IM this article to a friend!

August 25, 2004

Praise is loud for deaf postal employee

From: Pioneer Press Online, IL - Aug 25, 2004

ELM LEAVES — Aug. 25, 2004


If it wasn't for the sign on the counter, the extreme pleasantness of clerk Kevin Smith is the only thing Elmwood Park resident Jerry Pola would have noticed during a recent transaction at the post office.

What the sign on the counter let Pola, and other customers, know is that Smith is deaf.

"It doesn't matter to me that he's deaf," said Pola, 27. "He's a very nice guy, and it's very hard to tell that he's deaf. I didn't realize until I saw the sign."

Smith, 40, has only been working at the Elmwood Park Post Office, 7300 W. Fullerton Ave., for a little over a month. But in that short time, he's impressed customers, co-workers and bosses.

"I really didn't know how it would be having someone working here who was deaf because I had never experienced that before," said Denise Lewis, who has been a clerk at the Elmwood Park postal station for the past four years.

Nice to be around

"I really like working with him. He's punctual, reliable and a good worker. Sometimes we have to tell him to take his break. He also always has a great attitude, and that's nice to be around."

Lewis seems to speak for other employees at the post office when she says she hopes Smith ends up as a longtime co-worker. Smith has been "on loan" at Elmwood Park, but has put in a bid to make that his regular place of employment.

"I've been very pleasantly surprised by Kevin," said Dave Domel, station manager at Elmwood Park. "I didn't know that he was deaf when he first came to work here, and I really did wonder what I'd be able to do with a deaf person."

Having Smith as an employee admittedly has been both an education and a pleasure for Domel.

"I've worked with two other deaf people before, but he's just amazed me," Domel said. "Kevin talks very clearly, much more so than I've experienced in the past working with deaf people."

As a manager, Domel is especially pleased with the effect the Berwyn resident has had on co-workers.

Positive influence

"He influences other people in a very positive way," Domel said. "He makes everyone he works with more positive. It's almost impossible to not feel that way when you're around him. I really hope we are able to keep him working here."

Smith was born deaf, just as were his parents and siblings. His wife, who works as a school teacher, also is deaf, but the couple has 4- and 5-year-old daughters, both of whom can hear.

Carrying a positive attitude around with him isn't a chore for Smith, who doesn't see any reason to not be that way.

"I'm usually happy, but if something happens at home that is a problem I don't bring it to work with me," Smith said. "I like to be friendly to make the customers laugh and smile. The customers are the number one priority for our business, and I enjoy my job because I enjoy the customers."

Smith has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for the past 18 years. As an employee, he taught signing classes for seven years until 2002, but is very content now working as a clerk in Elmwood Park.

"Most of the people are very nice," he said. "I have the sign because I like to let the customers know that I'm deaf so they are aware of what's going on."

Smith said he's able to handle about 95 percent of post office business. Being deaf has made his work difficult only on rare occasions, such as at a previous postal station at which passport applications were handled.

"The passports are very involved, so that was hard," he said. "Most things go pretty well, though. I just try to do my job and be friendly to everyone."

Chuck Fieldman can be reached at

Copyright© 2004, Digital Chicago Inc.