Friday, 6 September 2019

About Jessica Kartawihardja

Jessica was born into an Indonesian family with severe hearing-loss and began wearing hearing aids when she was eight years old.

She is currently in her last semester majoring in Accounting and Business Law. Jessica initially took up biochemistry in her first year, but soon decided to go with Commerce and combine Accounting and Business Law to gain technical skills, interact and collaborate with more people and get a better understanding about the world of business.

Lived experience with a disability

I had undiagnosed hearing loss until I was in Year One. I later found out that this had delayed my communication development and made me a very introverted and shy person who takes a while to warm up to people. From a young age, I have been highly reliant on lip-reading. Being shy as a consequence of hearing loss, in conjunction with heavy reliance on lip-reading, makes it difficult for me to fully engage in daily conversations.

One of the things most hearing people don’t realise is that hearing aids only amplify sound volume but they do not enhance clarity. This can be particularly difficult when lip-reading becomes ineffective – such as when facial hair covers mouths or people mumble – and communication then becomes a tiresome challenge.

There are many instances where I have been driven to the point of exhaustion from trying to hear, lip-read and focus on even the most mundane activities all at the same time. Tutorial classes, lectures, social events with multiple conversations jumping back and forth, assessment centres and busy work environments have been common challenges I face every day.

For example, in tutorials, I am not only required to take notes and absorb information from my peers or tutors, but being hard of hearing also forces me to lip-read and fill out the missing bits of information that I do not hear from others based on the context alone and this ultimately distracts me from the usual process of learning.

In a nutshell, my hearing loss has often led to isolation because of feeling withdrawn from social situations where so much energy is required to keep up with a normal conversation and to successfully engage with people.

My UWA experience and WIL

I have been involved in Guild Volunteering and social tennis and find this is a great way to be part of the community and make new friends while challenging myself as a hard of hearing individual to step outside of my comfort zone. I am hoping to earn my blue belt in Jiu Jitsu, but at same time I vary my sporting activities between gym, tennis, swimming, cycling, running and rock-climbing in order to maintain an active lifestyle.

Outside of university, I work as a retail assistant at a farmer’s market and train at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club. I am also involved in mentoring and internship programs provided by the Australian Network of Disability (AND). These programs have helped me grow significantly in confidence by networking with people from different businesses and through practice interviews with my mentors.

I am currently working at a public tax practice firm called Goodall & Co as part of Work Integrated Learning (WIL). My role as a junior tax accountant intern is to collate, analyse and review various clients’ tax-related documents in order to help the accountants prepare their client’s tax returns.  From this opportunity, I am hoping to gain and refine my analytical skills, my attention to detail, and my teamwork and interpersonal skills, and to be able to put the theoretical knowledge acquired at university into practice and carry out actual ‘real-life’ work.  Furthermore, I am hoping that this exposure in a field relating to my studies will give me a clearer path in terms of the career I would want to pursue in the near future.

Activities such as these have challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and have helped me grow into a confident individual despite growing up very shy and reserved due to my hearing loss.

I believe the constant social interactions and learning experiences have allowed me to be more open and confident when interacting with larger groups of people. For example, I now find delivering presentation assessments and participating in tutorial discussions, both which are assessed on the basis of participation and engagement, something that I enjoy and am not afraid to partake in anymore.

UWA has given me the stimulus to grow as a person and has taught me what I need to know before I engage in events, volunteering and work-experience opportunities. I believe it is also by taking courage to engage in other opportunities outside of the University that has allowed me to continue to grow and define my career path.

Without the support and encouragement from the UWA student services UniAccess team, I would not have been exposed to such enriched opportunities.


Education Quarterly