Frank Tracomala loves being a kitchen hand in the St Vincent’s Food Services department. Frank has been a part of the team for almost ten years and receives a lot of enjoyment and fulfilment from his job. But when pressed, he does admit to occasionally feeling frustrated at work.
Frank is deaf and has previously found that he was unable to effectively communicate as none of his colleagues understood sign language. In particular, it was very hard to receive proper guidance and feedback from his manager, Stephen Tippett.
“Frank has a very good ability to simplify his signing so we can understand it.
Over time you learn to recognise his cues,’ Stephen says. ‘We would get through a conversation with a mix of body language, rudimentary signing and writing, but it became apparent that we needed to make the workplace more inclusive for Frank.”
About this time, speech pathologist Aoife Sheehy, coordinator of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program identified a need and approached Stephen to ask if the team would be interested in some Auslan training.
Aoife organised two half day workplace training sessions for Food Services and Pathology staff. Both departments have staff members who are deaf and were keen to be able to communicate with their colleagues in their first language.
Stephen and five more of Frank’s colleagues took part in the training, and found it an extremely valuable experience.
“We began with some basic awareness training where we were able to get an understanding of some of the barriers deaf people experience,” Stephen says.
“It’s made me realise how difficult it must be. If you can’t communicate and no one is making an effort, it can be really isolating.”
“We also learned some basic sign language skills. We are now making an effort to practice each day with Frank and develop our vocabulary.”
Stephen has noted that Frank seems happier, something that Frank confirms.
“I’ve noticed a difference already – I feel more included. The team just needs to practice more to build up their signing vocabulary,” says Frank.
The primary goal of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program is to ensure the health service is as responsive as possible to patients with a hearing impairment through the provision of information and equipment, access to interpreters and education for staff.
In February, Aoife and her team delivered Auslan training to over 70 St Vincent’s staff members who communicate and interact with deaf patients on a day to day basis.