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January 9, 2004

Two firms recognised for work with the deaf

From: Straits Times, Singapore - Jan 9, 2004

By Nicola Cheong

GRACE Ng was apprehensive about starting work last year.

She had good reason to be: The 20-year-old had been deaf since birth and working in a fast-food restaurant required constant interaction with people.

But her work has proven surprisingly pleasant so far.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Miss Ng signed her replies through an interpreter: 'I'm happy there's a place for deaf people to work in Singapore. This way, I can earn some money and help support my family.'

Miss Ng's employer, Kentucky Fried Chicken Management (KFC), and Siemens Medical Instruments (SMI) have been appointed Ambassadors for the Deaf by the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) this year. Neither company is a stranger to such responsibilities.

Last January, KFC opened the first restaurant here to be almost fully operated by deaf workers.

With two supervisors who can hear and who are trained in basic sign language, the Toa Payoh outlet operates just like any other KFC branch. Customers order food using a detailed picture menu, pointing to what they want. For more complex orders, the supervisors can help.

KFC marketing director Lynette Lee said it plans to use tray-liners carrying information on deafness in its outlets, and continue a sign language course for members of its children's club.

SMI, which manufactures hearing-related instruments, has been working with SADeaf since 1996. It sponsors training for SADeaf staff and volunteers, conducts enrichment programmes and helps out with the association's annual fund-raising.

Problems for the deaf include isolation from the public and a loss of self-esteem. But it is possible to overcome them, says Miss Ng: 'As long as you work hard and have a positive attitude, you'll succeed in getting a job.'

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.