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Business innovation through qualifying and (re-)employing of deaf people

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Deaf people can boost their job opportunities with better training

An EU-funded project looks to export its successful job training for deaf people across Europe, improving work prospects and social inclusion of Europe’s one million deaf people.


Integrating deaf people into the job market is a key challenge; more than 50 % of the one million deaf people in Europe are unemployed, and those who are employed are often in low-skilled and low-paid jobs. Today, the education on offer for people with acute hearing difficulties in Europe is sparse, and heavily focused on school and apprenticeships, rather than long-term employment. Austrian company equalizent has created a business model offering job-related education and employment for deaf people. With EU funding, it is hoping to export its concept across Europe, boosting training for people with hearing difficulties, helping them to find jobs and contributing to the EU’s commitment to integrate deaf people as part of its European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. ‘There is not enough education available for the deaf, and the education that exists is often of limited use. This generates social inequalities, social exclusion and poverty for people with hearing difficulties,’ says Monika Haider, equalizent and SIGNS FOR EUROPE Project Manager. Equalizent has developed specialised training for deaf people using sign language and professional training targeting students from the age of 16 through to adults. More than 70% of people who have attended the courses available in Austria have found a long-term job. The project SIGNS FOR EUROPE now aims to replicate this successful business model currently running in Austria all over Europe via a franchise network. To do this, project researchers have carried out a detailed market analysis for all 28 EU countries and Israel. ‘A franchise network could provide 65 000 deaf Europeans with training every year and allow at least 45 000 of them to obtain a long-term job, with some of them accessing higher salaries in the tertiary sector,’ says Haider. Tailored training packages Today, most trainers of deaf people can hear normally and do not have any involvement in the world of deaf people. They have little or no skills in sign language and poor understanding of how deaf people absorb and process information, explains Haider. With equalizent, most trainers are deaf themselves and are fluent in sign language. Moreover, many deaf people do not live close to big cities with access to appropriate education – a situation which can be addressed with equalizent’s online webinar education system. The project has also developed a set of best practices for managing a training school for deaf people, including how to deal with the often-complicated relationship between deaf and hearing staff. SIGNS FOR EUROPE has already identified potential franchise opportunities in Germany. As a next step, and with further funding, the project hopes to put a German franchise in place, find more partners across Europe, develop ‘train the trainer’ seminars and become an inspiration to deaf people by showing them that it is possible to develop a professional career.


SIGNS FOR EUROPE, deafness, equalizent, sign language, jobs

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