Case Study – Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism and Auditory Difficulties

The following case study outlines a deaf student’s experience of a work placement in a hotel. It is reproduced from the LTSN LINK Newsletter dated February 2002

A Disabled Student Looking for a Hospitality Work Placement

Simon* was studying for an HND in Hotel, Catering & Institutional Management at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) and looking for a 48-week placement in a corporate hotel. Simon was profoundly deaf, but reluctant to declare his disability in his initial applications and covering letters.

The placement staff at SHU contacts the Students Union and the institutional Disability Officer, but in the end, it was through personal contacts that two interviews were secured for Simon. Although he had been keen to find a placement near his parent’s home in Sheffield, he applied for a position at a five-star hotel in Scotland, as the hotel had actively promoted its equal opportunity policy and practice. The reality of this interview, however, was very different and Simon was particularly alarmed, given that he had disclosed his disability on the application form.

“I remember there was a talk for about an hour, talking about the hotel. I tried to explain many times beforehand that I was deaf, but they failed to make any reasonable adjustments. There was no interpreter – they could have got someone from the hotel to write down what was being said. Nothing, they just left me there… I was thankful there were four others from Sheffield Hallam University that day.”

“As for the interview itself there were four interviews going on in one big room, all I could hear was background noise. The interviewer had a broad Scottish accent, so I had no chance. She made no effort to find an alternative room. It is no wonder that I was rejected.”

Fortunately, following conversations between the placement staff and the hotel’s Human Resource Managers, Simon was able to pursue a far more rewarding placement at the Hilton Warwick. Here he was able to work in various departments, including housekeeping, kitchen, accounts and conference & banqueting. The only slight problem occurred in meetings, where he had to rely on a colleague to interpret for him, rather than a dedicated interpreter being offered.

All in all, Simon says he believes that it is essential that the disability is acknowledged by the potential employer from the very start – this is the only way that a fair and equal interview can be achieved and the only way that the employer can know what the employee needs in order to do their job to a professional standard. Simon went on to complete his HND and a top-up year to obtain a BSc (Hons) Hotel & Catering Management.

(*not his real name)

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