Marnie Wilson walks through the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee with keen eyes and an easy stride.
She’s looking for misplaced boxes and equipment. When she spots equipment that isn’t where it’s supposed to be, she smiles, shakes her head and shuffles it back to its designated position on the cement floor. Wilson also makes sure orders are fulfilled quickly and on time by managing errors and hold-ups by using computers that roll around the floor on wheels.
That’s what she does from Wednesday through Saturday, for 10 hours each day, and from the way her eyes spoke, she loves it. Wilson’s a problem-solver, and not just when errors pop up on a fulfillment center computer. She has to find a way to communicate with employees without speaking.
Wilson is deaf.
She’s a process assistant who has worked at Amazon for four years. When employees have a problem, they sometimes forget she can’t hear, so they’ll yell from across the warehouse to flag her down.
“It’s funny when that happens,” she signed. “Because they forget I’m deaf.”
Wilson said she has created an environment at Amazon that makes communication easy. She’s taught her coworkers the basic signs. “Problem,” “please and thank you” and “I need help,” are some of the signs most of her coworkers use regularly when communicating with Wilson. When more complicated conversations need to occur, she uses an app that video calls an online interpreter to translate her signs.
Wilson, who used to work as a mentor for hearing parents with deaf children, couldn’t name a single time when communication was an issue that discouraged her from doing her job well. In fact, she shrugged at the question, as if it had never really crossed her mind.
“I don’t let any barriers prevent me from communicating,” she signed. “If there’s a big conflict I get an interpreter. In meetings I get an interpreter. Not anyone in my department knows signs, so I teach them.”
On her three off days each week, Wilson spends time with her three children and husband — all of whom can hear — and volunteers at a deaf club in St. Paul. She said her family moved to Shakopee from Glencoe seven years ago because the schools offered better interpreters for when she needed to communicate with her children’s teachers. She likes taking her dog on long walks, swimming and visiting her mother and brother. Sometimes after work, Wilson and her coworkers grab burgers at the Muddy Cow.
And she’s working with Amazon to try to bring a deaf school into the curriculum it offers employees.
Donna Beadle, an Amazon spokesperson, said the facility can’t offer statistics on how many deaf employees they have, but said there are other employees who can’t hear or who are hard of hearing, and that Amazon accommodates for them by offering translators through an app.
“Really blessed,” Wilson said. “I feel really blessed to be here.”