From a world devoid of sound to success – Kash’s Story
I was born profoundly deaf to hearing parents, and due to the severity of my disability (sensorineural deafness), my parents were advised upon discovery of my deafness when I was 2 years old, that I would never speak. 28 years later, armed with bilateral hearing aids, I am a profoundly deaf Chartered Accountant, part of the leadership team for Internal Audit and Risk at an ASX listed company and am fully independent.
My parents opted to teach me to speak and I learnt how to speak and lipread whilst attending mainstream schools in South Africa. My first spoken word was “Flower” and my parents had a little black book in which they made a record of every single word that I uttered. Soon, the pages were too few and the words too many.
I have had a stellar academic career, with distinctions in school and university as well as being a member of the prestigious Golden Key Society for academic excellence. I have a Bachelor’s degree and an advanced Honours degree in accounting. I am also a trained Chartered Accountant, and was the first profoundly deaf Chartered Accountant in South Africa.
I moved to Australia to further my independence, 3 years ago and I have been working very hard within the company I work for to ensure that the workplace is accessible for all employees and that our services are accessible to all our customers.
My challenges in the workplace here in Australia are many however, as accessibility is evolving, changes are slow but in the horizon. Some of my everyday challenges are sitting in meetings with multiple people all contributing to the overall conversation, tiredness from lipreading constantly throughout the day, missed conversations if I wasn’t looking and then of course, the vulnerability and inadequacy that comes with having deafness.
I have a business-facing role which require extensive interpersonal skills. My peers, colleagues and business stakeholders have been more than understanding, most of them amazed and inspired. I have spread deaf awareness through corporate channels as well through a multitude of client interactions and have had the great fortune to break many perceptions. My struggle for inclusiveness is far from over, overcoming barriers was part of the journey.
It was hard in the beginning to accept that I am different from my family members in the sense that I have a profound and severe hearing disability, but once I came to the acceptance of my disability and the determination to make it my strength rather than my weakness, it was no obstacle for me. I’ve chosen to live my life in acceptance of my deafness and it’s a huge part of my identity and I’m proud to belong to a very accepting Deaf community.
There were instances when I was mocked at, or made fun of, because I sounded different, but then I always rose above that, and strived to see goodness in everyone and everything. There were times when I was discriminated against, but that along with being painful gave me the great strength to get up and face my battle head on. There was this constant human rights battle – the right to dignity, the right to education and the right to be free and heard.
I am a passionate advocate to ensure that we have equity for the deaf community and I’m constantly striving to create awareness through many platforms. I do not believe that deafness is an impediment to success, but can be a motivator and strength at times. It is up to us to create awareness and in so doing, create a fair Australia that we want for the future and an Australia that embraces people with diversity of hearing loss.
By way of disclosure and transparency, I am an elected non-executive director of the Deaf Society.