Shelley Gladden is a Grant Coordinator at Oklahoma ABLE Tech, the state’s Assistive Technology Act Program funded by the Administration for Community Living at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While her primary role is the financial loan program for consumers to purchase hearing assistive technology (HAT), Shelley assists in numerous aspects of ABLE Tech, including the demonstration and loan program, fire safety grant, state department of education contract, and is a hearing support specialist to consumers, teachers, and professionals. Shelley also serves as a statewide trainer for the Network of Consumer Hearing Assistive Technology Trainers (N-CHATT), the volunteer train-the-trainer program supporting the successful integration of HAT at home, work, school, and in the community.
- What drew you to a career helping people with hearing loss?
“Hearing loss is hereditary in my family; my aunt has two cochlear implants. The day I learned of my early onset of hearing loss, I became a knowledge-seeker and an advocate to take away the stigma of hearing loss. My proactive approach persuaded my mom and my older sister to seek hearing assistance, and they too are both now wearing hearing aids. Being proactive plays a significant role in my career as I assist other individuals to gain information, resources, and overcome fears of embracing the technology to help them gain – or maintain – independence with hearing loss.”
- The theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October this year was “America’s Workforce: Empowering All” – how do you think N-CHATT helps support a more inclusive workforce?
“N-CHATT helps educate and inform consumers and peers with hearing loss on HAT that can assist them gaining, or maintaining, independence in their desired environment, including the workforce.”
- Through your work, you’ve likely participated in or are familiar with many training programs. What makes N-CHATT unique?
“N-CHATT is unique because it allows for the application of the trainer’s personal connection and experience using HAT. When you can give real-life experiences and examples, along with practical education and solutions, as well as demonstrate how easily HAT can level the playing field, it has a much greater impact.”
- Have you had any standout experiences in training consumers and professionals who work with consumers with hearing loss?
“At Oklahoma ABLE Tech, we are charged with improving access to and acquisition of assistive technology for individuals with disabilities. This includes training across the large spectrum of children, adults, and seniors in improving access to and knowledge of assistive technology and its uses. A large part of our contract services include training the State Department of Education on assistive technology in the classroom and beyond. We are reaching great numbers of special education professionals and helping them prepare their students with a variety of disabilities to be successful in their future endeavors with the use of assistive technology—whether that is continuing their educational pursuits, employment, or other community involved activities.”
- What are the benefits of HAT from the working individual’s perspective?
“HAT is a game-changer and absolutely necessary to stay in an active and competitive work environment. From all aspects of daily function – telecommunications, meetings, professional development, peer relations – to a larger scale of being on equal levels for job enhancement and career growth. I absolutely could not do what I am doing today without the use of both hearing aids and related assistive technology to improve my daily communications.”
- What types of HAT are most in demand in the workforce setting?
“I see the continuous need for HAT assistance with telephone use, team meetings, continuing education (hearing in the large conference/classroom environment), and computer accessibility as it relates to video conferencing, virtual meetings, webinars, captioning, etc.”