NCPD provides training to Deaf students in the Information Systems and Information Technology Departments

The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities in South Africa provides training to Deaf students in the Information Systems and Information Technology Departments
by Petri du Toit-Rubaba and Talisa Lalthapersad

On 24 June 2024, the Information Systems Department’s Deaf Centre in collaboration with the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) hosted an online workshop to empower this year’s Information Technology Deaf graduates.

Deaf Centre (Mr Gabriel Hoffman, NCPD office manager & DUT student, Mr Violin Pillay)
Deaf Centre: (Ms Talisa Lalthapersad, IS department junior SASL lecturer and workshop convener & Mr Gabriel Hoffman, NCPD office manager)

“I am often reminded that the Deaf community lacks access to information, especially when it comes to knowledge relating to the open labour market, job application processes, and access to systems and procedures within the place of work”, Ms Talisa Lalthapersad, the Department’s junior South African Sign Language lecturer, reports. “Employers in the open labour market are often oblivious to the cultural differences between Deaf and hearing employees, which often results in avoidable predicaments experienced by both hearing and Deaf individuals. It was therefore pertinent to honour our existing Memorandum of Understanding and to contact the NCPD for assistance.” Ms Lalthapersad explains.

“The NCPD has played an integral role in shaping South Africa into a country where persons with disabilities have access to equal opportunities and rights. For eight and a half decades the NCPD has been running awareness programmes, influenced government policies, promoted physical and social access, and facilitated economic participation for and with persons with disabilities.” Mr Gabriel Hoffman, the NCPD’s national office manager, a Deaf person himself, humbly shared his work career experiences and explained how he could climb the corporate ladder from being an administrative clerk to running a national office. “Never go to a job interview unprepared,” Mr Hoffman explained, “always familiarise yourself with the business operations where you apply. During an interview, you must advertise your specific skillset. Prove to your employer that you are a potential asset to the business.”

The world of work can be a very isolating and lonely place for a Deaf employee. They are often negatively confronted by their inability to access information fairly and equitably. Mr Hoffman drew the Deaf students’ attention to the importance of having confidence in the workplace, “Don’t let your Deafness define you,” he explained, “let the quality of your work speak for itself.” Mr Hoffman touched on various themes specific to the needs of Deaf people in the workplace that encompassed, interview processes, work ethics, the importance of understanding line function, and aspects of reasonable accommodation as promulgated by the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Mr Hoffman explained that as much as the onus lies on the employer in creating an equitable workplace, the onus equally lies with the Deaf employee. “As Deaf people, we are responsible for eradicating misconceptions that might exist. We must teach the open labour market that employing a Deaf person does not necessitate the full-time employment of a South African Sign Language interpreter,” Mr Hoffman explained, “Interpreters are only required during meetings and when important high-level information is shared.”

Whether a Deaf job seeker should or should not disclose his/her Deafness in a resume, Mr Hoffman explained that the government is obliged to employ persons with disabilities. “Non-disclosure may result in your resume being overlooked,” he advised. For that very reason, the Deaf employee must build a good working relationship with his/her direct line manager and the Human Resources department. When it comes to joining a labour union and taking part in demonstrative action, Mr Hoffman warns that it lies on the shoulders of the Deaf employee to request equal access to information during union meetings and be sure that demonstrative action is endorsed. “There are many instances where Deaf people have lost their jobs because they were not in the loop of the legal consequences stemming from participation in illegal strike action.”

Before closing the workshop, Mr Hoffman shared a very important message with the students: “The workplace requires one to have a good attitude and good mental health. I encourage everyone to always strive towards having a balance between your professional life and personal life.” He also shared his details with the students should they require professional assistance in their future careers.

“We are fortunate at the Deaf Centre to meet a Deaf role model who shared his own experiences in South African Sign Language”, a student commented.

The Information Systems Department and Deaf Centre thank the NCPD for their continuous support around reasonable accommodation and specifically mainstreaming Deaf people in South Africa. We look forward to continuing our memorandum of understanding to the benefit of our Deaf students.

A video of the proceedings is available and can be accessed through our social media platforms. You can also visit the Information Systems Department’s website at www.deafcentre.co.za for more information.

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