We are united by what we can do... not what we can’t

General Manager of Deaf Enterprises Conor Cahill has seen the social enterprise double its staff over his two year tenure. He has successfully transformed the organisation with a strategic plan featuring placement opportunities as part of a six-step programme for the wider deaf community
We are united by what we can do... not what we can’t
Directors and staff at the celebration of 30 years and the launch of the strategic plan 2018-2021 at Deaf Enterprises, Ballinlough Road, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

DEAF Enterprises is Ireland’s only dedicated employer of the Deaf community. In business for over 30 years and based in Ballinlough, we specialise in furniture restoration including providing re-upholstery, repair and French Polishing services to the general public and commercial customers.

Deaf Enterprises is a registered charity with a commercial aspect: a social enterprise. We are a not-for-profit clg (Company Limited by guarantee) overseen by a board of voluntary directors who endeavour to provide meaningful employment, training and development to members of the Deaf community and to the differently-abled.

We repair, restore and recover an estimated 150 tonnes of furniture each year, diverting much from landfill. We would like to be able to take in the offers of furniture donations we receive from members of the public each week but for which we do not currently have the time or space to process.

We are looking for corporate sponsorship for our existing younger employees to expand their skillsets and be in a position to replace a large contingent of our skilled ageing staff. This project work would be focussed on these donations, the vast majority of which go to landfill and forms the third stage of a five-part training initiative we are looking to implement which, in turn forms part of the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan 2018-2021.

Another branch of this initiative is the training programme we are developing with the National Learning Network. We are inviting Deaf and differently abled people to complete a Level 3-4 FETAC course including work experience here. The final stage of the training initiative would be placement. We are eager to tailor the training here to the individual and are excited to be able to place employees with strong foundational soft and hard skills into the industry of their choice.

We want to be a springboard for employment inclusion such that we can continue to be sustainable in the future and expand to employ as many people as possible.

We currently employ 26 staff including 20 Deaf and 24 differently-abled at all levels within the company. We focus on ability rather than disability and feel that we are united by what we can rather than what we can’t do and have succeeded with this mantra for three decades.

Cork Deaf Enterprises Manager, Conor Cahill.
Cork Deaf Enterprises Manager, Conor Cahill.

Many of our staff fall into both categories of Deaf and differently-abled and we provide a unique and understanding environment where challenges are acknowledged and effective communication is at the forefront. All of our staff have some competency in Irish Sign Language, the first language of the Deaf community and an official language of Ireland since December 2017.

Corporate sponsorship would allow for the development, both personal and professional of members of a marginalised community while contributing to the circular economy and promoting reuse. An individual employee can be sponsored for €20,000 per annum with measurable results. The freedom from having to work to order will allow these employees to express their creativity with finished items being offered for sale in Reuse Network Ireland shops across the country.

Deaf Enterprises was established by Fr. Bill Clarke in 1987 as Cork Deaf Enterprises to address the high levels of unemployment within the Deaf community. We have since changed the operational name to simply Deaf Enterprises because of our belief in the scalability of our model nationally.

We want to help to address barriers faced by members of the Deaf community and show that employment inclusion does not have to be a difficult process. Indeed people with several disabilities and none work in harmony here and have done so for 30 years.

Deaf Enterprises has, since its inception, provided an Irish Sign Language based supportive work environment and has engaged in various training schemes including a driving school for the Deaf in 1996, the HORIZON project and various Irish Sign Language courses. We are looking to build on our successes and broaden employment prospects for the Deaf community in Cork and beyond.

For further information regarding our upcoming FETAC training programme, please email info@deafenterprises.ie

Deaf Enterprises is one of many social enterprises across Cork benefiting from the supports being provided by Cork City Council through it’s EU funded Atlantic Social Lab Project.

You can find out more about the Atlantic Social Lab project by going to www.atlanticsociallab.eu or emailing Juliette_Crowley@corkcity.ie.

Next week we look at Churchfield Community Trust, a community-based organisation.

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