At Qunu Staffing, part of our core focus is on integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. We do this by partnering with various disability organisations, as we believe that including relevant voices in doing our work, we follow the principle of “nothing about us, without us”.

One of our partners is an organisation called eDeaf, whose main drive is in the employment and empowerment of deaf people. Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing two exceptional employees of eDeaf, Simphiwe Mkhize and Atiya Asmal, whom focus on the employment and empowerment of people with hearing impairments.

eDeaf is a deaf led organisation that thrives in empowering the deaf community up to a level in which they are equal. This is achieved through offering several training courses and learnership programs. Atiya, further stated, “what makes eDeaf successful is the ability to always make decisions through the eyes of the Deaf individuals”. This is achieved by diminishing the misconceptions of deaf people and emphasising their abilities instead. Atiya and Simphiwe are extremely motivational in that despite being hearing impaired they have a long line of successful achievements including both currently completing their master’s degrees at Wits University. In South Africa, the deaf community is one of the most marginalized groups. Simphiwe and Atiya, further elaborated that the deaf community has one of the lowest employment rates because they cannot communicate freely. They are often seen as not intelligent, incapable and not fit to be employed. eDeaf therefore seeks to change these perceptions through the work they do on placing People with Disabilities in the workplace.

Deaf individual’s encounter several challenges. According to Atiya, a recent challenge she had faced was working for an organisation that had a fire alarm drill system. But those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing cannot depend on the sound of the regular alarm to alert them to a fire. During the fire drill, Atiya, was left alone in the building as the whole building evacuated besides her. Simphiwe also shared challenges she has faced which include the lack of public services that help with the deaf community such as taxis, emergency services and so on. Another challenge Simphiwe revealed was her difficulty in communicating with her previous manager. Simphiwe disclosed that many seniors assume that interpreters are expensive. An interpreter is a person who interprets and translates speech orally or into sign language. She counterargued that interpreters were not expensive and were not needed 24/7. Communication for the deaf community can be done through various means of technology such as email, SMS, and WhatsApp to name a few thus minimising the issue of communication with deaf people in the workplace.

Despite challenges faced, eDeaf’s work in placing deaf people include; Learnerships and training courses that integrate people with disabilities into the workplace, soft skills programs such as time management and budgeting, as well as various IT programs. eDeaf incorporates the deaf youth community from all over South Africa to empower and employ them across South Africa. Their training facilities are based in Johannesburg, Centurion, Durban and Cape Town. These facilities offer the ideal learning environments for Deaf individuals on a national scale.

In addition to the various skills development initiatives eDeaf has provided employment for many deaf individuals in large organisations. Edcon offers employment for deaf people as packers/ merchandisers, Woolworths as cashiers, Cliff Dekker and Spoor Fischer as administrators, and TV Licence SABC as Data capturers. In addition, Checkers, Shoprite, Spar and Mr Price have all employed deaf individuals as general retailers. For example, eDeaf has motivated the ability of a deaf person in the surveillance/security industry. A deaf person’s visual ability is generally heightened in comparison to an abled person as they cannot be distracted by noise as a hearing person would which enables a deaf person to spot something suspicious in surveillance much more easily.

As our core focus in Qunu Staffing is integrating people with disabilities into the workplace we desire that the deaf community grows with a sense of being accepted. By visiting eDeaf and acknowledging the ability of people with hearing impairments its fair to say that they continue working on changing South Africa’s conventional outlook of the deaf community by removing any stigma that might be attached. We believe in the importance of partnership with eDeaf to foster work with the Deaf Community around South Africa.

L.Zibi, K.Ojageer

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