How to practice inclusion inside and outside the workplace
Celebrating Deaf History Month with a conversation featuring Emma Faye Rudkin, Founder and Executive Director of Aid The Silent.
At Broadway Bank, our employees are dedicated to building a more diverse, more inclusive workplace. As we live out that vision, we are bringing awareness to Deaf History Month. Broadway Banker Anna Garza sits on our Diversity & Inclusion Committee, made up of employees across departments. She sat down with Emma Faye Rudkin, Founder and Executive Director of Aid The Silent, a Texas-based nonprofit organization whose mission includes bringing awareness, resources, education and ministry to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Anna interviewed Emma to learn how we can take steps to be more inclusive of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community inside and outside the workplace. Check out a recap of their discussion.
Anna: Why is practicing inclusion so important in our everyday lives?
Emma: Inclusion is defined as the practice of including and integrating all people and groups in activities, especially those who are disadvantaged or are living with disabilities. I believe practicing inclusion is not only healthy for our culture but a necessity for our human experience. Life is a journey of relationships and life events. We find ourselves searching for a feeling of belonging. We all want to find our tribes, our groups where we feel safe and special. Inclusion is one step before belonging and I believe we all deserve to feel like we belong.
One way I like to describe inclusion is this: Diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance. We see Broadway Bank as a leader in the inclusion space. The company is wanting to know more about inclusion, and I’m honored to be part of that discussion. Broadway has invited me here today to talk with Broadway Bank employees about my experiences, my insights and what our organization does to support deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults. That’s awesome! Many companies probably have opportunities to integrate the deaf community into the company culture. It’s important to have conversations like this and bring awareness to the deaf community so our cities, schools and businesses can continue to flourish and meet the needs of everyone.
Anna: What are some ways we can demonstrate inclusion in the community like in the workplace, grocery store, and the movie theater?
Emma: I love when I see families and community members taking the time to understand the deaf community and be considerate of others. I think that’s where it starts. Taking time out of our busy days for others is hard. I know I get wrapped up in my to-do lists, appointments and family obligations on the day-to-day. It can be challenging to take time to consider others, but that’s where real growth and change happen. Find opportunities to get involved with the deaf community through organizations like Aid The Silent or local schools. Second, don’t be shy to ask someone that is deaf what you can do to help. If you don’t know where to start to be an advocate for the deaf community, just ask. It’s ok to ask someone that’s deaf “how can I help you?” Third, invest your time in learning basic sign language. If inclusion is important to you, learn the language. Start with simple phrases such as “welcome,” “my name is,” or “nice to meet you.” Learning sign language is enriching and goes a long way in making someone feel welcomed. There are many free resources available online and in the community to learn sign language.
Anna: As we celebrate Deaf History Month during April, there is a special spotlight on the deaf community and great organizations, such as Aid The Silent, that are committed to advocating and supporting the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. What do you wish people understood about the deaf community?
Emma: I’d like to first go back to our discussion about local businesses and employers in our community. I think there is a misconception about hiring deaf people. It’s both important and beneficial to a company to fully integrate the deaf community into its workforce. For example, there are state tax benefits. Additionally, the deaf community is made up of very hardworking and loyal professionals. We’ve found in our research that there is a very small turnover among the employed deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. That tells us that once a company opens its doors to inclusion and creates resources and training that support deaf individuals, those employees can thrive. When you provide accommodations for those employees to learn, you are creating a great investment in company culture and community stability long term.
Anna: What are some ways we can support Aid The Silent?
Emma: At Aid The Silent, we have a very clear mission and goal that requires lots of helping hands and big hearts. Our mission includes raising the necessary funds to provide hard-of-hearing and deaf children and teens with the tools and resources they need to find personal success. We coordinate fundraising activities throughout the year to provide special opportunities for our community to get together and celebrate one another. Every event we are a part of is fully deaf and hard-of-hearing accessible with live captioning and interpreters. We would like to invite everyone—all community members and families—to take part in our events and volunteer with us. Our events and volunteer opportunities like our annual 5K event are listed on our website at www.aidthesilent.com. Together and through our partnerships with industry professionals, ministry leaders, educators and the hearing loss community we can continue to bring about change in an unprecedented way.
Broadway Bank is a proud partner and supporter of Aid The Silent, a Texas-based nonprofit that helps deaf and hard-of-hearing children and teens, and other equal access organizations in our community. Partnerships like this are an example of our commitment to the communities we serve. Our Broadway Bank D&I council—made up of employees across our footprint—hosts a series titled "Conversations that Matter" where we bring insightful discussions to our bankers and celebrate the diversity of our workforce, families and communities. For more information about becoming a Broadway Banker and for a list of job opportunities, visit broadway.bank/careers.