Alumni Spotlights
MS Human Resources Management student
October 27, 2020 |

Deaf Graduate Pushes For Workplace Accessibility

Dorothea Tolliver earned her MS in Human Resources Management with the support of Disability Resources staff who worked tirelessly to provide the accommodations she needed to succeed. Now she wants to advocate for other deaf individuals by supporting them on-the-job.

By Jenny McKeel

Dorothea Tolliver came to GGU to pursue her passion: advocating for individuals like herself who are deaf. She believed that a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management would help her do just that.

“I wanted to earn a Master’s in Human Resources because I saw a lot of barriers preventing deaf and hard of hearing persons from working,” explained Dorothea. “As an individual who is deaf, I know the importance of an accessible workplace especially when it comes to communication. A lot of times deaf people will earn a degree and then learn that employers won’t hire them because they can’t answer the phone. So deaf people end up working for Amazon and Safeway instead of using their degree. I wanted to try and solve that problem.”

From Deaf Advocacy to MS Human Resources Management

Prior to coming to GGU, Dorothea coordinated services for the Lighthouse for the Blind’s work readiness training program in New Orleans. In her native San Francisco, she led the Career Steps Program at the Hearing and Speech Center for 6 years. In that role, she supported individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing with job preparation, job development, and job retention.

When Dorothea first reached out to GGU’s Office of Disability Resources and Accommodations, she was impressed with the support that she received compared to the support available to persons with disabilities at other private schools.

“The provision of interpreters for deaf students at a small private university like Golden Gate University requires planning, budgeting and education,” ​reflected Peter DeHaas, Director of Disability Resources & Academic Accommodations. As a result of the relationships developed with the Department of Rehabilitation, DeHaas was able to implement a sustainable plan to make sure that interpreters were provided to Dorothea. “I did a lot of training and coordination at GGU with faculty and staff before Dorothea’s start and everyone rose to the occasion to make her integration into our community a success.”

Disability Resources & Academic Accommodations

At GGU, Dorothea received the support services she needed and found professors and staff to be friendly, patient, and understanding. What made the difference for Dorothea was GGU instructors who patiently worked with Disability Resources to ensure they understood what she needed from learning materials—including closed captioning in videos and PowerPoints with printed text—before the term began.

“Professor Ernesto Lara, in particular, was inspirational,” recalled Dorothea. “He encouraged me to work with people with disabilities. Other professors gave me ideas about the work I could do.”

Reducing Workplace Barriers

Dorothea earned her Master’s in Human Resources Management in August 2020. Her dream is to one day found a large corporation for people with disabilities where their skills and talents are showcased alongside non-disabled coworkers. “I learned that companies like Apple are developing technologies that can support people with disabilities and I’m interested in working with those companies,” she said. She wants to continue to advocate for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing through supporting them and reducing the barriers that exist in the workplace and to serve as a bridge between the hearing and deaf world.

“As a result of Dorothea’s success, some of her constituents in the Bay Area have asked how we provided sign language interpreters and educated faculty and staff about supporting students who are deaf,” said Peter DeHaas. “Everyone in Bay Area wants to do what’s right. But 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, students like Dorothea who request accommodations can still experience push-back from private universities who don’t always understand how to implement or finance accommodations. I’m thrilled that GGU was able to provide the accommodations Dorothea needed to realize her potential.”






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