What is the problem?
During the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, about 6,000 Ukrainians with hearing impairments left Ukraine due to the threat to their lives. Another 9,000 were forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in safer places in Ukraine. Due to hostilities, many deaf people found themselves in an extremely difficult situation. Along with their home, they also lost their job, which for a deaf person is not only a source of income, but also a vital component for socialization.
What is the solution?
The year of the war became a challenging test for all people with hearing impairment. At the same time, it showed how strong the deaf community is when it is united. The Ukrainian Society of the Deaf (UTOH) employees in various regions of Ukraine have proved this since the beginning of the war. They did not give up but continued to work around the clock and support everyone who turned to them, including assistance in employment.
Rubryka learned about how UTOH companies currently work and what other employment opportunities are available for people with hearing impairments.
How does it work?
The Poltava regional branch of UTOG is one of the oldest regional organizations of the society, and today it cares for about 1,500 people with hearing disabilities. Deaf people mainly live in Poltava and Lubny. Resettlers with hearing impairments are also trying to move here because UTOH enterprises offer workplaces.
"Employment and workplace support is one of the main social services provided by the Poltava regional organization UTOG. After all, there are no special employment programs for the deaf," says Leonid Usenko, the head of the Poltava regional organization.
On the territory of the Poltava region, there are two enterprises of the UTOG system: Poltava ME Universal, which produces low-voltage equipment, metal, and wood products, and the Lubensk ME UTOG sewing factory. As Usenko said, these enterprises employ deaf people. It provides training and growth of persons as qualified employees, allowing career growth because there are no problems with communication.
"Since the beginning of the war, deaf IDPs have been turning to us for help in employment. Many of them worked at enterprises of the UTOG system in their cities. Our organization has close contact with the enterprises of UTOG of the Poltava region, and, first of all, we communicate with our enterprises. We find out which employees are needed today — in this way, we help both the employer and the job seeker," says Usenko.
The head of the organization adds that employees also help deaf resettlers:
- find housing;
- get information;
- issue documents at the social security office;
- contact medical institutions;
- take part in psychological rehabilitation activities, etc.
Other institutions that can also help with the above have no specialists who know sign language, which is a priority for deaf people.
It is also essential that the UTOG enterprises of the Poltava region have their own dormitories. When a deaf person gets a job, several issues are resolved: employment, the problem of housing, and the possibility of communicating with people who understand each other without the help of an interpreter. For a deaf person, this is one of the most critical conditions of socialization.
In addition to UTOG enterprises, deaf residents of the Poltava region also work at state, communal, and private enterprises. The job search algorithm is the same as for people without hearing problems — through an advertisement or an employment center. In this case, UTOG helps with communication with future employers. At the request of a deaf person, an organization employee, a sign language interpreter, calls or personally accompanies the person to the desired organization, finds out all employment issues, and interprets in sign language for the job applicant.
Usenko notes that it is possible to find work for deaf people in the Poltava region. Still, unfortunately, due to further communication problems, deaf workers are often hired for low-paid positions, such as cleaners, loaders, and packers, although many deaf people have both education and specialty.
The employment issue is even more acute for people living in rural areas. The Poltava Society of the Deaf is trying to help online, but they admit it is challenging to find a job for deaf people in the village.
In the Dnipropetrovsk region, the job situation is even more difficult. In UTOG's Dnipropetrovsk regional organization, they said that due to constant shelling, only one of all UTOG enterprises is working now—- in Kamianske. In addition, craft enterprises where the deaf were employed and where nails, wire, and netting were produced could not compete with China in wartime conditions. Also, before the full-scale invasion, people with hearing impairments mostly worked in the service sector, but many cafes closed; McDonald's, for example, was closed for more than a year, and many deaf people lost their jobs.
The head of Dnipropetrovsk UTOG, Iryna Troyan, says employers are now not very interested in employing people with disabilities. When hiring, they give preference to resettlers because the state reimburses part of the salary, and deaf people must be paid their full salary. In Dnipro, they can get a job in supermarkets as before. However, there are fewer offers than those willing to work. Out of 50 people, only 20 were employed."
For the most part, the Dnipro UTOG helps with humanitarian aid and housing — the company housed three families of deaf people from the Donetsk region in a dormitory. They also provide translation services. There are seven interpreters in the region, with about 3000 people with hearing impairments. However, even translators today do not receive their full salary.
"We do not receive funds from the state — our central office, religious organizations help us. We are not a profitable industry; we are engaged in social work. In general, this is the function of the state, but the state cannot help us now because there is a war. We can't leave our deaf people either," says Troyan.
"Our mission is to provide people with work"
Indeed, the situation is complicated in the areas of hostilities and those close to them, comments Viktor Shevchuk, Deputy Chairman of UTOG for economic issues. There are 28 enterprises, but now enterprises in Kherson, Kharkiv, and Bakhmut are not working at all. Some people found employment in safer regions, and some went abroad. UTOG provided hostels in safe regions to everyone who wanted to move. There are sign language interpreters, 127 people throughout Ukraine, who help in work situations and other cases — processing the status of IDPs, pension issues, and contacts with doctors, lawyers, and social services. In this matter, UTOG is open and provides constant support.
It is easier to get a job in big cities because UTOG enterprises and businesses willing to hire people with hearing impairments are located precisely in large cities. UTOG enterprises are located in all regions of Ukraine except Ternopil and Volyn. Most of them work at full capacity, and 6-7 enterprises have certain problems during the war.
"Our enterprises are divided into three branches — sewing, woodworking, and metalworking. Eighteen enterprises in the garment industry currently work for the armed forces, and they are fully loaded with work. What's more, there is a need for workers, and we are now ready to accept a large number of people with disabilities and provide them with work and housing," says Shevchuk.
It is not necessary to have a relevant profession. UTOG enterprises are educational and industrial — they take all those willing, train them, and put them to work.
During the training period, the salary is small. But those who have already acquired a profession can earn from 10 thousand hryvnias at the organization's sewing enterprises.
UTOG's mission is to provide a person with a job, but it's not just about a salary, it's about socialization. There are people who, due to their health or other circumstances, cannot work full-time — there are no obstacles here either. Such an employment option is also possible, says the deputy for economic affairs of UTOG.
You can contact the regional UTOG organizations directly — they assist all people with hearing impairments without exception, even in those cities with no enterprises. UTOG website offers specialized 24/7 service. Its operators work in sign language and solve any questions.
UTOG employees also help with employment at third-party enterprises that offer jobs to people with hearing impairment. Information about employers is available on the organization's website. Today, there are chains like Silpo, Auchan, McDonald's, and ATB offer employment. Employers often publish their offers directly in UTOG Telegram channels. For example, recently, the media service MEGOGO was looking for deaf employees — they needed customer service operators with hearing impairments.
What about the state?
"We have no state support," says Shevchuk, "social services funding for people with hearing impairments stopped two years ago. We are looking for funds. Including at the expense of the enterprises created by us. On the contrary, today, we have no understanding of the actions of the Ministry of Social Policy. We meet and conduct polemics — we do everything so people with disabilities can feel protected. Our statutory task is to help people with hearing impairments."
We are talking about draft law 5344-d, presented by the Ministry of Social Policy last year. They want to change the rules of employment of persons with disabilities.
People with disabilities themselves consider this draft law not a good thing but an attempt to limit the rights of people with disabilities to social protection, rehabilitation, and employment. Despite certain positive points, it has many discriminatory provisions. For example, it deprives non-governmental associations of people with disabilities of their existing right to vote in consultative and advisory bodies and local self-government bodies. It also cancels all forms of rehabilitation except medical.
Any non-governmental association of persons with disabilities did not support Draft Law 5344-d of November 18, 2022. They emphasize: 5344-d will not only not contribute to the creation of favorable conditions for the employment of persons with disabilities but will also lead to the elimination of 6,000 existing jobs in which persons with disabilities are involved and to the destruction of 300 existing enterprises of non-governmental organizations of persons with disabilities. It will also lead to a narrowing of the content and scope of rights and freedoms, which is unacceptable in accordance with Article 22 of the Constitution of Ukraine.
Draft law 5344-d has already been included in the agenda of the plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine three times but was not supported by people's deputies due to its anti-sociality and discrimination. On March 23, 2023, the project was sent for repeated first reading.
Even more useful solutions!
Finding a job is not easy for those who care for people with disabilities, particularly children. To improve the situation, a project for employing parents and guardians of children with disabilities is being launched in Kyiv.
Maryna Honda, deputy head of the Kyiv City State Council, announced on her Facebook page the launch of the joint project of NOVUS supermarket and the Kyiv City Center for the Rehabilitation of Children with Disabilities, aimed at the employment of parents. According to her, about 1,000 internally displaced children with disabilities are registered in Kyiv. Mostly, they are raised only by single mothers, for whom it is often difficult to find a permanent job.
You can choose a vacancy in 4 areas:
- office work;
- work at the cash register;
- trading hall.
Currently, a survey is underway to identify the need and form proposals for candidates. News of the project can be found on the Facebook and Instagram pages of the Kyiv City Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities. You can also contact the Center by phone: (044) 467-22-44.
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