Schneider Electric tackles stigma faced by people with disabilities

Schneider Electric tackles stigma faced by people with disabilities

 December 02, 2021

To mark International Day of People with Disabilities, Schneider Electric invited Safety Environment Officer, Pauline Chevalier, to share her experience of having a hearing disability throughout childhood and in the professional world. 

Schneider Electric promotes and respects the rights of people with disabilities by raising awareness and tackling the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with disabilities. The company prides itself on fostering equal treatment and opportunities for people with disabilities and is working to build an inclusive culture for all abilities.

Pauline is a mother of two from France, who was born with bilateral deafness. After 11 years in the banking sector, she decided to change her career path into the quality, safety, and environment sector.

Pauline joined Schneider Electric in 2020 after her first experience in the aerospace industry. Alongside her studies for a master's degree in Company Administration and Management with a Quality, Safety and Environment option, Pauline now works for the SERE (Safety Environment and Real Estate) department in Evreux International Distribution Center. She chose to work in Schneider Electric for its values around innovation, inclusion, and diversity

Growing up with a disability 

Pauline's disability was unknown until she was two and a half years old, with the problem being picked up when she started school and didn't react like other children. 

Medical specialists in town all  had the same diagnosis – behavioral issues. "No one thought to check my ears!" says Pauline. "Sticking to their instincts, my parents took me to a specialized children’s hospital in Paris. The verdict was: 'your daughter has purple eardrums from repeated ear infections, and she suffers from severe bilateral deafness.'"

At the age of three, Pauline was fitted with her first hearing aids, which she adapted to very quickly. "What a joy to hear sounds! I had already learned to lip-read naturally, although my pronunciation of the words I already knew was not great," she adds. 

"I spent hours and hours in speech therapy, with my mother always by my side. She was very present and she had only one goal in mind: to help me speak properly."

As Pauline quickly developed her hearing with the help of experts, she continued with normal schooling. During this period, her parents made inquiries for her to go to the special school for deaf or hard of hearing where they teach sign language, but she was judged as “too normal” to be admitted, despite this severe disability. 

Her parents wanted her to love her life at school, despite her daily struggles. "Overall, everything was going well except in middle school, where I suffered my share of bad jokes – which contributed to the thick skin I have today," Pauline explains.

Changing her career path

After obtaining a bachelor's degree, Pauline joined the banking world. During her 11 years in the industry, she gradually climbed the ladder from Reception Manager to Agency Director. She says, "This was a real accomplishment after so much hard work while also starting a family, with the arrival of my two beautiful and healthy little girls."

Tired of fighting to get her employer to adapt her job to her disability, Pauline resigned and decided to change her career path.

"I bounced back quickly which is, after all, the story of my life: never giving up!" she says.

Developing her ambitions

Schneider Electric

Pauline enrolled in a new academic program and started looking for a job in which she could evolve her ambitions while also being hearing impaired. This led her to study a master’s degree in Quality, Safety and Environment, an area that was previously unknown to her but that she has since fallen in love with. 

After an initial experience in the aerospace industry, Pauline joined Schneider Electric as a Safety Officer at the Evreux International Distribution Center. She was warmly welcomed from the moment she arrived.

"The people I work with embrace and appreciate differences and like atypical profiles. Quickly, my position was very well adapted for my disability: subtitle application on phone for calls, transparent masks, and written transcriptions of meetings with a human platform and a tablet. This latest adaptation also helped me during my school weeks," Pauline explains.

Opening up conversation about disability

Pauline decided to share her story, fears, and victories on Instagram page: @my_life_my_ears 

"At first, I was only looking for comfort, but today the page hosts real exchanges, and I find that everyone can relate to the strength it takes to always go further and believe in our ambitions in life," she says.

Pauline's disability is progressive: she recently lost a lot of ability to hear in one of her ears. "Still, I’m not the type of person to complain. I prefer to fight with character because I don’t have a choice while keeping a smile on my face as much as possible."

"I can’t let myself stay focused on failure, I need to bounce back. I don’t let my disability dictate my life choices, instead I do what I want to do. You have to know how to change your life, even if it means taking risks, and this is true, even if you don’t have a disability," she adds.

In the future, Pauline would like to raise awareness around disability and promote adaptive measures, at work or in school. 

Pauline concludes by stressing the importance of a central value when it comes to disability: respect. She says, "The more we communicate on this, the more solidarity we will have. I assure you: a world with tolerance is a better and richer world!"

Work for a company that embraces difference

Schneider Electric understands that diversity leads to innovation and business success, and works hard to ensure all employees can thrive in their roles.

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