Response to SMH/The Age Deaf Employment Article

The article posted in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age about Julia Gilchrist, a hard of hearing jobseeker, and her experiences finding and maintaining stable employment, uncovers an unfortunate reality for many jobseekers with disability. Ms Gilchrist’s experiences are far too common for deaf and hard of hearing jobseekers. Some businesses can be reluctant to invest in employees with disability even with the support of Disability Employment Services (DES) and funding available to help provide supports. In today’s world, technology assists most deaf and hard of hearing people to communicate more effectively in the workplace. As in Ms Gilchrist’s case, establishing the right supports is often very simple. It involves taking the time to communicate properly with a deaf employee, including writing your messages or stopping to talk, and facing the person. Other supports, such as Auslan interpreting or captioning for meetings, a captioned or amplified phone, or other assistive devices can be purchased with the Employee Assistance Fund. Being aware of available supports can be invaluable for both employer and employee.

Benita Milner, Work and Learning Advisor at Deaf Children Australia’s Employment Service Sign For Work, says: “Our clients continually face barriers when looking for work and it’s our role to advocate for them every step of the way. The perfect fit is out there for every client, but I feel like it comes down to employers and businesses being open minded and aware that deaf and hard of hearing individuals are just as valuable as employees as anyone else in the community.”

DCA and Sign for Work are working to improve long term employment outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing people with the exciting new Youth WAVE program. The Youth WAVE (Work and Vocational Experience) program is tailor made to suit the individual needs of deaf and hard of hearing students who face barriers when undertaking work experience or want to have the same access as mainstream students when completing their school based work experience programs. This program was set up as a pilot SLES (School Leaver Employment Support) program that is part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Even before SLES rolls out in June 2018, Sign For Work can provide assistance to students in schools, providing workshops and information sessions on topics such as resume building. Support is provided during the work experience placements, with communication support workers joining students on their placements to remove communication barriers.

Sign for Work Youth WAVE Coordinator Anna-Louise MacAllister explained, “Being able to provide accessible work experience creates similar opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing students. In the past, these students would often spend the work experience time at school while others are out on placements, as work experience is not often accessible to people with a disability. They miss out on the simple work etiquette and ethics training other students receive and we hope to change that. We also assist students to navigate their pathways to their ‘dream job’ as deaf and hard of hearing people can pursue many different careers – the only difference is that they can’t hear!”

As well as WAVE, we also support deaf and hard of hearing students to become more independent by providing travel training or independent skills training.”

View the Sydney Morning Herald article here.

If you are looking for work, please get in touch with Sign for Work Employment. Sign for Work has offices in Brisbane (Stafford) and Melbourne (St Kilda Road and Collingwood). Sign For Work supports jobseekers, including young people, school leavers, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or have another disability, in finding and retaining work and work experience.
Please SMS 0449 956 269, email info@signforwork.org.au or voice call 03 9539 5309 to get in touch with our Sign for Work team and discuss your needs. If you are in Queensland, please contact the Brisbane office through SMS 0481 006 587, email brisbane@signforwork.org.au or voice call 07 3607 0071. To learn more about Sign for Work, visit www.signforwork.org.au

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