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Deaf Is.. Career Examples... Carpenter

carpenter Sean Kelly

My name is Sean Kelly. I'm a carpenter and work at the Mystic Seaport shipyard in Mystic, Connecticut.

In May of 1999, I was laid off from my job making fiberglass boats. I saw there was an opening at the Seaport shipyard and applied. I never had experience with building big boats, but applied for the job and was accepted. It has been great working here!

I went to school at the American School for the Deaf. I did have carpentry classes at ASD, learning different woodworking skills. I didn't go to college but had training for three months and then started to work.

What I do

At Mystic Seaport, I work on different projects. I’m skilled with frames and planks. Frame beams are also called "ribs" and they give the boat its shape. Planks are the wood on the hull. When these get old, it's my job to help replace them. I replaced the planks on the steamboat Sabino. I even worked on building the Freedom Schooner Amistad! That project was started in 1998. When I started work in 1999, much was finished, but I got to work on the deck and build the hatch.

I really enjoy working on boats. All are different and all have their own special challenges. I like using my brain to figure out how to make the boat level, how to fix and improve what is broken, and how to make a good strong boat.


My co-workers and I have a good rapport. They are skilled boat builders, and know I’m very skilled too. No one really knows how to use sign language, but we communicate by writing and using lip reading. When we need to be clear about how to build a boat, we use the blueprints to show each other what we mean. I can show them my opinion, they can show me their opinion, and then we decide on a plan.

I’ve never used an interpreter on my job… there hasn’t been the need. I’m used to working with people who don’t understand sign language. Sometimes I don’t know what’s going on, so I will ask. Being deaf, it takes me a while to figure it out and understand. I use my good judgment communicating with people. We all get along very well.


In the future, I’m interested in working on underwater projects. I think it would be a cool challenge! Someone has to go underwater with a winch and chains to secure the boat and make it ready to lift out of the water for repairs. The boat needs to be safe and stable, not to rock or tip. I think I can do that! I’m ready for the challenge. We’ll see what the future brings.

I think it's best to see what you want to do, then try your best. Experience different things and find what is comfortable for you.. You might be nervous, but try anyway. People will see your effort and help you do your best.