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Thinking Outside The Box To Get More Deaf New Zealanders Into Work

A willingness to think differently, finding new ways to upskill Deaf people, and supporting businesses is a key priority for the employment team at Deaf Aotearoa.

For many businesses, hiring a Deaf employee often presents their very first interaction with a Deaf person and it can bring a lot of uncertainty around how to effectively manage communication and safety.

For many Deaf people, entering the workforce provides an additional set of challenges without some innovative support measures.

Supporting over 100 people nationwide, Deaf Aotearoa’s specialised employment team of dedicated facilitators are tasked with making their service accessible, not only for Deaf people to engage with, but also to support employers and their businesses when bringing a Deaf person into their workforce.

Underpinning it all is a strong desire from Deaf Aotearoa to deliver a fantastic, accessible and wide-ranging service to that goes beyond traditional employment support with a strong emphasis on ‘thinking outside the barriers’ at every step of the process.

Funded through Ministry of Social Development (MSD), it is New Zealand’s only Deaf-specific employment service and is a regular referral for traditional disability employment providers.

Identifying the Deaf individuals’ situation is a core part of the early stages. For some Deaf people, upskilling to be ‘work ready’ is required while others will already have jobs but are seeking additional support to be effective in their place of work, or to take their career to another level.

Working with both potential and current employers of a Deaf person is another core part Deaf Aotearoa’s strategy in a bid to mitigate fears over health and safety at work.

Kat, a facilitator with the employment team at Deaf Aotearoa, says the biggest challenge is often working with employers to get them to understand the support that is available when having a Deaf person as part of the workforce.

“A lot of employers tend to see the barriers when considering employing a Deaf person so when that happens we try to reassure them by explaining about different funding options that are available for in-work supports such as interpreters and equipment to keep the Deaf person safe while at work”, Kat said.

Deaf Awareness workshops are available to all employers and business wanting to get a more in depth understanding of how to support Deaf employees, understand Deaf culture and learn NZSL.

Feedback from Deaf employees has been positive. Jess, another facilitator, received positive feedback from a Deaf employee who expressed thanks to Deaf Aotearoa for supporting her and her employers during a recent restructuring process.

“Deaf Aotearoa were fantastic in supporting me with understanding restructuring process and translating all that information in NZSL, it feels less stressful now”.



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