Deaf, Unemployed Father Spends His Free Time Volunteering


It is hard enough being over the age of 50 and trying to find a job these days, but Warren Miller of Indianapolis, Indiana, is facing a unique dilemma: he is 51 years old, unemployed and profoundly deaf.

"I am a graphic designer by trade, and I lost my job in June 2009," Miller wrote to HuffPost. "The state of the economy is not my only issue in finding a job... no one wants to hire someone perceived as old and disabled."

Miller said for the first two months after being laid off from his job as art director for Wood-Mizer, a local sawmill manufacturer, he started applying for local graphic design jobs the old-fashioned way. Having no luck there, he broadened his search to try to find any kind of job, in any field, throughout Kentucky and the entire Midwest. Finally, when he felt like he had exhausted all his options and still hadn't landed a single interview, he decided he might as well start painting and volunteering his time.

"Painting is my therapy. I have been bottling up issues related to my deafness for years," Miller wrote. "In the art community I have found encouraging people who appreciate my artwork and are including me in activities. I have attended some deaf festivals. I try to encourage fellow disabled artists to participate in Indiana ArtsWork and serve as a spokesman for those disabled artists during monthly meetings and other events."

Miller said he also volunteers in his eight-year-old daughter's classroom.

"I volunteer 2-3 times a month at my daughter's third-grade class," Miller wrote. "Last year, I even read stories in ASL (American Sign Language) to her second-grade class."

Miller said this period of extended unemployment has reminded him of what's most important in his life.

"All my creative energy should not be for my employer or my clients," he wrote. "I love getting my daughter on and off the school bus. I love my cat that sits near me as I paint. I love meeting my wife for a lunch date."

Fortunately, Miller is currently receiving unemployment benefits, and his wife was able to hang onto her full-time job to help support the family of three. But Miller said he continues to search for any kind of job he can find -- as long as it allows him to keep painting.

"I recently applied for temp job with a weekend schedule. If I get it, I can keep the week open for my volunteer work, freelance opportunities, networking and painting," he wrote. "This world -- especially during this recession -- is not for the humble and meek."

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