The Life of a Deaf Arborist – Q&A with Glendale’s Sam Ledgard

1 year ago

In honour of UK Disability Month 2022, which ends on the 16th of December, we thought we’d put the spotlight on one of Glendale’s valued arboriculture team members, who deals with a disability on a daily basis.

Many disabilities aren’t visible or aren’t immediately obvious. This rings true for Sam Ledgard, one of our hard-working arborists, who’s suffered from hearing loss his entire life. Sam is an amazing climber and a great teacher and role model for our arboriculture trainees. His team use sign language to communicate with him at height, however, he is an excellent lip reader and signer, and with the use of his hearing aids can understand words.

Here at Glendale, we believe in giving everyone a chance – many people believe that because arboriculture, tree surgery, and grounds maintenance are such physical jobs, people with disabilities won’t be able to enter the industry. However, disabled arborists like Sam have pushed the boundaries of what other people think is possible and exceeded expectations with every challenge faced. Just because someone has a disability, doesn’t mean they should be overlooked in the hiring process or be faced with stigma when entering the work culture either from bosses, other employees, or even customers/clients.

We asked Sam what initially got him into arboriculture, and he had this to say:

“I’ve always been interested in arboriculture and this was influenced by a farm industry background, so I have the knowledge about trees and the use of a chainsaw before I started arboriculture”

Arboriculture is an extremely rewarding industry with many benefits for people who work within it, but we wanted to know what Sam liked best about working within this sector:

“I enjoy working outdoors rather than being stuck indoors. I get to work in many different places, and I like meeting people. The variety of work keeps me interested especially following the seasons.”

Whilst it is rewarding, no industry is perfect, and we wanted to know how Sam felt about the industry as a whole and if there was anything we could do to support him. We asked if he felt welcome in the industry:

“No. I feel let down by the tree industry. There is a saying that the more skills you have, the more valuable you are. With over 20 years of experience, I have seen the wage gap between groundsmen and climbers shrinking. So, it is getting to the point where climbers are better off working as groundsmen as the pay gap is not much different. There are many ‘Health and Safety’ issues which can be time-consuming and tiring.”

Sam faces a lot of challenges in his daily life due to his hearing impairment, we asked if he thought it hinders his career within arboriculture:

“Yes. I was born profoundly deaf. My main communication is lip reading and sign language. Having a hearing disability can be a hindrance as listening is important to gain knowledge and experience, especially with toolbox meetings. I find it easier to talk one to one, instead of talking to a group of people which is tiring from concentrating on lip reading and listening at the same time.”

Finally, we care a lot about our employees, they’re what makes Glendale one of the UK’s leading arboriculture companies, so we asked Sam what we could do to help him progress:

“To gain more skills – for example, get a full-time truck license and drive a grab lorry. Loler testing.”

We’ll be looking into helping Sam with the above. We’re extremely lucky to have him as part of the Glendale team, he’s a great leader and works hard at everything he does.

At Glendale, we base our recruitment process on skill if they’re already a qualified arborist or a willingness to learn if they’re applying to a trainee position; whatever your age, gender, religion, or whether you have a disability, this does not factor into our decision. Not only that, but we also do our best to make sure the work culture in our company is welcoming when employees do enter their new roles. We’ve got a range of support services and encourage our employees to talk to their team leader or supervisor if they’re having any issues. We also have 6 trained mental health first aiders within our team, because we understand the potential of struggling mentally within this industry. Men between 40-49yrs are at the greatest risk of experiencing a mental health crisis – demographics enormously represented in our sector.

If you’d like a career within Glendale, take a look at our tree surgeon jobs page or browse our latest vacancies today. We’re always eager to take on new people who will improve our company as a whole.

A massive thank you to Sam for answering our questions, we hope this has helped give an insight into the challenges of arborists working with a disability.

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