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Despite Hearing Impairment, Austin is Involved

by on November 6, 2017
Curtis Austin, a hearing impaired employee, is a member of three Employee Resource Groups in Tulsa.

This article focuses on an AEP employee who is a member of several Employee Resource Groups (ERG). He and other individuals set an example for others from their involvement to help build awareness, respect and inclusiveness in the workplace. Through this and similar articles, we’d like to allow employees to get to know each other better, and to encourage awareness of diversity, inclusion and ERGs. 

Curtis Austin, Business Solutions associate, Tulsa Customer Solutions Center, has worked at AEP/PSO for eight years. He has been a member of ADAPT ERG for two years, Pride Partnership ERG for four years, and Asian American ERG for two years.

Q: What motivated you to become a member of an ERG? 

A: I am a hearing impaired employee who loves and enjoys life and the multi-cultures we all share.  I love how culturally minded our company is and my initial desire was to promote diversity and inclusion within the company. When ADAPT was created, I realized there are others out there like me within the company and that we all struggle daily with adapting in our work environment; making do with the equipment that is available for us and working though each situation we find ourselves in.

Whether it is in our office, on the phone, in a meeting or in the break room, it is always a struggle for hearing impaired employees to sufficiently adapt, hear and understand what is being said. On occasion, we don’t always have the right equipment to adapt in our environment or the equipment isn’t maintained properly. Hearing aids are an expensive necessity that allow some hearing impaired employees to better adapt.

All my life I have always had to pay for these costly aids out of pocket. On occasion, some state or federal assistance was available to help cover the cost.  Unfortunately, hearing aids are not covered under our insurance like medical devices. So to answer the original question, I joined ADAPT with the hopes of helping facilitate changes to our insurance benefits so that any employee with a disability might possibly get some form of insurance that covers their medically required equipment including hearing aid insurance for employees and/or their spouses and children.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your ERG involvement? 

A: I love how involved all the ERGs are with each other and help share their experiences, cultures and ideas with each other.  I love how involved we can be with the ERG, helping promote acceptance for all cultures, and what we can do to assist employees to be more comfortable while working at AEP.

Q: What was an unexpected event or outcome for you that has resulted from your ERG involvement?

A: I was pleased to hear that ADAPT had formed which allowed me the opportunity to provide input from a deaf/hard of hearing perspective and see if I could provide insights to help other employees who may be struggling with their hearing impairment or that of a family member.

Q: How do you feel your ERG involvement has helped you grow, either personally or in your career development?

A: I have met a number of employees that are hearing impaired or have a family member who is hearing impaired and have created a new circle of acquaintances throughout the company. Additionally, I’m one of the co-chairs of the Pride ERG in Oklahoma and I love being involved with both groups and very much appreciate the work of all our allies/members in all the ERGs. I am looking for ways to be more involved with the ADAPT ERG and still maintain my involvement level with Pride as well.

Q: Can you share any accomplishments related to your ERG involvement that are particularly meaningful to you?

A: In 2015 AEP/PSO entered the Tulsa Pride Parade for the first time in the company’s history and in 2017, we had the largest Pride Parade entry in the Tulsa parade’s history with the new AMI Consumer Education Semi-Trailer and a PSO wrapped van. If we can get hearing insurance for AEP employees, this would by far be my biggest ERG accomplishment as well as a huge deal for me personally!

Q: In your own words, how does your ERG involvement help support AEP’s business strategy?

A: We have an endless variety of walks of life and cultures within AEP; in my 8+ years of working here, I have personally noticed an improvement in how employees treat each other and a renewed respect for the employees and customers. In essence, I’m improving the company from the inside out.

From → News From AEP

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