Providing access to the hearing impaired

Started in 2012 in Brazil, the Libras initiative consists of the translation of all training videos for Sodexo employees into the Libras sign language (see sidebar). It is a great example of how a project, combined with a strong innovative spirit, can support people with disabilities becoming valued members at Sodexo. Cristiane Santos, HR Analyst, who is fluent in Libras, signs in front of the camera. She tells us about her experience and how she made the difference. 


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What challenges did you face while working on the Libras initiative?
It takes a lot more than I thought to put together a training video. Collaboration is key of course, especially since we decided that the initiative should extend to the entire Sodexo organization in Brazil, which counts over 36,000 employees! We could not have done it without strong synergy and engagement among teams and departments. The scope of the project made it more of a challenge but it also increased my desire to succeed, though I was a little nervous about correctly translating some words.

Why are some of the words you had difficulty translating?
For instance, in one of the videos about food handling, I had to translate the word ‘bacteria’, which did not exist in Libras. So I asked for the help of a web forum, very popular among the hearing-impaired community in Brazil. Thanks to its advice, I was able to design Sodexo-specific signs! I would like to add that signing in front of the camera was an amazing experience - with the added bonus that Sodexo people now recognize me everywhere I go!  

Do you feel you’ve made an impact with the Libras project? 
Well, because our clients view us as essential partners, we carry out our training efforts hand-in-hand with them, which has given our project a lot of visibility. Some clients have even asked us to create specific Libras videos for them. In addition the project has improved our interactions with unions, opinion leaders, and decision makers. 
But most importantly, it helps raise awareness about disabilities and that’s something I am really proud of.


What is Libras?

Libras (“lingua brasileira de sinais”) is the sign language used by most hearing-impaired and deaf people throughout urban Brazil. For words that have no specific signs, Libras fingerspelling uses a one-handed manual alphabet, composed of 44 distinct handshapes, similar to that used by the French sign-language family. Since 2002, its use is required in education and government services.

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