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  • Vanessa Vianca Lorica

Who Says They Can’t? The Deaf Can!

When people are willing to take a risk, to take a leap of faith, they can get more satisfying results.

People are generally doubtful of anything new. But when people are willing to take a risk, to take a leap of faith, they can get more satisfying results. It can happen with a lot of patience, perseverance, and hard work.

Abenson took that leap of faith. With the help of Project Inclusion, they employed ten Deaf persons who are in need of a stable job.

With patience, perseverance and hard work, everyone adjusted to the inclusion.

IT Manager Cielo Ruelan admitted that, upon learning that they would be working with Deaf persons, her initial reaction was fear. “Fear of being [unable] to communicate with them. So parang ang unang question is how will I explain kung ano ang magiging jobs nila, ano yung magiging responsibilities nila. Fear of how to communicate with them.” (“Fear of being [unable] to communicate with them. So the first question is: how will I explain their jobs, their responsibilities. Fear of how to communicate with them.”)

It was difficult at first, but eventually the Deaf persons and the Abenson employees learned how to work together. Everyone—Deaf and Hearing—went through the Project Inclusion process of training and coaching. Cielo was thankful to Unilab Foundation for guiding them through the process.

The Deaf employees taught their colleagues basic sign language. Cielo shared that at first she thought the other employees would not appreciate the lessons, but it actually strengthened their bonds. The lessons decreased the communication gap and helped in establishing new friendships among them.

PWDs struggle to find work

Joseph Angelo Magno, Lloyd Paolo Diocera, and Joanna Canuto are three of the Deaf persons who were hired by Abenson. They gladly shared their stories and experiences with us, with the help of interpreter Marde Palma.

All three of them have college degrees. Lloyd and Joanna graduated from De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde, and Joseph has a degree from Miriam College. With degrees from such well-known schools, one might think Lloyd, Joanna and Joseph would have an edge over others, but it was not enough for them to find work. Most employers still turned them down because they were Deaf.

Still, they persisted, never losing confidence and never giving up.

Joseph shared, “Ang problemang na-experience ko, three years ako’ng naghanap ng trabaho. Hanap ako nang hanap ng jobs. Sometimes tinatanggap ako, [sometimes] dini-discriminate ako, kasi Deaf ako.” (“I spent three years looking for work. I kept trying. Sometimes I would get hired, other time I get discriminated against, because I am Deaf.”) He sent resumes to about a hundred companies online.

Joanna and Lloyd also experienced discrimination because of their disability. But that did not keep them from pursuing a job.

Lloyd shared, “Nagso-sorry [sila] lagi sa akin. Maghanap na lang daw ako ng ibang trabaho. Yung ibang company naman di tinatanggap yung mga Deaf. Sabi sa ‘min ‘Hindi, wala’ng available sa ‘yo. Hanap ka na lang ng iba.’” (“They would always say sorry, and tell me to look for work elsewhere. Some companies won’t hire Deaf persons. They would say, ‘No, there’s nothing available for you. Look for something else.’”)

Like most people, they have goals in life. Joseph wants to appear in TV commercials. Lloyd wants a house, a car, and a family of his own. Joanna would like to travel. Before, these seemed like distant dreams. But now, because of their hard work and determination, these dreams might just turn into reality.

Joy in the workplace

Now that they have found work at Abenson, what Lloyd, Joanna and Joseph love most about their jobs is that they get to learn many new things.

“Love ko yung work ko ngayon, as in. Love na love ko yung work ko ngayon as encoder,” Joseph shared. “Yung mga Hearing, ang tingin sa amin pantay lang. At saka yung mga Hearing nakiki-mingle sa mga Deaf, kasi gusto din nila minsan matuto ng sign language para makapag-communicate sa mga tao na deaf.” (“I love my work now. I really love my job as an encoder. The Hearing treat us as equals. And they mingle with us Deaf, because they also want to learn sign language, to communicate with us.”)

