Cases of discrimination and mistreatment remain the biggest challenge for skilled persons within the Deaf community seeking employment.
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has provided multiple initiatives that were implemented to provide skills training to persons with disabilities over the years.
However, the Founder of the Deaf Association of Guyana, Sabine McIntosh, lamented that while many Deaf persons now possess the skills to be an active part of the workforce, they are often mistreated.
“Places for the boys, who employed the boys and gave them training through BIT, they treated them very badly. They said yes they would keep them, just for pittance. So now they have that skill but they weren’t able to apply it, they’re not applying it now, because they weren’t involved in the working environment.”
She added that some women and girls in the Deaf community were trained in sewing, and showed much promise and skill in this field; “It was kind of heart breaking because we weren’t able to find a market for their sewing.”
McIntosh is now advocating for in-service training programmes as opposed to skills training since the wealth of skills possessed by persons within the Deaf community are heavily underutilised.
She also suggested arrangements such as student work attachments should be accessible to younger Deaf persons as a form of career guidance for them to efficiently transition into the workforce.
A ray of hope are some businesses such as Sterling Products Ltd, General Equipment Guyana Ltd and the Guyana Marriott Hotel that actively employ Deaf persons in the workforce just as they would any person without a disability. She urges other businesses to follow this example.
McIntosh says employers are not willing to accommodate persons who are Deaf, even when they are more than capable of doing the job, except for very low-income entry-level positions such as porters or bag packers.
“The sad thing now is that Deaf students’ expectations are very very low. If you ask ‘What you want to be?’ All they know is what they see other Deaf persons doing. They would say ‘oh I want to be a packer’- you know, the person who packs the groceries. And that is not because they can’t do better. It’s just because of what they see around them.”
The Office of the First Lady turned sod in August for a first-of-its-kind State-of-art Business Centre for persons with disabilities will be built in Palmyra Village, East Berbice/Corentyne.
This Centre will focus on training in product manufacturing and retailing.