"I lost my job due to my deafness" - Deaf Entreprenuer Andrea Zackary Shares Her Story
To Andrea Zackary, being hard-of-hearing has never been a barrier to achieving her dreams. She shares her inspiring story with Ephatha Fashion, taking us on her journey of struggles, fears and victories.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Andrea Zackary. I'm an Oral Deaf, a gymnast mom, a wife, and a mother of 5 girls. I grew up hard-of-hearing from the age of six. I have worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years from working at restaurants, banquets to major hotel chains. I have a Diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I enjoyed working and connecting with people. I also worked as a Front Agent for a few years, until I suddenly became completely deaf at the age of twenty-five.
Growing up, when did you discover you had a hearing challenge?
At the age of 6 years old. At 25, I became profoundly deaf.
What challenges did you face after that?
I lost my job due to my deafness. After sending out countless resumes and interviewing for many jobs, I discovered no one was ready to hire me. I then decided to go back to school to study to become a Personal Support Worker (PSW) to help seniors within the deaf community. I graduated and immediately found work taking care of Deaf Seniors for four years. I realized later this was not where I belonged. I had always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur. In 2014 I took a big risk and founded my company - DEF EVENTS &BEYOND INC.
What types of stereotypes did you face growing up and how were you able to cope with them?
I grew up in the mainstream world. I transferred to a special high school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Grade 10.
You are the founder of an amazing social organization - Def Events and Beyond'. Can you tell us what it is about and what you have been able to achieve?
Def Events and Beyond Inc. is an organization that brings Deaf/hard-of-hearing community together with the hearing community in a social atmosphere where they learn to communicate with each other through American sign language (ASL). Through Def Events & Beyond, families can come together in laughter, have a good time while they learn and play. Our Company’s Slogan is “Play. Laugh. Socialize. Bringing Diverse Communities Together.” We run yearly social events for the entire family ranging from Summer BBQs to farm trips and paint nights.
Since our inception, we have been successful in bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf communities in the GTA. We have also been featured on CTV News and received numerous awards for our work.
You play a lot of roles. How do you communicate with clients and stakeholders?
Through American Sign Language and sometimes spoken English, if one on one.
We noticed you have some great products like a Self-Care Planner. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, Indeed! I partnered up with Deaf Artist and Educator, Leah Riddell, to bring my vision to life. It’s has always been a dream of mine to have a planner with ASL, so hearing people can get comfortable seeing our language daily. I hope to inspire the hearing community to even learning the basics.
Andrea showcasing her Deaf-Friendly Self-Care Planner. You can order yours here.
Do you think the government is doing enough to help people with hearing challenges? What suggestions do you have for them?
No, we are still screaming for better accessible service. We need better support for deaf people in business. There are no resources available in ASL content. For instance, in 2016, I enrolled for a business and entrepreneurship training but faced a lot of challenge because the Entrepreneur Centre didn’t have funds to provide me with interpreters. So, although I attended the classes and had some help from friends, I ended up missing out on a lot. The problem of inaccessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing people is still out there and that is why I keep advocating for improvement.
In 5 to 10 years time, where do you see yourself?
I would like to open a community Hub, which would be a multi-purpose space for social events, parties, meetings, and a café, where Deaf folks can meet and work and feel connected. I hope on our 10 years anniversary, I can make this happen.
What advice do you have for young persons out there who feel they don’t really have a great future because of their hearing challenge?
My advice is just get started and figure out the rest later. Entrepreneurship is a journey . You will win some and lose some along the way. The important thing is never give up. Great things take time. We have dreams, but we also need to struggle before we gain the Victory.
What are your favourite life lesson quotes?
Never Give up. Great things take time. I am stronger than I think. I can do it. I am enough.
Any final words?
I hope that the hearing community can come out to our events and learn more about us in a fun way.