Marlee Matlin once said that “the handicap of deafness is not in the ear. It is in the mind.”
Talente Madava’s journey of life as a deaf person in search of opportunities to empower himself is testimony of this. Madava is an Aluminium Material Handler at Cornways Aluminium Profile Stockists in Edenvale, Gauteng.
Although deaf people are often faced with challenging stereotypes in the workplace due to their hearing impairment, Madava says this has never been a challenge for him since he started working for Cornways in 2017.
Being the only deaf employee in the company, one would assume that communicating with and working with his colleagues would be a challenge for Madava, but he explains that this is far from the truth.
“I communicate very well with my colleagues and supervisors, because they are willing to learn my language. Some have even taken up formal sign language lessons and are able to teach others. I never feel inferior amongst them,” he explains.
This, according to Madava, makes him look forward to going to work every day.
“Cornways feels like a home to me. My colleagues and supervisors do not treat me as a ‘disabled’ person because this would mean that I am ‘less than’ and require different treatment. I get the same tasks as everyone else in the same position as I am. They understand that the only difference between us is that we communicate differently, but our outputs are the same,” he says.
Madava, who was born and bred in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, says he arrived in Johannesburg in 2015, seeking to further his education. In 2016, he received an opportunity to do business studies at eDeaf (an organisation offering several training courses and learnership programmes to empower deaf communities for business) for one year.
He then received a training opportunity at WISPECO Aluminium based in Alberton, funded by the merSETA. He started the training in 2017 as an Aluminium Sample Maker, working on aluminium materials such as doors, casement windows and many others.
“This training opportunity became an enabler for me. I am currently permanently employed and owe this achievement to the merSETA and WISPECO,” explains Madava.
Due to the hard work, commitment and positive attitude he portrayed during his training, Madava was offered a six-month employment contract with WISPECO as an Aluminium Sample Maker upon the completion of his training.
“I was always willing to learn and was never demotivated when my trainers asked me to redo some of my work,” he says.
Madava, whose mother has passed away, helps support his siblings and grandmother with the salary he receives from his employer. His sister is a student at the Durban University of Technology and he also assists her financially.
“When I first arrived in Johannesburg, I was willing to do any kind of work that came my way because I knew that I had a huge responsibility of ensuring my family’s well-being. I even worked in retail and got contract work at different places,” he explains.
His advice to fellow deaf people is to believe in themselves and never stop seeking opportunities.
“It’s about perspective. If you regard yourself as being disabled, you are reinforcing a stigma that has been attached to deaf people for many years,” he explains.
Madava says he owes gratitude to his family, who remained his pillar of strength and never treated him any differently to other kids. His dream is to acquire the necessary skills to open a large aluminium business.