A lack of training among nondisabled personnel officials contributes to the frustrations of deaf and hard of hearing federal employees

The experiences of a cabinet level agency's current employee illustrate some of the difficulties that can result from a lack of adequate training of administrative personnel. In November of 1998, the woman who is hard of hearing and uses TTY's to communicate telephonically applied for a position with the agency. A couple weeks after her interview in March of 1999, one of the people who interviewed the applicant called her on a TTY and told her that an officer would be extending a formal offer to her. After several weeks had passed without hearing anything more, the applicant took the initiative and called -- using the TRS -- the officer to inquire about the status of her application. The officer stated that she was glad the applicant had called and that she would like to extend a job offer to her. The officer promised to call her within a couple of days with more specific details. After a week had passed without the promised call, the applicant contacted the officer. Upon questioning, the officer admitted that she had not known how to call the applicant, since the applicant used a TTY. Although the component in which the officer was employed had numerous TTY's available, the officer did not know how to use them. The officer also admitted that she was unfamiliar with the TRS and did not know whom to ask for assistance. The applicant explained how the TRS worked and provided her with the correct number for the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS). Ultimately, the applicant's employment was delayed and preliminary steps -- such as providing her fingerprints and obtaining a drug test for her security clearance -- were made more difficult due to this officer's lack of familiarity with the existing resources that were readily available to communicate with individuals with disabilities affecting hearing and speech.