When Cole Johnson, a financial analyst at U.S. Bank, was six months old, he was bitten by a bug and contracted spinal meningitis. Because of this illness, Cole was left with paralysis and deafness. Although the paralysis eventually went away, he never regained the ability to hear.
Throughout his childhood, Cole went to several specialized schools for children with hearing loss and then went to college in Washington, D.C. These schools helped him develop the skills to live in a world he couldn’t hear.
“I went through a lot during my time in college,” said Cole. “We had people from all different backgrounds, which really helped me prepare for my time at U.S. Bank.”
One day when he was in his dorm, the fire alarm sounded. Because Cole couldn’t hear what was happening, he wasn’t aware the alarm was going off. This experience left a lasting impression on him. He started researching service animals and eventually connected with Can Do Canines, a non-profit organization that helps match people who are deaf with hearing assistance dogs. After the application process, which took several months, Cole was matched with a yellow lab named Paisley.
They’ve been together for almost a year now and do everything together. From waking up in the morning until bedtime, Paisley is almost always by Cole’s side, protecting him from all the dangers that hearing loss can pose in today’s fast-paced society. When there are loud noises – such as sirens and alarms – Paisley will alert Cole by nudging her nose gently at his legs.
“At night, Paisley sleeps next to me. In the morning, she sits next to me on the bus during our commute. After work, we go on a walk together. She’s always there,” said Cole.
Paisley also accompanies Cole when he comes to work at his job at U.S. Bank Plaza in downtown Minneapolis. Throughout the workday, Paisley relaxes on her dog bed next to Cole’s desk, always ready to alert Cole if danger arises. She's also ready to make the day a little bit better for Cole’s colleagues who walk past his desk.
With the help of Paisley, Cole lives a typical life and has an excelling career at U.S. Bank, which he joined as a summer intern and has worked his way up to where he is today.
When asked what he would suggest to other employees, Cole responded simply, “Don’t be afraid of asking for what you need. If you need it, you deserve it. For me, it’s having sign interpreters. Whatever your situation may be, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.”
Story by Spencer Leuning of U.S. Bank. It was originally published in July 2016. The bank was recently recognized as a 2018 Best Place to Work for People With Disabilities by Disability:IN, and a 2018 Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability.