DeafTalk: Never a dull day at (social) work

The ‘face’ of the Association – Zhi Hao on duty at the front office counter

“I am Cheong Zhi Hao, a Social Work Associate with the Community Services department. I have always liked helping people. So I studied social work in polytechnic and this job with SADeaf is actually my first after graduation! And I’m now pursuing a degree in social work.

What does my work involve? I provide admin support for the social workers and case managers in my team. Much of my work involves clients’ intake assessments and applications for financial assistance.

I find my work interesting. There is always a lot to learn and every day is different. I did not know sign language when I first joined. But I slowly picked it up and also learned more about Deaf culture, and how Deaf people communicate and express their thoughts and feelings.

I gained insights into how to properly communicate with and treat clients or persons with disabilities. Like, the appropriate terms to address them and not be afraid to approach them. I have come across many people who are afraid of offending persons with disabilities. For example, some think that ‘Deaf’ as a term is inappropriate or rude, but it’s actually totally fine and accepted by the Deaf community.

Handling calls and queries in person and online.

Challenges? Sometimes, for clients who use more of a home-sign or gestural signing style, I need to get an interpreter as it is difficult for me to understand them. For counseling sessions, this poses privacy challenges as having a third party present can be quite intrusive. We respect the client’s wish as to whether to have an interpreter around in such cases.

One crucial issue would be the misconception that Deaf people are not as capable as their hearing counterparts just because they may not be able to communicate via speech. This leads to companies tending not to consider their job applications. But communication doesn’t only mean speaking or hearing; it can be in other forms like writing or texting. I think if people put in the effort, they can accommodate such differences easily.

To me, a good social worker is one who is open minded as well as willing to learn – and also unlearn some of the misconceptions ingrained in us while growing up. Also, they must constantly update themselves of the developments in the field and delve into clients’ background and advocate for them.”

Behind the DeafTalk series
DeafTalk is an interview series that features SADeaf staff sharing about their roles in serving the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This aims to create more awareness and understanding of the work we do at SADeaf.

Video interviews conducted by Rabiayatul Adawiyah, Gaius Wong
Coordination, logistics, scheduling, video editing: Firdaus Bahri, Nabilah Bte Zakariah, Melissa Lim
SgSL transcribing: Gohpi Nathan
Camera setup, filming,: :Lee Wan Ling, Allie Naqia Bte Ahmad
Text (adapted from video interview) and photography: Alvan Yap

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