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Lavinia Koopman is an Executive Secretary for the Network Operations Officer, and has been at Vodacom for 25 years. Lavinia shares about the challenges she has had to overcome since being diagnosed with a hearing impairment.
Could you please give us a brief overview of your disability and the challenges that it brings to your daily life.
In June 2018, I was diagnosed with profound sensory-neural hearing loss in both ears. The condition is due to prolonged use of chronic medication for my thyroid desease and sleeping disorder. An Audiologist confirmed that my hearing will deteriorate year on year, so I go for regular testing. The best solution was to get a set of hearing aids to assist with my disability.
Being hearing impaired is very challenging as you have to come to terms with not functioning at the same level as before. Also having to educate my peers and colleagues on how to communicate in a manner that will allow us to have effective conversation without my hearing being a hindrance. Acceptance was also challenging not only for myself, but for my family as well.
How has Vodacom as a company adapted to assist you with your disability?
Due to medical aids not covering hearing aids, I had to find ways to cover the costs. So my colleagues started fundraising and donating to fund my hearing aids. I am so grateful to my Vodacom family who heeded the call to assist, when I needed it the most. We raised the funds within seven days, I felt very blessed and grateful. My colleagues have been very accommodating throughout this process.
Which technologies have helped you and other people with disabilities, and how?
I had to purchase a device called a Compilot that connects to my mobile phone and computer via bluetooth. This device has really made a huge difference in my daily life. It hooks onto my chest and enables me to answer calls without having to hold my mobile phone to my ear.
What do you wish able-bodied people did more of / less of for people who have a disability – at home, socially and in the workplace?
I believe we all should be more tolerant towards each other. Being disabled is just being differently able. We all still function; just differently. Educating the people around us is important, they won’t know you have special needs if you don’t tell them.
Who are some of your role models - who have a disability?
Three colleagues who also have a disability, whom I admire are Karen Smit, she is a huge pillar of strength to me; Pasche Dreyer, for her resiliance and determination; and Werner Van Wyk for his will power to keep moving forward.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of the world's population has a disability and only 48% of working-age people living with a disability are employed. These stats show that it is critical that companies become more inclusive and embrace diversity in all its forms. This is why Vodacom has made it our mission to build an inclusive culture where everyone is respected, can be themselves and strives to be their best.
Click here for more information about the benefits of working at Vodacom or here to read another interview of someone from Vodacom living with a disability.