In 2008, Li Ching, a talented youth with hearing disability, leapt to her tragic death following futile attempts in landing a job. In 2016, a hard-of-hearing individual was sent to a mental hospital for no reason other than miscommunication. The “normal” public often views deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals as persons with hearing loss or disabilities rather than recognising them as a linguistic minority. Stereotypes such as “deaf-mute” and “hearing-handicapped” does nothing but aggravates discrimination. This lack of understanding undermines the importance of sign language. Individuals with hearing difficulties or disabilities are instead expected to read lips, which is ineffective and leads to even more misunderstanding. As long as equal opportunities in education and employment are denied, they can never truly integrate into our society.
The team endeavours to promote deaf awareness in the business sector by nurturing an appreciation of deaf culture: these are capable individuals who communicate with a visual language. With a “reflection through doing” strategy, the team is developing an experiential learning programme, in which participants experience communication barriers faced by deaf individuals on a daily basis. Awareness is aroused by engaging with deaf signers on the spot — that frustrations created by conventional speech can be resolved through interactions in sign language and body gestures. Ultimately, this could mean better accommodations for deaf or hard-of-hearing customers and colleagues in the workplace for an inclusive society.
The tailored corporate training programme consists of a package with deaf tours, interactive workshops and informative seminars.
Awareness of deaf as a visual-oriented individual is achieved through the experiential learning programme at the corporate level, preparing the public sector to provide reasonable accommodation when they encounter deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Better understanding leads to empathy, which, in the long run, spur policy and structural changes favouring inclusion in the business sector. The tested-out training model will be passed onto project partner SLCO-CR to set up a new line of business based on the experience.
– 500 staff of companies and social enterprises
– 5 deaf trainees at SLCO-CR
– 4000 general public
Gladys is an accomplished researcher-cum-advocate for sign language, publishing widely on sign linguistics, sign language acquisition and deaf education. For years she fought fiercely for equal educational opportunities for the deaf with sign bilingualism, winning her the 2013 Hong Kong Humanity Award. She later founded SLCO Community Resources Limited to develop training programmes and services. Gladys obtained her PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh.