Workbridge, Where abilities equal employment

Tania Ali is deaf and is passionate about raising awareness of the deaf community. Through Workbridge, she has found an employee who shares her passion.

Tania was among the deaf staff members hired temporarily by CQ Hotels in Wellington to launch a deaf dining experience in 2015. She won an employee of the month award and her role was subsequently made permanent.

CQ Hotels has won awards for accessibility and introduced New Zealand’s first restaurant menu in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Customers can learn basic NZSL through cheat sheets and graphics incorporated into menus, as well as using an electronic dictionary.

“I love working at the hotel. I’m meeting lots of people and learning lots,” says Tania.

“I have great bosses. Some staff at CQ had already done basic NZSL before having deaf staff on board. Now all the managers are learning and we have NZSL coffee training for the workers. The hotel is also very accessible for blind people and those using wheelchairs.”

Providing support

Tania contacted Workbridge because she felt her previous job in a supermarket laundry was not using all her skills. She had qualifications in tourism and communications, and experience in hospitality and as an NZSL tutor.

She says Workbridge provided her with all the services she needed.

“They helped with funding for interpreters, had a plan to find work and stay in employment, and found this opportunity for me,” she says.

“Mitch Barlow, my Workbridge employment consultant, learned some sign to talk to me.”

When Mitch heard about CQ’s NZSL project, he immediately thought Tania would be a great fit.

“She is very intelligent and passionate about raising awareness of the deaf community, and already had hospitality experience,” he says.

“We did quite a bit of facilitating and making things as easy as possible for everyone in terms of organising NZSL interpreters for meetings and induction training and anticipating any issues that might occur. Once we got to the interview stage, Tania was hired on the spot.”

Highlighting sign language

Mitch says CQ Hotels general manager Olivier Lacoua is committed to highlighting NZSL as another of New Zealand’s official languages, alongside English and Te Reo.

Other Workbridge jobseekers have also won roles at CQ. “They select and interview people purely on the basis of their suitability for the job,” says Mitch.

Tania would like to set up her own business advising on deaf accessibility in the future, but right now she’s loving working for CQ.

“It’s fantastic to be able to work in an accessible hotel. CQ is leading the way and every hotel should work towards what they are doing.”

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