At Schneider Electric, we promote and respect the rights of people with disabilities by raising awareness and tackling the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with disabilities. We foster equal treatment and equal opportunities for people with disabilities and are working to build an inclusive culture for all abilities. In recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pauline Chevalier shares her experience with her hearing disability- throughout childhood and in the professional world.
My name is Pauline and 33 years ago, I came into the world as a perfectly healthy little girl in the eyes of my parents. They just didn’t know yet that I would not discover the world like other children.
I lived the first couple years of my life differently but enjoyed life to the fullest: my parents had no idea about my disability.
When I was 2 and a half years old, I started school, and my mom realized that something was wrong. All alone at the back of a classroom, excluded, I felt like I was not interesting. I didn’t react like the other children.
Medical specialists in town all had the same diagnosis – behavioral issues. No one thought to check my ears! Sticking to their instincts, my parents took me to a specialized children’s hospital in Paris. The verdict was: “your daughter has purple eardrums from repeated ear infections, and she suffers from severe bilateral deafness.”
My eyes are my ears
At the age of 3, I was fitted with my first hearing aids, which I adapted to very quickly. What a joy to hear sounds! I had already learned to lip-read naturally, although my pronunciation of the words I already knew was not great.
I spent hours and hours in speech therapy, with my mother always by my side. She was very present and she had only one goal in mind: to help me speak properly.
As I quickly caught up with the hearing world, I continued with normal schooling. During this period, my parents made inquiries for me to go to the special school for deaf or hard of hearing where they teach sign language, but I was judged as “too normal” to be admitted, despite this severe disability.
My parents wanted me to love my life at school, even with my daily struggles. Overall, everything was going well except in middle school, where I suffered my share of bad jokes – which contributed to the thick skin I have today.
The professional world
After a bachelor’s degree, I joined the banking world. During my 11 years there, I gradually climbed the ladder, from reception manager to agency director. This was a real accomplishment after so much hard work while also starting a family, with the arrival of my 2 beautiful and healthy little girls.
But tired of fighting to get my employer to adapt my job to my disability, I resigned and decided to change my course of direction.
I bounced back quickly which is, after all, the story of my life: never giving up!
I enrolled in a new academic program and started looking for a job in which I could develop my ambitions while being hearing impaired. In a few months, I will graduate with a master’s degree in Quality, Safety and Environment: an area that was unknown to me until recently and with which I have truly fallen in love.
After a first experience in the aerospace industry, I joined Schneider Electric as a safety officer at the Evreux International Distribution Center. I was warmly welcomed from the moment I arrived. The people I work with embrace and appreciate differences and like atypical profiles. Quickly, my position was very well adapted for my disability: subtitle application on phone for calls, transparent masks, and written transcriptions of meetings with a human platform and a tablet. This latest adaptation also helped me during my school weeks.
Communicate about disability
Three years ago, I decided to share my story, my fears, and my victories on an Instagram page: @my_life_my_ears
At first, I was only looking for comfort, but today the page hosts real exchanges, and I find that everyone can relate to the strength it takes to always go further and believe in our ambitions in life.
My disability is progressive: I recently lost a lot of my ability to hear in one of my ears. Still, I’m not the type of person to complain. I prefer to fight with character because I don’t have a choice while keeping a smile on my face as much as possible.
I can’t let myself stay focused on failure, I need to bounce back. I don’t let my disability dictate my life choices, instead I do what I want to do. You have to know how to change your life, even if it means taking risks, and this is true, even if you don’t have a disability.
In the future, I would like to raise awareness around disability and promote adaptative measures, at work or in school.
I want to conclude this testimony by stressing the importance of a central value, when it comes to disability: respect. The more we communicate on this, the more solidarity we will have. I assure you: a world with tolerance is a better and richer world!
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About the Author
Pauline was born 34 years ago in France with a disability: hard-of-hearing. After 11 years in the banking sector, she decided to move to another activity: the quality, safety, and environment sector. In 2020, she joined Schneider Electric after her first experience in the aerospace industry. She works for the SERE (Safety Environment and Real Estate) department in Evreux International Distribution Center in order to obtain a master’s degree in “company administration and Management with quality, safety and environment option” from ESCCI Evreux. She chose to work in Schneider Electric for its values around innovation, inclusion, and diversity. Pauline is also a mum of 2 little girls and loves to enjoy life!
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