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Monday, April 29, 2019

Amazon Is The First Major Tech Company To Hire Full-Time ASL Interpreters

Michael Nesmith is a creative guru at Amazon—his official title being an art director. If you can’t tell by the sleeve of tattoos he has on both of his arms, then you can definitely tell by the myriad of graphics he has designed to advertise Amazon’s products, such as Alexa and the Fire TV Stick.
However, Nesmith isn’t your average guy. He is deaf, which he describes as being both his “superpower” and “kryptonite.” He has been unable to hear since he was a child and was raised by deaf parents.
Unlike any other job he had before joining Amazon, Nesmith has access to a full-time, consistent American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. Early in 2018, Amazon incorporated an ASL program that entails hiring interpreters as full-time employees, and each interpreter works with the same group of people. Amazon is known to be the only major tech company to provide this service at such a large scale for its deaf employees.
“In our [deaf] culture, we don't really see deafness as a disability. We see it as a unique culture with a language and with an education system that is different from the mainstream,” Nesmith explains. “What’s important is to have access to language. So that's the only thing that really makes, from the outside perspective, my disability unique.” (Jeff Williamson was Nesmith’s interpreter during this interview with Forbes.)
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