Four deaf partners find success in Union, N.J. Rental location
The Cintas Rental location in Union, N.J. is filled with employee-partners who make communication an inclusive and sometimes creative endeavor.
No one knows that more than its four deaf partners – Bobby S., John B., Encarnación P. and Millissa R. – have fostered community-building while excelling in their roles. From American Sign Language (ASL) and lip reading to writing down messages, the quartet has multiple avenues to feel heard and valued.
“I feel that people here are helpful,” Millissa said through an ASL interpreter who also serves as the location’s job coach. “Communication isn’t an issue. Whether you’re hearing or deaf, people are just here for you.”
Cintas is dedicated to diversity and inclusion and is committed to maintaining a culture where everyone can thrive and contribute to the company's success. This dedication and commitment are why the company observes International Week of Deaf People each September and National Disability Awareness Month every October.
John, a loader, has been a partner for 19 years; Millissa, a heat sealer, has been a partner for 10 years. Bobby, an unloader, and Encarnación, a hanger, have been with Cintas for six years. They credit their tenure with Cintas to feeling valued professionally because of a welcoming environment and partners’ willingness to go the extra mile to communicate.
Production Supervisor Todd Hatchett said Cintas prioritizes safety and training to ensure that every deaf partner has access to and an understanding of work-related information. Hatchett made a point to learn the American Sign Language alphabet and has expanded that skill set with help from hard-of-hearing partners.
Not only does his effort help bridge communication, but it fosters trust.
“Once partners can see that you're applying yourself, it shows them that you care. Then they open up to you a little more and show you that they care, and it develops the relationship,” Hatchett said.
Bobby said gestures are helpful in his position as an unloader. For example, partners make hand motions – like “c” for cotton – to ensure everyone is on the same page. With directives down pat, he has more opportunities to bond with his partners.
“We always are joking around a little bit and having fun. We continue to work, but I never feel isolated. It's always having a good discussion or communication and we'll joke together, discuss things,” Bobby said through a sign language interpreter.
Bobby started at Cintas as a hanger and became a folder before assuming his current role as an unloader. He would love to see an even bigger deaf community at Cintas due to the growth opportunities he has seen firsthand.
Encarnación hears well in one ear and wears a hearing aid but relies mainly on sign language and lip reading. A native of Spain, she’s especially proficient in lip reading Spanish, a helpful skill in a location where many partners speak the language.
“I'm able to understand them and have more friends and we're able to work well together,” Encarnación said.
Teamwork and socialization also suit Millissa’s personality. She said through a sign language interpreter that being deaf sometimes requires a little patience when engaging in a conversation. She has no hearing in one ear and little hearing in the other.
“But once you start working with someone, you start helping them understand what your name is and how to work with them,” Millissa said.
She especially enjoys the depth of Cintas’ culture, from celebrations for Halloween and Christmas to recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Partner bonding events augment her workplace satisfaction.
John’s knowledge and commitment to Cintas are evident in his nearly two decades with the company. Known for being strong and humble, he’s skilled at loading clothes on trucks – a practice he has practically perfected throughout his career.
General Manager Andrew Daniello said Cintas builds pride through diversity and inclusivity and Hatchett agreed, adding that the culture is strengthened by the removal of limits and the celebration of differences.
“We've stopped allowing language barriers and we find a way to communicate,” Hatchett said.
And communication, Encarnación said, is a big reason she enjoys her Cintas career.
“My favorite part of working here at Cintas is the teamwork,” Encarnación said. “I always feel good when I’m working with my team.”