Skills Inc. is an aerospace manufacturing company with facilities in Auburn and Ballard that serves persons with disabilities including physical, medical, learning, mental health and sensory disabilities. Approximately 60 percent of the employees at Skills Inc. have a disability and work in a fully integrated environment.
Skills Inc. is a social enterprise and derives the bulk of its operating budget through selling products and services. It competes in the open marketplace and has been a supplier to Boeing and others within the aerospace supplier community for more than 45 years.
The deaf employees working at Skills Inc. utilize assistive technology called Video Relay Services (VRS) to communicate with fully hearing employees. Each employee has a video cam set up on their computer monitor. The deaf employee uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. An interpreter sees the signs via the video cam and translates for the fully hearing employee. Likewise, when the fully hearing employee talks, the interpreter signs the translation for the deaf employee. Two remotely stationed deaf employees can also communicate to one another utilizing VRS. This use of VRS helps to ensure that all deaf employees are included in all workplace activities and can contribute to their full capability. Video Relay Services is a free service funded by the federal government and can be accessed through a number of vendors.
Skills Inc. also employs ASL interpreters for meetings and other events where VRS is not practical. It also provides ASL training for fully hearing employees who want to learn how to communicate with their deaf co-workers. The deaf employees appreciate and value the fully hearing workers who take the time to learn and understand the deaf culture. The fully hearing workers take pride in learning another language and providing additional support for their co-workers.