eDEAF, a acronym standing for Employ and Empower Deaf, has been empowering Deaf communities since 2007. The organisation’s highly effective training courses and learnership programs have been widely received by Deaf people from all walks of life. In addition there have been a number of South African companies that have benefited from various BBBEE incentives for employing a Deaf individual through eDEAF.
“In 2007, my business partner, Jesse Kotzé and I, saw the need to address the divide between Deaf school leavers and entry level positions,” explains Nazereen Captieux-Bhana. “There are very few schools for the Deaf which offer Matric across the country, so access to College and University after school is almost impossible. Even if a young Deaf person were to gain the necessary qualifications, there is no funding available for Interpreters at University level. eDEAF saw the need for not only additional learning, but giving Deaf learners the necessary skills to excel in a hearing dominated world.”
eDEAF has successfully placed over 2000 learners in mainstream jobs. As the Executive Member of eDEAF, Captieux-Bhana is intimately involved in day to day operations, specifically the company’s Shoprite Checkers Learnerships. The Shoprite Checkers group have committed to employing 1000 Deaf staff over their “Decade of the Deaf” programme. eDEAF has recently opened an office in Cape Town.
Captieux-Bhana explains that what makes eDEAF unique from other Learnership training Centres around the country, is that eDEAF is a proudly Deaf lead organisation.
“I do not view myself as disabled. I am part of the Deaf Culture, and I do not expect opportunities to land in my lap,” says Captieux-Bhana. “I am very tenacious and I never give up. eDEAF is unique in that all our facilitators are Deaf. Our students can relate to them, and most importantly, they are being taught in their native language. Many of our facilitators were previous learners, we love to promote internally, and we are very much like a family. We support one another and we live our values every day.”
At eDEAF, learners do not pay for their education – they are sponsored by Companies who pay them a monthly stipend to ensure they can travel to the training centres. eDEAF encourages independent learning and keeping up to date with current affairs, as incidental learning is often the downfall of the Deaf community.
Courses offered include Adult Education and Training and Microsoft End User Computing. Learners in the Shoprite Checkers receive training in Wholesale and Retail and obtain an NQF Level 2 on completion of their training programme. External programmes for hearing companies include South African Sign Language training, Deaf Sensitization workshops and a number of customized courses.
“South Africa has made great strides in the recognition of South African Sign Language, as the first language of the Deaf community, protected by the Constitution,” says Captieux-Bhana. “However, SASL is not yet an official language in South Africa and there is still a lot to be done in the codification of the language. A positive step in the right direction is that SASL
is now recognised as a subject at schools as part of the CAPS curriculum.
“The impact of South African Sign Language being recognised as the 12th official language of our country would inevitably create more access across various spectrums of our country’s Social Services, Media and Tertiary Education Institutions. This will also increase the need for qualified Interpreters to render professional services to the Deaf community in all spheres of society. This will result in raising awareness of Deaf people in general society and their communication needs.”
She explains that as modern business is often technology dependent, and sign language is a visual language, eDEAF makes use of Smart Boards which allow all training material to be projected on a large screen as well as being interactive allowing the entire class to participate. Another tool that eDEAF would not be able to do without is WhatsApp, as this app has greatly improved communication in the Deaf community.
eDEAF will be launching a new SA Sign Language APP this year. The app is being developed to bridge the communication gap between Deaf and the hearing by allowing them to simply do a search for a word or a phrase on any mobile device with the app installed.
“The app will then play the video of the specific sign, allowing them to communicate with the Deaf and to learn specific signs,” explains Captieux-Bhana. “eDEAF will be responsible for filming, editing and uploading the sign for each word or phrase. Any words or phrases that are required by specific companies or industries can be requested, and eDEAF will have them uploaded.”
Specific important signs will be embedded in the app, such as: Days of the week, Months of the year, Emergency services and General greetings. For companies that employ Deaf people, this app will be highly beneficial allowing hearing employers or co-workers to simply type in a word and the video will be played back to them. For parents of Deaf children this will give them a quick reference tool.
“In order for any person to learn Sign Language the best way is to interact with the Deaf and the app will kick start this process. The app will also be made available to the public to download in order for the man on the street to start communication with the Deaf,” says Captieux-Bhana.
Captieux-Bhana was born deaf to a hearing family where she spent her early childhood with her parents and seven siblings. At the
age of three she attended an Indian pre-primary school in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg. During apartheid, schools were segregated according to race and she was forced to leave Johannesburg and move to a boarding school in Cape Town, at the age of six. She later moved back to Johannesburg and matriculated in 1990 from M.C Kharbai school for the Deaf.
“My life-long dream was to become a Lawyer! On expressing this goal, my dreams were shattered by a teacher who told me it would be impossible for a Deaf person to achieve this and I should forget this notion. I became an assistant teacher at the same school where I matriculated,” she explains.“Seeing people thrive has always been my passion. Being extensively involved in the Deaf community on various levels, and being a field and anchor presenter for a programme on National TV, I obtained the knowledge and skills to eventually start my own company. My business partner and I continue to empower the South African Deaf community who need the support in achieving their dreams and goals.
“Over the years, I have worked hard to establish myself as a Deaf business woman with a solid foundation in the community. This
is where I find my identity. Seeing the world through Deaf people’s eyes has been the key to our success in truly empowering them,” says Captieux-Bhana.
“I believe that Deaf people can do anything except hear, and it is important that as a role model, I set the example. I live the example of choosing to empower yourself, your future, your goals and your values. Potential is nothing without action; one has to grab the opportunities that come your way!”