Interpreter Marde said Joseph loves his job so much that he signed it (said it through sign language) with so much feeling.

Gusto ko dito magtrabaho, bakit? Kasi simple lang ang pakikipag communicate. Mga coaches nag ra-writing, so nai-inspire kami lagi sa mga kasamahan naming Hearing. Ang communication hindi mahirap,” Joanna shared. (“I like working here. Communication is simple. The coaches write, so we are always inspired by our colleagues. Communication is not difficult.”)

The Deaf employees are very satisfied with the warmth of their welcome at Abenson.

“Happy naman ako sa Abenson, kasi nabigyan kami ng opportunity na magtrabaho dito. At saka nakiki-mingle yung mga Hearing, para kaming isang pamilya,” Lloyd shared. (“I’m happy at Abenson, because we were given the opportunity to work here. The Hearing employees mingle with us, we are like a family.”)

A family in the workplace

Cielo said that hiring Deaf employees had a huge positive impact on their IT team. The Hearing employees became more sensitive about the people around them. Colleague Andrea Llena, Senior Supervisor at Abenson said, “Yung natutunan ko, personally, yung self-awareness, at saka yung respeto sa mga kagaya nila.” (“What I learned, personally, is self-awareness and respect for people like them.”)

Cielo shared, “Kasi as an organization, hindi namin inakala na we can hire people like them. So ‘pag tiningnan mo, parang bumait yung mga people, especially the IT team. Actually they treated them (the Deaf) as family.” (“As an organization, we didn’t think we could hire people like them. You will notice that the people became nicer, especially the IT team. Actually they treated them as family.”)

The IT team describes their Deaf employees as very thoughtful persons. Before the Deaf persons were hired, the team would just make simple greetings for colleagues celebrating their birthday. With Lloyd, Joanna and Joseph in the office, they now make an effort to do something nice for the celebrant.

Ako, natutuwa sa kanila. Kasi minsan, yung out of nowhere, parang natuwa lang sila sa ‘yo, bigyan ka ng maliliit na [bagay], kahit biskwit. Especially ‘pag may birthday. Dun nga kami natuto na magpa-birthday sa isa’t isa,” Cielo said happily. (“I am very fond of them. Sometimes, out of nowhere, it’s like they’re delighted with you, so they give you little things, like biscuits. Especially when someone is celebrating a birthday. That’s when we started celebrating each other’s birthdays.”)

They would sing Happy Birthday in sign language, and they would bring cake.

Mataas yung appreciation nila sa mga bagay, kahit maliliit yan,” said Andrea. (“They appreciate everything, especially little things.”)

Ron-gie Ramirez, IT assistant supervisor, shared that during Christmas parties, the Deaf employees gave everyone gifts, not just the persons they drew as their monito or monita.

Contributions in the workplace

The Deaf employees are not just kind-hearted people. They are also skilled employees who contribute to the workplace.

“Sumusunod naman. Marunong naman sila mag-follow ng mga instructions. Mabilis turuan, at saka dedicated naman sila sa trabaho nila, tsaka sa hinahawakan nilang project din,” said Niña Alfonso, also an IT assistant supervisor. (“They are obedient. They know how to follow instructions. They are easy to teach, and they are dedicated to their work and to their projects.”)

With different skills, there are also opportunities for them to work on different tasks.

“Noon graphics ang ginagawa ko. Ngayon hindi na, nag change ako. Encoding na, at saka iba-ibang task,” Lloyd shared. (“Encoding is my favorite job. I used to do graphics, but now I do encoding and other tasks as well.”)

The Deaf may have a different language, a different way of communicating. But looking past the disability, we’ll see they are no different from the rest society. They have aspirations, like everyone else; they strive to achieve their dreams like everybody else. And in their unique ways, they make a difference in the workplace - and in the lives of the people around them.

Vanessa Vianca Lorica is an intern from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She is a Journalism student with a passion for writing, a mildly tone-deaf music lover and a reader who also exists in the multiverse.

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