Gü Dopran, has been deaf since the age of three. Her personal experience working in companies and feeling excluded drove her to found Curated Abilities - an organisation that supports Deaf and Disabled people into employment; demonstrating and sharing their experiences and successes to help promote and “normalise” the Deaf and Disabled workforce. "We are a nation of 'disability confident' employers adhering to legislation that dictates an inclusive and non-discriminatory recruitment and selection process, but there are still a disproportionate number of deaf and disabled people out of work and more organisations than are willing to admit that they are afraid of what it means to employ a deaf or disabled person," explains Dopran.
I want to put a stop to organisations ‘doing what they have to’ and support them to embrace and reap the benefits of doing what’s right.
Gü Dopran, Founder, Curated Abilities
One way for companies to do what's right, Dopran says, is to be "proactive and not reactive. Companies should be considering how inclusive their work practices and premises are now, not waiting until they employ a deaf person to think about it. We don’t want to be a problem that you have to solve, we want to feel welcomed, and this is achieved by being ready." One way companies can support the deaf community is to do just that - support them. "There are many members of the deaf community who are scared to enter employment, due to the preconceived barriers and the lack of understanding in the workplace," says Dopran.
A proactive measure companies can implement lies in flexible working. Specifically, sharing. Job sharing or role sharing is when two people share the salary, responsibilities, and benefits of a job. Dopran says sharing "is another way for Deaf people to focus on their abilities and not disabilities. Those sharing the role can complement each other. There are many members of the deaf community who are scared to enter employment, due to the preconceived barriers and the lack of understanding in the workplace. By role sharing, the individual will be able to take a steppingstone into employment, knowing that they have a partner working alongside them."
Roleshare - the platform matching professionals together to co-apply for roles, are thrilled to work with Curated Abilities to support the Deaf and Disabled workforce seeking to share roles. "This will hopefully encourage individuals to apply for work and subsequently progress to full time roles or more senior positions having gained the much-needed confidence and support. This exposure to the workplace and colleagues will help to harbour understanding and ultimately aid our mission to get more deaf and disabled people into employment," explains Dopran.
Roleshare is an excellent service for the deaf community and a much needed alternative route into work for a group of individuals who are misunderstood and therefore often reluctant to enter employment.
Roleshare interviewed Dopran to understand in greater detail the story behind Curated Abilities and what she aims to achieve.
What problems are professionals in the Deaf community experiencing?
I’ve been hearing stories of discrimination in the Deaf community for as long as I can remember and have also experienced this myself. I have a Television Production degree and began working in the media industry in 2009. I quickly began to learn first-hand of the barriers and discrimination Deaf and Disabled people can experience in the workplace. It was as if they didn’t know what to do with me!
My voice wasn’t heard, and my talents were overlooked. I didn’t have the confidence or support to know what to do.
I ended up leaving and working in a Deaf school. Don’t get me wrong, the work I did in the school was important and rewarding, but it shouldn’t have been the only environment that made me feel understood and accepted. I wish I had someone who realised what I could offer and supported me to speak up and be noticed when I first started out in my career. It should be a fundamental human right for everyone to have access to clear communication. This is why I strive to work in a world that is fully inclusive, and not just one that becomes inclusive by ticking boxes or making changes when required. I have developed Curated Abilities to give people the opportunity to make the most of what they have, support them to achieve their ambitions, and give them a voice to continue making a difference.
It’s hard for anyone starting out on their professional journey, but it’s even harder if you feel everyone else is getting a head start.
What is your mission at Curated Abilities?
To support Deaf and Disabled into employment, but this is so much more than putting people in jobs. This begins with coaching Deaf and Disabled people to access employment and continues by supporting organisations to fully embrace this workforce, free of judgement and fear. Our support doesn’t stop at the point of employment. Individuals will become part of our alumni, able to receive ongoing support and an opportunity to become part of a community that creates and sustains change, empowering all to achieve. I want to not only show individuals that their career aspirations are achievable, and any perceived barriers are surmountable with the right support, but I will also lead organisations to dispel feelings of fear or uncertainty and fully embrace a dynamic workforce that benefits both the individual, their organisation, and the community we live in.
What should companies be thinking about when hiring talent from the Deaf community?
Being knowledgeable and prepared will make Deaf applicants feel much better about the possibility of joining the company. We have a wealth of talent but many of us are also nervous about joining a new company and if we feel like the company isn’t ready for us, we will most likely walk away from the opportunity, taking our skills and expertise with us.
How can companies create inclusive environments for professionals in the Deaf community?
Knowledge is power! Understand us and how we work — we will feel included and you will reap the benefits of a diverse workforce. Did you know that a deaf employee will have a budget provided by the government in order to help them successfully carry out their role? We may have additional needs, but it’s not scary and it certainly doesn’t make us difficult or time consuming. We have the resources available to us to make sure we can be a valued member of the organisation and the more individuals and companies that understand this, the better.
What have you learned about being a professional in the Deaf community that might surprise others?
The fact that we don’t experience things the way most people do isn’t always a negative and it may surprise people to hear that there are positives to being deaf. Many of my strengths I believe come from my deafness. I am really good at visualising situations, I am an excellent listener, and my reactive skills are quicker than most people. Due to the obvious lack of background noise and distractions many hearing people face, deaf people can focus better and concentrate more. I think one of the biggest challenges for me it that Deafness is an invisible disability. I’ve learnt not to be afraid to talk about it and let people be aware and I think by doing that it makes you more confident and at ease. It is not something all of us are easy talking about but the more we talk about it the more people will understand and will appreciate the different abilities and the different gifts that deaf people can bring to the workplace.
Imagine trying to work in an office where all your colleagues spoke another language — you would be exhausted by the end of the day trying to translate and keep up!
For some, working full time in an environment full of hearing colleagues is difficult and tiring.