Not everyone has the courage to challenge the status quo.
Alexandria Beaton does.
She didn’t accept it when she was told that her hearing impairment meant she could never become a marine engineer.
Alexandria put her dream on hold and enrolled in NSCC’s Marine Navigation program, even though her heart was in marine engineering. A Transport Canada regulation prohibiting anyone with a hearing aid from working in a ship’s engine room prevented her from entering the engineering program.
With an instructor’s help, the woman with 30 per cent hearing showed Transport Canada that she was as capable as anyone else; alleviating fears the noises and alarms of the engine room would pass by unnoticed, especially in an emergency.
Using a hearing aid, her sense of vibration and lip-reading, Alexandria successfully demonstrated that her condition did not impact her work or employee safety.
She passed the marine medical and Ottawa allowed her to enter NSCC’s Marine Engineering program at the Nautical Institute in Port Hawkesbury. Now 29, she says her diminished hearing has actually sharpened her other senses.
Alexandria realizes her successful appeal of the regulation could pave the way for future marine engineers. She still remembers the good-news phone call from Transport Canada.
“I could feel butterflies in my heart and I still do, every time I tell the story,” says the newly-hired Marine Atlantic employee. “It was actually one of the happiest days of my life.”
Alexandria says she couldn’t have done it without her NSCC instructor, Clint Muise.
He took her into an engine-room simulator and aboard a local tug to run some exercises and trigger alarms – testing her with her hearing aid and without. He also submitted all documentation and a videotape on her behalf.
Clint calls Alexandria a “model student” who impressed the Transport Canada official after meeting him for just 15 to 20 minutes.
“He came back up to me and he said, ‘Clint, I can see why you want to help this young woman. I can see her passion; I can see that this is where she wants to be.’”
“It’s not an easy road,” Clint adds. “Marine engineering is a very male-oriented industry that can provide an extra challenge for young women."
That makes Alexandria’s accomplishment even sweeter.