Deaf St. John's native lauds employer for support

Barb Sweet
Published on August 19, 2014
Graham Forsey, originally from St. John’s, has landed a job with Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, Mich. — Submitted photo

Rod Forsey hopes the story of his son Graham's success will inspire other students who are uncertain about their future because of a physical challenge.

After winning academic awards and achieving a perfect grade point average at university, Graham Forsey, who is deaf, started work at Whirlpool Corp., at the company's headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich.

"While Graham has attained an exceptionally high level of academic excellence and has secured a good job with a Fortune 200 company, my point or hope is that (his story) helps to convey a message to other deaf children and families of kids with exceptionalities that with proper guidance, assistance and forward planning many things - that some might feel is out of reach - can be had with support, encouragement and sometimes a little bit of good luck," Rod Forsey said.

Graham Forsey graduated from the management information systems program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York state and was a former student at the defunct School for the Deaf in St. John's.

In a recent newsletter, Whirlpool, which manufactures a number of brands, profiled Forsey, who was hired in June as a global systems analyst in the information technology department.

Recruiters were impressed with his resume, but did not know he was deaf until they scheduled a phone interview.

They recommended an onsite interview, but did not tell the hiring manager he was deaf in order to avoid any unconscious bias. The interview panel found out the day of the session.

"The entire Whirlpool team was incredibly impressed with Graham, and we offered him a job starting after graduation," the newsletter said, adding his manager reported he's a better communicator than she is.

His father said the family always made communication important and he sought out role models early on for his son.

In his job, Graham Forsey's department deals with millions of documents a day and information systems in North America, India, the Phillipines and Argentina.

"With many departments, thousands of employees and a complex information system, there are many challenges," Forsey said in an email.

He uses video relay services with American sign language interpreters relaying the calls for conference calls, as well as communicating with co-workers through email.

"Being deaf is not a problem at all in my job thanks to these technologies, and job flexibility is incredible," Forsey said.

"Getting interpreters is often a challenge for deaf employees in workplaces, but I am very fortunate that Whirlpool has no issue with providing interpreters for me, giving me freedom and discretion to book interpreters as needed."

He also said his manager, Heide Briggs, is leading efforts to set up a sign language course at his workplace.

Before the province closed the School for the Deaf in 2010, Forsey, knowing the local school's future, chose to finish high school at Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton, Ont., because of the supports available there.

Forsey said he is where he is now because of his education in schools for the deaf, and the experience helped him make use of his abilities in university.

The video relay service Forsey uses has been widely used in the U.S. since 2002, Forsey said, adding it should be available in Canada by fall 2015.

"This will be a tremendous and equalizing tool for many deaf people who want to work in a professional capacity in corporations of any size and in everyday life," he said.