In a down economy, finding a job can be difficult even for qualified candidates. For Jimmy Dickerson, the job search was more difficult than normal.
Dickerson, 45, has 95 percent hearing loss -- caused by an infection when he was a year old -- though with a hearing aid, he can hear a little, and he can read lips. His eyesight started to decline a few years ago. Eventually, he was let go from his job.
"That's why they have a hard time hiring me," he said, referring to his eyes.
Without a job, Dickerson struggled to make payments on his house. He sought help from Sharon Bryant, a case worker in the deaf services division of Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, on budgeting and finding a job.
After searching and applying on his own, Dickerson found a position. To return to work, he needed $30 to pay for an eye examination. That's where Neediest Cases stepped in.
Bryant used money from the Neediest Cases fund to get Dickerson money for an eye exam.
Dickerson's case is unusual for Bryant to work with, she said, because he needed help beyond finding a job. Bryant works with clients to help find employment as well as serving as an advocate for clients in the workplace.
"Both sides, employer and employee, it doesn't matter if they're hard of hearing -- they are working together," she said.
Deaf Services works in 22 counties in Tennessee and Georgia, and services about 200 appointments a month. That figure is growing, according to Diantha Sprouse, program coordinator for deaf services at the Partnership. As the hard-of-hearing population grows, more and more people are requesting services.
Most of this comes in the form of interpreting -- something that's been on the rise as more deaf and hard-of-hearing people get jobs or assert their right to ask for interpreters in the workplace.
Dickerson, who now works as a maintenance mechanic and welder at Shaw Industries, said the company has five other deaf employees -- something unusual for any employer.
"We, hearing people and deaf, are all the same. We need jobs to support our families all the same," he said.
Though Dickerson was able to get his eye exam, he still needs more help with his vision.
In the last three years, Dickerson has gone through two pairs of glasses, and his current pair is missing a lens. It will cost him $100 out of pocket to get the lens replaced because his job does not pay for glasses or the hearing aids he and his wife wear.
Bryant said she will continue to work with Dickerson get him the help he needs.
Contact staff writer Rachel Bunn at email@example.com or 423-757-6592.