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Blind Somali Interpreter Connects Somalis to Services

10/22/2018 4:00:00 PM

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When Mohamed Dirshe isn’t working as a Somali/English language interpreter for California-based Language Line Solutions, he can often be found doing research. “There are some medical and legal terms I don’t know, so I look them up,” he said. “I want to be more familiar with all of these things so that I can be accurate and better help people. I don’t mind doing this on my own time, because I am proud of the work I do.”

Mohamed, who lost his vision in the Somali civil war, was 17 when he came to the US with his family. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Utah. After moving back to Minnesota, Dirshe worked with State Services for the Blind which assisted with access to technology and resources to reach his goal of landing a good job.

“Mohamed is smart, motivated, and willing to work hard,” said employment counselor Mark Groves. “Our goal was to help him find that one employer who could recognize what Mohamed brings to his work. Language Line Solutions, which has other employees who are blind, is one of a growing number of companies that have realized that there’s a competitive advantage in a tight labor market to reaching out to people with disabilities – people who have the skills but who may have been overlooked in the past. I think Mohamed is proving to be a great addition to their team.”

Dirshe uses screen reading software so he can hear what is on his monitor and access all the functions of his computer. “Sometimes there might be a change in the software, and I won’t be able to access something. I call the help desk, and because they understand about accessibility, they are able to make the fix for me.”

On any given day, Dirshe provides translation services for school districts, doctors’ offices, community organizations, or government agencies. “I can be a bridge for people,” Dirshe said. “When I can help a parent talk with their child’s teacher, or an older person talk to their doctor, I can hear the happiness in their voice.”

“My job gives me pride,” Dirshe reflects. “I am so happy to be able to contribute, to pay taxes, to support myself and give to my family, and to encourage other Somalis who are blind.”

In addition to building his knowledge of specialized English terminology, Dirshe runs a global support group on WhatsApp for Somalis who are blind. “We share resources, ideas, and information and help each other with practical things, like keyboard shortcuts or how to use an iPhone. But I also share my story, because I want other Somalis who are blind like me to know what is possible for them.”

Dirshe also serves on the Olmstead Community Engagement Work Group for the Governor’s Subcabinet on the Olmstead Plan, connecting Minnesotans with disabilities with resources for living, learning, working, and enjoying life in Minnesota.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, celebrating the many contributions of workers with disabilities. Many programs at DEED, like State Services for the Blind, connect people with disabilities looking for great jobs to Minnesota employers building a great workforce.

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