As soon as rookie agent Fallon Lawson got her real estate license, she turned to eXp Realty.
“I heard about eXp through Facebook and I loved the thought of my job being portable,” said Lawson, who is also a certified personal trainer and lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. “I can take my laptop everywhere or work from home with my children close by.” She joined eXp in 2021.
Veteran agent Jerald Cohen, from Lake Worth, Florida, is a former social worker and educator. He joined eXp in 2018 after his real estate colleagues from the small office he was working in urged him to join their leap to eXp.
“eXp is a progressive company with a strong digital platform,” Cohen said. “eXp has a diverse base of real estate professionals who are very easy to communicate with.”
Aside from Lawson and Cohen both building their businesses in Florida, they have something else in common. Both are profoundly and culturally Deaf. Lawson became Deaf at the age of nine months and Cohen and his twin brother were born Deaf. Both use American Sign Language to communicate, with English being their second language.
“I speak English and read lips fairly well,” Cohen remarked. “Reading lips becomes a little bit more difficult when people have accents that are hard to understand.”
eXp’s Cloud-based Model Ideal for Agents With Accessibility Needs
Deaf people in the workplace is a topic many of us don’t often experience; it leads to a communications barrier that is all too familiar to Deaf and hard of hearing professionals.
In a world of innovative technology, Deaf and hard of hearing professionals are finding communication gaps easier to navigate with the right tools. eXp innovates with its cloud-based model and virtual world, and embraces a culture of diversity, inclusion and equity, making it easier on agents with accessibility needs.
“One thing that surprised me the most about eXp is that my mentor was so open when helping me find ways to communicate with other agents,” Lawson said.
With the help of her mentor, Robert Kazazian, Lawson started an ASL Workplace Group to help Deaf and hard of hearing agents connect and collaborate on accessibility information, helpful tips and referrals.
Deaf professionals can often feel isolated when those around them do not know how to communicate with them. Lawson and Cohen focus on serving Deaf and hard of hearing clients first, and real estate is a business they can leverage when working with homeowners/buyers who use the same language. They are more apt to score those clients. Knowing two or more languages definitely has advantages.
Assistive Technology and Other Tools Even the Playing Field
Assistive technology and language accessibility have come a long way, and there are also other tools that can help Deaf and hard of hearing agents and clients.
“I like to use Workplace to communicate with other agents,” Lawson explained. “Interacting on Workplace is a way to get and give referrals and discover more information that can help me grow in my career as a real estate agent.”
Deaf agents can share their screen in eXp World for meetings with other agents, utilizing a sign language interpreter via video call. Also, agents can give an interpreter guest access into eXp World for larger meetings, and the agent and interpreter can be on Video Relay Service (VRS or Relay) at the same time while the interpreter also speaks as an avatar or better yet, the interpreter can share his or her webcam on a presentation screen in eXp World.
“Relay calls, texting and email are the best ways I’ve found to communicate,” Cohen remarked. “The drawback is that many hearing people don’t know how to use VRS, which is something I use for all my calls. I can see the interpreter on my screen and the folks who speak to me on the phone hear the interpreter say what I am signing.
“When meeting face to face with a hearing person, I use a smartphone app that listens and generates captions,” Cohen continued. “The program is not always 100% reliable, making some of the translations funny. For example, the spoken word ‘mortgages’ comes out as ‘more cages.’”
Zoom has made great strides with language accessibility, too, with tools like multi-pin, multi-spotlight, rearranging video in gallery view, closed captions and other accessibility settings. Even virtual reality is making its way into Deaf communications, and FaceTime and cool new services like Connect Direct are also great tools.
More and more eXp University classes are streamed with closed captions on YouTube, and eXp’s Friday Agent Leadership Meeting is streamed in Workplace using closed captions.
Lawson Puts Family First
Lawson encourages other Deaf people to always beat the obstacles, never give up on goals and never be afraid to ask for help. “My career advice for Deaf people who want to enter the real estate game is to go for it. There are many Deaf people who need help and you can help them.”
Lawson became a Realtor in early 2021, and so far has made some rental transactions. She is keen on continuing to learn the business under the tutelage of her mentor and she hopes to begin focusing on first-time buyers, rentals and single-family homes.
Lawson grew up with strong women she admires deeply. Her grandmother raised five children on her own in Queens, New York, and her mother, who overcame so many obstacles as the mother of a Deaf child. The bond Lawson had with her mother and grandmother inspired her, and that is one reason why family always comes first. Lawson has two children and a husband, loves seafood and hopes to one day visit Aruba with her husband. She can’t live without her phone. Her advice to agents is, “Always answer and return calls. These are people who need help in finding/selling a home.”
Cohen Advocates for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Clients
Cohen produces up to $2 million in sales volume each year. He focuses his business on the Deaf, hard of hearing buyers/sellers and their families and friends. He is married to “the perfect spouse,” and admires those who persevere and never give up on a chance to succeed.
Cohen loves dessert, and his favorite meal would be the sweet table at a wedding. He is thankful for the support eXp and the agents around him offer. Cohen values kindness, and if he had to guess what his epitaph would say, his guess would be, “The nicest guy.”
“If a Realtor has a Deaf or hard of hearing client, they should ask for their preferred mode of communication — sign language interpreter, texting, writing notes, etc. The same applies for clients who speak other languages, too,” Cohen continued. “I have attempted to get the communications section of NAR (National Association of Realtors) and state code of ethics expanded to ensure all clients and partners have equal access to information.”
Cohen’s advice to agents is, “Always do a review of every discussion you have with other agents regardless if they are Deaf, hearing, or speak another language. It is always best to review all forms of communication and give each other the opportunity to clarify or expand on information.
eXp Is Committed to Diversity and Accessibility for All
Organizational leaders contend that a diverse and inclusive team is essential to any workplace. Bringing different perspectives to the table leads to more creativity, innovation and enhanced problem solving among teams.
eXp’s commitment to embrace diversity and create more access to information and opportunities allows all agents to learn and grow their business by making the workplace more equitable.
Interested in jump-starting your real estate career? Learn how eXp Realty puts agents first.