Media playback is unsupported on your device
Jack Griffiths is one of about 84,000 deaf people in the Welsh workforce. But the 25-year-old builder from Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, suffered numerous knock-backs before landing a job and he has had to overcome the challenges of working on a building site without hearing. He tells his story. I was profoundly deaf when I was born. I went to school in Cwmbran – a mainstream school for the hearing and deaf – but my parents were trying to find somewhere that was good for me. I was a clever child but nothing was fitting my needs here in Wales, so I made the decision to go to Derby, to the Royal School for the Deaf. I’ve always loved making things. Wood, plaster, making things with my hands, so I naturally progressed into the construction industry. My dad is an electrician, but I wanted to do building.As I got older I spent more time in Derby and I went to college, where I did bricklaying, and then I did more qualifications.Then I went to Nottingham, where I passed my plastering qualification and I was keen to continue in Derby, but I couldn’t carry on studying. So, I moved back home to Wales, where I wanted to do more qualifications and I started looking for a job.It was really difficult. I had interviews but failed because of the “risk levels” – I wasn’t sure what the problem was.
I felt that I was well qualified, it should be easy. But I realised quite quickly how hard it would be. I’m confident but I couldn’t change their view of a person who is deaf and their preconceptions. It wasn’t me being scared about getting into the world of work. It was them being scared of me working for them – people who didn’t understand what it was about. I realised I needed help. I felt my confidence ebbing away. I started getting worried about my future. I thought, what happens if I can’t get work?Nobody was keener to get into work than me. And when you hear “no” all the time, the constant disappointment – it becomes a hard struggle to keep on applying. There were times when I wanted to give up. I kept saying to myself, “don’t give up, keep fighting, you will get a job, somebody will give you a job”. I knew I had to try my best. I had to keep going. I’d be talking to people but I found myself drifting away – my concentration was lacking. ‘Huge amount of thanks’ When I first met Matt Skinner [an employment adviser at Action for Hearing Loss Cymru] it did change. Before I met him, emailing and using the telephone was difficult. Matt’s support changed the way I was doing things. A hearing person who could contact people on the phone, could help me with English. It helped a lot. Things improved from then on. I owe him a huge amount of thanks. I was offered a job with a one-year contract and I was happy to take that. I enjoyed it but the contract ended and was not extended.So, it was time to look for more jobs. It went on for a year or two – no job – and it was demoralising hearing “no” all the time. It affects you. Then Matt got in touch about Willis Construction in Cardiff. I’d never heard of the company. I was expecting the same again – I was expecting a fail.
When Matt said the health, safety and training manager Paul Cachia wants to meet you, I thought “OK”. I immediately recognised that he had a level of respect and understanding about disability.He was very welcoming. We had a chat and I realised he was really different to everyone I met before. I really liked him. He told me straight away [I had the job]. I was surprised. I asked him: “Aren’t’ you going to give me an interview?””No, I can see your certificates,” he said. “I can see how qualified you are, you just need the chance.”When I first started I had an interpreter so the boss was able to talk to me. The first time I met Adam Bruton, my colleague who I now work with, I was awkward and apprehensive, with stumbling communication. It improved to the smooth communication we have now. It’s a natural relationship. Adam does all the phone calls, I do the driving. Adam meets the site boss and chats about the day. He then explains it to me and I get on with the job. We help each other through the day. In work on an everyday basis, I communicate by texting, gestures, body language, for instance, digging with a spade – just a natural gesture communicates that. Some people I can lip read. Also – easy things – pointing and validation. It all works nicely.
Sometimes there are mistakes but we get there in the end. Sometimes I feel I’m frustrating people or wasting their time – that’s just normal.Some of the companies that I was interviewed by in the past, we have dealings with. In a way, I wish I could go to people and say: “Look at me, I’m working here and there’s been no mistakes, no problems, no risks. It’s a smooth working environment.”I want to show people, I want them to say: “Oh, you’re the deaf person, we interviewed you and turned you down because you’re deaf.” I want them to realise that I can do it. Deaf people just want the same opportunity. We want people to be deaf aware. We want them to realise that we can do things.
Source: Derby BBC