Deaf workers in a hearing world
A Regular helping of news of interest to the deaf community, compiled by the See Hear team.
“Deaf people get information in far smaller chunks and it can be a problem for them to get promotions,” says Moty Allshever, a sign language user from London who has established a company which helps fellow deaf people with personal development in the workplace.
By this, he means that in an office or business environment, deaf people can’t always be part of conversations or overhear useful information that hearing people accept as the normal way of working. Without access to all the ways people communicate at work, you can be left behind.
He set his company up because he has seen deaf people “really struggling” in employment. He says: “They had the skills to do the job but hearing people are able to absorb so much more information within the first few years than deaf people.”
He also established Deaf Build Expo last year which enabled deaf tradesmen and women to meet and talk to each other outside of the usual hearing world to “remove the communication divide”.
One of Allshever’s clients is Scorpio Builders. Its owners are deaf, 80% of its workers are deaf, as is the architect and website designer they use.
The Expo also connected customers who use BSL with workers who use it, to help deaf customers get what they want from a builder more easily, and vice versa.
On a recent See Hear special about deaf people in business, Scorpio employee James Kendall says that if he worked with hearing people, every job would take three times as long.
“Working with deaf people is straight forward,” he says. “Someone may sign ‘screw that in there’ and it’s clear.” The sign is quick and simple, two fingers doing a screwing-in motion.
Even with innovations in technology and interpreters funded by the government, he prefers to work with other deaf people because communicating with them is easier.
“With a hearing person,” says Kendall, “instructions can be quite long before I understand them.”
Deaf people are also four times less likely to be employed than the rest of the population.
Factory work, building work, and other jobs which don’t involve many conversations, have traditionally been very popular with deaf people as you’re on the same level as fellow employees.
Thomas Salomone, co-owner of Scorpio, says it’s difficult for deaf professionals to get work on building sites nowadays. He believes some hearing bosses are worried deaf people can’t take the health-and-safety tutorials on the computer, which are mandatory for all construction workers.
Deaf people need help to do the video test and Salomone says “sometimes the request for an interpreter is refused” because it costs money.
As a successful business person, he says he feels a responsibility to young deaf construction workers and tries to employ as many as possible to get them past the initial training stage and help them develop.
He hopes that supporting them early on in their careers will give some of his employees the confidence to work with hearing people in the future, “if they want to”.