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The History of Kodak: 200+ Deaf Employees

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Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! I have worked with Kodak for 24 years. About 24 years. 26 years. 27 years. 28 years. For 22 years. 20 years. There were approx 200 Deaf working in Kodak. I am here in Rochester, New York. When I joined Kodak in 1981, there were many, many Deaf people there! I was a mechanical artist for printing. Assembly machines, very big. I worked for the Government but in the Kodak building. I was a lab technician. When I first joined work, hearing people were doubtful whether I could work because I am Deaf. Someone asked me, “You are Deaf working in Kodak?” I said, “So what! I can work in Kodak.” At that time, there were no interpreters but I tried to communicate through writing. Later, hearing people became aware of Deaf people. I was frustrated that I had to show during the breaks, funny jokes making them laugh and eventually socialize. Firstly, I had quit another job because I was pissed off with that company. The company’s name was Southern Carlson. I was told that there was a need for 3 skilled engineers. I wanted to join so I raised my hand. Many people raised their hands and their names were noted down. A person started interviewing everyone. 

When he came to me I told him I can not hear. He asked, “Are you deaf?” He did not want to hire me. When I joined Kodak, then I was quickly promoted through the ranks. My boss praised my job. This is equality for Deaf and Hearing. No Deaf is below the level. There were promotions, becoming like a coordinator of some job. I was very lucky because my boss’ grandmother was Deaf and he encouraged my promotions. I wondered how I would be promoted? He said yes, you just have to ask. I said, “for the raise.” He said “Oh yeah!”. I was not aware. He said, “You are amazing.” Whenever any problem came to me, it was nothing and I solved them. He said, “You solved them?” I said, “Yes, follow common sense.” Few hearing people luckily could sign and fingerspell. 

They communicated through writing. After ADA was established, I started with the interpreter from that day onwards. Kodak always provided me with an interpreter and I never faced any problems. When there were no interpreters, my good friend communicated through writing & lip reading but mostly an interpreter was always there. The company was very very aware of what to do for Deaf persons. There were interpreters, helpers and we never felt discriminated against. I was promoted and had a great job on my resume. It was wonderful! A pay hike as well! Kodak is a wonderful place, with a great Deaf Community that signed with each other. 

When I went there, there were about 20-25 Deaf workers and I was signing with them. My supervisor called me and handed me a warning letter. When I asked for the reason, I was told that I must not sign and make noise with the Deaf during lunchtime. It was illegal. I responded, “It is my 1-hour. My own time!” It was strange! I walked away! My boss saw and caught my expressions. He called me and asked, “What’s the problem?” I was nervous. After I explained, he was furious and asked who was the supervisor? He asked me to go with him. I was finished. My boss then scolded him which scared him. He told the supervisor that he must sit with Deaf individuals during lunchtime.

Now times have completely changed! There is new technology because of which my work has reduced. 

Reduction. Digital cameras have become more popular. Kodak has now become digital. They don’t need a big manufacturing unit. Wonderful creation but it had hurt us all. I was sad that my group was the first one to be downsized. Since Kodak does not provide accessibility anymore, Deaf workers have reduced. When Kodak shut down I was disappointed. I wished that the Kodak company would continue forever. My boss called me for a discussion. He said, “Know what, I will give you a good deal.” and because of it, I was doubtful but then I decided to retire. With my full 100% pension which was beautiful, I left and I was very happy. When I was working in Kodak there were 64,000 employees but now I guess that there are around 3,000 or 2,000 employees, and reducing. I miss my Kodak company for the good memories. I miss colleagues, friends. I love you all! I still miss Kodak! It was a pleasure to be there. Many many thanks to Kodak. It was wonderful. I will never forget it.

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Calvin Young

Calvin Young

Hey buddy! I go by Calvin and I'm a Deaf traveler. I love exploring the world to discover and share amazing stories, useful tips, stunning photographs, jaw-dropping videos and many more with you all! I aim to empower and inspire the Deaf people that they can do anything they want through my travels.

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