Did you know that there are 3 million people in Poland with hearing impairments? Do you consider this a large or a small number? Or perhaps the question was framed incorrectly. I should rather ask, what percentage of people in Poland knows how to communicate with deaf individuals?
Most of us would probably say that learning sign language is sufficient for communicating with the deaf. However, delving into the topic, do you know about their cultural and linguistic identity? Do all deaf individuals learn sign language in the initial phase of their lives? Are there any principles influencing their integration with others?
A few months ago, the Hearty Foundation initiated collaboration with a school for the deaf in Krakow. The school caters to 140 individuals with varying degrees of hearing impairment. The Special Educational and Care Center for the Deaf, named after Janusz Korczak, conducts classes at the post-secondary and vocational school levels. It prepares students for the matriculation exam and provides vocational training in various fields, including an information technology technical high school.
Children and youth face numerous limitations from an early age, but their most challenging obstacle is overcoming the lack of acceptance in society. They wish to do what other children and youth do but lack the necessary tools and opportunities to reach our awareness—the society that, in today’s rush, forgets about what is most important in life.
It turns out that recognizing another human being is the most challenging part. Therefore, our foundation took the first step and invited boys from the information technology technical high school to participate in our project „First Step into IT.”
I remember vividly the day when the entire class came to our office. As I went to welcome them and began speaking to them enthusiastically, the words flowed so quickly that I soon realized I needed to slow down and make eye contact with them. The teacher who accompanied them translated my words into sign language. On that day, I felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to communicate with them. My uncertainty turned into curiosity.
That’s when I realized that I should gain knowledge in how to build communication and understand the world of deaf people. How can I help them if I don’t comprehend their knowledge acquisition system, language, perception, and stimulus reception?
I got to work. My task was to find internships for them in the world of new technologies. Would we find a company that sees the potential in them, the potential that we saw? These were the questions I asked myself initially. Then I didn’t have time for that; I searched, talked, and most importantly, believed, just like the entire team, that it could be done, and that nothing is impossible.
Do you know the feeling when you succeed despite encountering difficulties? That’s how I felt when I received the final decision: „We accept the boys for internships.” We were immensely proud that the youth received, for the first time in the school’s history, such an internship proposal from technological companies. Until then, they had participated in internships organized by local authorities or smaller, not necessarily technological, companies in their smaller localities.
I have known the IT world for a long time and believe in these people who daily build applications, create amazing lines of code, and overcome problems and barriers. We managed to engage them in our project. They believed in these young people and gave them a chance, for which we sincerely thank them.
I’ll quote the words of programmer Piotr, who, after the workshops titled „Hearty People – the World of Deaf Individuals,” said: „Deaf individuals are ideal candidates for programmers. They possess the qualities that allow them to be excellent employees focused on their tasks.” I am very pleased that there are people who don’t see limitations or barriers, only possibilities.
Special thanks go to Ms. Katarzyna Podgórni, a pedagogue and proficient sign language translator, for conducting an inspiring workshop. The world of deaf individuals is no longer „black magic” to us.
With hope, we look to the future, seeing a space for the development of talented and wonderful young people. We don’t see limitations, only possibilities!
Each of us is different—some have manual abilities, while others have mathematical ones. Some are tall, thin, fat, skinny, from cities, small towns, villages, know one or five languages. Barriers exist in each of us, regardless of who we are. Let’s learn to overcome them, not judge others. Let’s be open, and unafraid of diversity, as it may distinguish us and give us greater chances in life.