Deaf candidates face multiple challenges in job markets: Interview with AVP – Centum Foundation

Job markets are very dynamic. There are limited employment opportunities for People with Disabilities (PwDs). For equal job opportunities for the deaf in the future, Centum Foundation of Centum Learning is working seriously. Here, Skilloutlook team interacted with (via email) Dr. Alim S. Chandani, AVP – Centum Foundation, Centum Learning on various aspects of employment opportunities of deaf candidates and required skills for the interpreters for the deaf.

What is the need of skilling the interpreters for the deaf?

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Interpreters act as communication facilitators and a bridge between deaf and hearing individuals. Interpreters are required in educational institutions, work places, training centers, NGOs, hospitals, courts, railway stations and airports, hotels, malls, govt. departments, embassies and numerous other information-transaction centers or services.

With the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 recently being adopted by the Government of India, there will be a massive need of skilled interpreters at offices (both Government and Private), work places like hotels, corporations; assisting accessibility, inclusion and realization of rights (fair employment and equal participation) of the deaf and hard of hearing people.

Also, sighting a global penchant towards ‘Inclusion’, the educational institutes would face a huge need of interpreters assisting deaf students in schools, colleges and universities. Another very sensitive area is legal interpreting which requires knowledge of legal terminology along with fluency in sign language and special standards of professionalism.

Centum GRO is collaborating with ISLIA and ASLIA – the only two national organizations working in India to provide Sign Language Interpreting/Translation services. We also are collaborating with the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) New Delhi which is the premier institution functioning under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. All these three bodies will have representatives at our three day interpreters retreat from Jan 4-7, 2018.

Do you think there is a scope of equal job opportunities for the deaf in the future?

The deaf and hard of hearing community in India are citizens of India entitled to the same fundamental rights as hearing individuals. There exist deaf role models around the world in almost every sector we can imagine starting from politics, education, arts, science, law, proving that deaf can do anything except ‘hear’.

As deaf people advocate accessibility at schools, colleges and workplaces, very soon we will see a positive shift towards more visibility in numerous sectors like corporate sector, start-ups, small and medium business, digital content design and management. The onus is also on the organisations to provide level-playing field and reasonable accommodation to include people with disabilities and reap the potential of their talent.

Can you share some key highlights from the recently published report on deaf people working in organizations?

A bilingual survey on the Experiences by Deaf Employees in India was conducted by Centum GRO, under Centum Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Centum Learning. The key objective was to gauge the level of job satisfaction, accessibility, equal employment, positive work environment and sensitization/awareness. The questions in the survey were written in English and had video translations made by the Centum GRO team in Indian Sign Language for complete accessibility (Indian Sign Language is the first language of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in India). The Survey was sent to a huge number of deaf participants throughout India working in various positions in the govt. and/or private sector. Some key highlights are as follows-

  • Getting jobs for deaf women is more challenging in India
  • A meagre percentage of the employed deaf people are working in domains like Accounting and IT, 7 % as graphic designers and very few are self-employed. The job market open for deaf people is still stereotypically in retail stores, housekeeping roles, waiters or at the maximum level, a Data Entry Operator
  • Only 56% of deaf people have access to a sign language interpreter during the interview and provided with accessible services during training programs
  • Deaf employees mostly feel that they are not given equitable promotion as compared to the hearing employees
  • Deaf employees do not like their work environment because of the feeling of being left out, getting strange looks from colleagues, rude behavior from colleagues, etc.
  • 6 % of the deaf employees did not experience any cultural sensitization workshop at their workplace
  • Not many deaf employees are satisfied with their salary
  • There is a huge need to provide deaf awareness training to hearing employees

In a nutshell, a lot is left to be desired and all steps towards deaf empowerment e.g. this retreat is being taken towards making the deaf successful at workplace.

Is the skilling camp for interpreters going to address any of the issues brought out in the report?

The lack of Sign Language Interpreters which was significantly felt during job interviews and inductions would be addressed.

The larger objective of streamlining the process of hiring and working with professional Sign Language Interpreters/Translators would be deliberated and discussed.

Lastly, need for advanced training on domain/subject matter knowledge and training on professionalization and ethics will be discussed in relation to providing quality Sign language interpreting/translation services.

How responsive is corporate India when you seek hiring opportunities from them for the deaf?

Corporate India is a mammoth market which has witnessed a positive shift towards hiring deaf individuals but the concept of providing level playing field, equal employment, complete accessibility and ‘reasonable accommodation’ at workplace are still not fully comprehended which directly impacts and arrests the potential of the deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

Brief about Centum Foundation. And, how is it helping the deaf to get jobs?

Centum Learning has a philanthropic arm called Centum Foundation which partners with various corporates to implement vocational skilling, livelihood creation, education and women empowerment programmes and has worked with over 25 corporates in this genre. Centum Foundation has also launched a dedicated vertical, called Centum GRO Initiative to empower the Deaf in India which assists this segment to skill and avail respectable jobs in different domains.

A person’s disability needs to be an attribute and not a liability…we are only working towards that.

Centum GRO Initiative has been empowering the deaf youth by offering two month training program on advanced job skills. The highlight of this programme is the Deaf-Empowerment module. Curated by deaf experts and focusing on developing self-awareness about their ‘deaf’ Identity this module has lectures and presentations on deaf history in India, deaf culture, audism, awareness of legal rights and policies for persons with disability in India among many more.

The unique components of this ‘for the deaf, by the deaf’ training are the teaching methodologies; group discussions, role plays, peer-feedbacks and interactive activities. Deaf role models from the service sector, financial sector and private sector are invited almost on weekly basis to have ‘talks’ and lectures on essential themes related to self-development, leadership, accountability etc.  Deaf students in this course actually participate and share their feedback on various topics. This approach allows them to come out of their shells, something which hasn’t happened much in the past.

The English Communication course sheds light on core concepts like basic grammar structure, reading skills, interview skills and professional communication skills; all through a bilingual (sign language and written English) approach and most importantly taught by deaf staff.

This effective approach needs to percolate pan-India to all the schools for the deaf.  The program also includes a multimedia module, imparting skills on Adobe suites like Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier and After-Effect, helping the students to develop a website portfolio, facilitating and increasing their understanding of how to use social media platforms and utilizing the web for their educational and professional networking and development.

We are trying to go all out to discover the challenges faced by PwDs in India in securing employment so that we can address them and develop comprehensive skill development ecosystem accordingly. In India many deaf individuals are reluctant to take up a job because of the unfavourable environment or even if they manage to bag a job, do not stick around for a considerable period of time. And, this is primarily because of the lack of inclusiveness and sensitivity in their work environment. We conducted the survey on the Experiences by Deaf Employees in India to capture the experiences and possible encounters with obstacles at their workplaces. This survey is the first step to create awareness about the situation and take cognizance of the fact that only providing employment to PwDs is not enough.

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