A diverse workforce consists not only of different nationalities, age groups and genders, but also of employees with and without physical disabilities. To ensure that people with disabilities can also enrich the company with their know-how and creativity, Arvato Supply Chain Solutions consistently focuses on equality, inclusion, optimal workplace design and employee advancement. The two deaf colleagues Joseph Chua and Thomas Roßberg report on how this is implemented in practice and what challenges there are in the process.
How long have you been working at Arvato and in what capacity?
Thomas: I was already an intern in 2007 and then wrote my bachelor's thesis on test automation as a working student before I was hired as a software quality assurance (QA) employee in 2008.
Joseph: I joined Arvato in 2019 as an Expert Software Development. In this role, I also provide support for the QA area and have to communicate with both my team and my customer - in the office in Hamburg and directly on site. I often work together with Thomas and support him with my know-how.
Thomas: That's right, we've both been working together in a larger agile team according to the SCRUM method for quite some time. And since I focus on testing, I can really use Joseph's support, especially on larger projects.
How did you come to work at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions?
Thomas: To get the internship, I wrote a classic application and was able to immediately contribute my QA knowledge to a small team. Since the cooperation with my colleagues worked very well, they approached me and took me on.
Joseph: I worked as a freelancer for various companies in Germany and was then looking for a permanent position that would give me some security and room for development.
I wanted to work for a large company in an international team, and I came across Arvato Supply Chain Solutions and applied successfully, without knowing that Thomas, another deaf person, had been working here for what felt like an eternity. That was a nice surprise.
Can you still remember your job interviews?
Thomas: I spoke to someone from the management back then. And since there was no sign language interpreter, we communicated mostly in writing. After I was hired, the question arose as to how we would handle larger meetings in the future. That's when I had the idea of trying it with an interpreter, even though it wasn't clear at the time how it could be financed. So we tried it out first, gathered initial experience and applied for a corresponding budget. Since that was approved, we have been working with interpreters on a permanent basis - Arvato is prepared to support us fully in our daily work.
Joseph: I even received an e-mail before my interview asking me whether the company should take care of an interpreter. Until then, I had done all my job interviews without an interpreter using my speech-to-text tool. It was totally interesting for me that there were suddenly two interpreters sitting there. I started here and was immediately thrilled to meet Thomas. That was great!
How exactly does the exchange on work topics look like?
Joseph: We organize ourselves in a team so that the work is divided up. Everyone takes their ticket and works through it independently. If I get stuck or have questions, I talk to individual team members in the chat and ask them if they can help me. Then we sit down together virtually or on site and see how we can solve the problem. This works very well with transcriptions or with the microphone. This way, I can do my job properly and constantly learn something new. This also applies to my colleagues, as the exchange naturally works both ways.
What technical aids do you need at your workplace?
Thomas: It is quite clear that (video) technology plays a very important role for us. But after we tried out a remote interpreting service in meetings, it quickly became clear that there is no substitute for a live interpreter. The technology has not yet matured and the camera did not work properly either. In addition, the different languages are also a challenge, since English or a mixture of German and English is also spoken in the meetings. The technology quickly reaches its limits.
What challenges do you face at work?
Thomas: From time to time, we have factual problems that we have to deal with. For example, fire protection and the fire alarm system. It took us a while to find a technical solution.
Joseph: At the moment, we are still dependent on our colleagues to tell us what to do, but we have considered a fire alarm system that is linked to the site's fire protection system and works like a beeper. As soon as the alarm is triggered, it vibrates in my pocket. That way, I'll hear the alarm even if I'm all alone in a room.
How is the general cooperation with the team going?
Joseph: It's going very well and it's also very easy because we use the chat in Microsoft Teams to communicate in the workgroups.
Thomas: In addition, we are very lucky that our team is super accommodating and has learned a bit of sign language. When we meet in the morning, we can simply sign "Good morning" and our colleagues respond in sign language. Then, if there is something important to discuss, I sit down at the chat or use my text program so that everyone can speak German or English with me via microphone.
So some team members know sign language?
Joseph: Yes, exactly. Even though it was new for most colleagues to deal with it, they do their best and keep learning. After all, talking with your face and fingers is just a matter of practice. We also like to make jokes with the colleagues - that helps them to keep practicing sign language. All in all, it works very well and makes working together much less complicated.