TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has pledged his support to Ireland’s only dedicated employer of deaf and hard-of-hearing people as it expands its services.
Deaf Enterprises, which currently employs 28 people in Mr Martin’s Cork constituency, was founded in 1987, and has built a reputation for high-quality work in furniture repair, upholstery, and French polishing.
Now, after three decades in business, the Ballinlough-based not-for-profit charitable company is looking to further develop direct and indirect employment opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I think Deaf Enterprises’ work is extremely important,” the Taoiseach told The Echo.
“It has been a tried and trusted service that has provided very good employment opportunities for skilled people in the deaf community, and I would be very interested in doing what I can to help Deaf Enterprises’ future expansion plans.”
The Taoiseach’s comments have been welcomed by Deaf Enterprises manager Steven Flint, who said Mr Martin has been very supportive over the years.
Mr Flint said that Deaf Enterprises hopes to build on its current work in furniture repair and upcycling, while expanding the range of services it offers to deaf and hard-of-hearing people, looking ahead to its next 30 years in business.
“Working with the support of our corporate sponsor, Johnson and Perrott Motor Group, and Government departments and State bodies, we are now adapting our services to meet the employment and training needs of the next generation of deaf and hard-of-hearing adults,” he said.
Mr Flint said Deaf Enterprises hopes to continue to facilitate the employment of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and to help provide direct and indirect employment opportunities across a range of areas, including recycling and reuse, digital technology, and the service industry.
As part of its expansion, Deaf Enterprises was recently presented with a new van by Johnson and Perrott, which also paid the group’s creative partners, Coolgrey Design, to develop a new logo and brand for the charity.
“When Cork Deaf Enterprises approached us to help them replace their van, we saw it as a wonderful opportunity to work with a local charity very close to our motor dealerships here in Cork,” said Johnson and Perrott CEO Mark Whitaker.
Mr Whitaker said that it was a great honour and privilege for Johnson and Perrott to work with Deaf Enterprises, and he looked forward to working with them again in the future.
Ireland has some of the EU’s lowest rates of employment for people with disabilities, with the 2019 European Commission country report for Ireland revealing that in this country, some 26.2% of citizens with disabilities are in employment, compared to 48.1% across the EU.
Similarly, Ireland also has one of the EU’s highest gaps (45.1 percentage points) between people with and without disabilities in employment.
As Ireland’s only dedicated employer of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, Deaf Enterprises has bucked that trend for three decades now, and looks set to continue into the future to be an example to other employers.