation,” says Sandaker.

Ward, in turn, worked with possible employers to find the best fit for Heinrich and his unique skills, as well as for any accommodations related to being deaf and on the Autism Spectrum.

“We thought that Superstore would be a good option. They are open as employers for people with diverse abilities and are always looking for ways to make it work,” says Sandaker.

They were right. Heinrich applied online, and was called in for an interview.

“Jeffrey had to follow the same corporate application strategy that anyone applying for work at the Superstore has to undergo,” says Ward. “We worked on what the best fit would be.”

Champion for the Deaf Community

An interpreter was hired to be present during Heinrichs’ training period, and Superstore provided the Boogie Board to assist Heinrich in communicating with coworkers and customers.

“The Boogie Board is a good thing for me to be able to communicate back and forth with people, and it erases with the touch of a button. My nametag on my lanyard also shows customers that I am Deaf,” says Heinrich.

Heinrich’s managers and coworkers have been accommodating in welcoming him to the organization. They were quick to set up a special paging code if he needs help on the floor, helping him feel fully supported in the role.  The team was also happy to hang a whiteboard featuring his daily tasks, which Heinrich knows will help with his success.

“My goal in job coaching Jeffrey is to help him become independent in the role.” says Ward of the job match. “Jeffrey did amazing from the start and has a great drive to be independent.”

While the team at Superstore has been supportive, Heinrich is also supporting them to learn basic sign language. He’s doing so well in the job that he’s started applying some of the skills he’s learning there to his home-life.

“He has put up a whiteboard at home and started making lists and writing important things to remember on it, which is a practice he found was successful at work,” says Sandaker. 

“Jeffrey is a champion for the deaf community. He wants to be an example and is awesome at showing people what can be done. ”

Adds Heinrich: “I want others to know, if I am doing it, you can too. I have a good job here and am very happy with my life.”

In partnership with WorkBC Centre Vernon, the Kindale Developmental Association provides one-to-one employment services for individuals with varying abilities. These services include Case Management, Customized Employment, Job Search Services, Employability Workshops, Follow-Up, and more. Contact us to learn more.