A deaf man who thought it would never be possible for him to work in a customer-facing role was “shocked” to be offered a job at Waitrose, where he is now training to become a wine expert and is accompanied by a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter so that he can communicate with customers. Farid Alimardani, from Westminster, began working in the fruit and vegetable aisle at the Waitrose store in Belgravia five years ago with his interpreter and now close friend, Emma Thomas, 39, from Hove, without whom he would not be able to communicate with customers.
The 55-year-old applied for the Government’s Access To Work programme in 2018, a publicly funded scheme which helps people with disabilities or health problems join the workforce or stay in employment. Farid, who said he did not think having an interpreter was possible, is now looking to become an expert in wine, having recently completed a training course where he was the first deaf person to attend.
Before joining the company, Farid spent six months working as a kitchen aide in a cafe but did not receive any support. He said having Emma is a “huge benefit” and he is now getting ready for the Christmas rush.
“Christmas is going to be super, super busy, with lots of customers asking questions and wanting help,” Farid told PA Real Life, translated from sign language by Emma. “Deaf or a hearing person, it really doesn’t matter.
“I feel really proud to work at Waitrose and I’m really happy here. I had no idea about the Access To Work scheme.
“They give grants to deaf people to pay for an interpreter, but I didn’t know that, I was really shocked”. Farid, who is originally from Iran, started working for Waitrose & Partners around five years ago, in 2018, after one his friends suggested he apply.
“My deaf friend, who I know really well, said he had been into Waitrose before and recommended that I should apply,” he said. “He said that it was a really lovely shop and that I should have a look online.
“I did an application which took a few months and then started working”. Dealing with customers would normally have been impossible for Farid due to his severe hearing impairment.
“I was born deaf, so that’s all I’ve ever known,” he said. But through the Government’s scheme, Access To Work, he was assigned Emma as a British Sign Language interpreter.
The programme grants up to £62,900 per year to support people with physical or mental disabilities and health conditions to join the workforce. Emma, who translates customers’ questions into BSL so that Farid can understand, has become a good friend.
“Obviously it’s a huge benefit to have an interpreter, because communication is difficult for obvious reasons,” he said. “I didn’t know that I could have an interpreter”.
When Farid started out at Waitrose in Belgravia, his British Sign Language was a “little rusty”, but now he has no problem communicating with customers via Emma. “Now it’s fantastic, I know how to sign and my interpreter really helps me,” he said.
On the rare occasions that Emma is not nearby, Farid finds other ways to communicate with them. “Sometimes customers are quite shocked when they see me with an interpreter,” he added.
“I will explain that I’m deaf. Sometimes I’ll get my phone out and show them a text, so I try to communicate with them that way.
“Or I can ask one of the other staff members as well”. Emma added that because Farid has been working in the Belgravia branch for five years, many of the customers now know him.
He has even started teaching BSL to some of the other staff members, who the company refer to as partners as it is employee-owned. “The team and managers are really, really lovely here,” he said.
“Having an interpreter means I can communicate with them, I feel part of the team and don’t feel excluded, which is really important.” Earlier this year in February, Farid asked his manager whether he could attend a wine training course in Stratford.
“I’m really keen and interested in working in wines,” he said. “I went on the course and learned all about wines and the different names.
“There was an exam at the end of it and I was given a certificate. It was the first time that they met a deaf person at the wine training course.
“It was a really fantastic day”. Working in wines has become Farid’s favourite part of the job.
“Having done the training course, I can now give a bit of advice to customers depending on what kind of wine they would like,” he said. “Obviously not too in-depth because I’ve only done the one course.”
He has been working closely with another partner who is a wine expert and more than happy to share his knowledge. In the future, Farid is hoping to attend more courses and become an expert himself.
“At first, I felt like it was something I couldn’t do, but they’ve (Waitrose) encouraged me to get involved. Being deaf or having a disability doesn’t matter, you can still go and learn new things,” he added.
With Christmas fast approaching, Farid is getting ready for the busiest time of year. “It’s very, very busy, as you can imagine,” he said.
“It means I’m going to be really busy coming up and down the stairs getting stock and back to work quickly. I will probably do a bit of extra overtime.
“But that’s what it’s going to be, just working quickly and keeping the customers happy”.
This post was syndicated via RSS Feeds provided by Bristol Live. Visit the original source article here: http://bristolpost.co.uk/