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Deaf diesel mechanic is getting the job done at Fuso Geelong

Chris Linahan might not be able to hear or speak, but he can still fix a truck.

The 19-year-old is Deaf and communicates using Auslan Australian Sign Language called Auslan. He is in the second year of his diesel mechanical apprenticeship at Geelong Fuso, where he has quickly become part of the team.

Chris took to the stage at a recent black tie event when Fuso Geelong and employment provider MatchWorks took out the inaugural Innovation in Disability - Team Award at the prestigious National Employment Services Association (NESA) National Employment Awards for Excellence.

Although he admits he suffered from stage fright, Chris managed to explain how much he enjoys his role at Fuso Geelong and how he goes on about his job just like anyone else.

“I just like working with mechanical things,” Chris says.

“I very much enjoy working at Fuso Geelong. There is plenty of work to do, it is certainly busier than where I have worked in the past,” he says.

“The team I work with is really great.”

Several of his workmates have learnt Auslan in order to communicate and Fuso Geelong dealer principal, Richard Furnari, will also take up lessons soon. Chris employs an Auslan interpreter, Therese Lewis, who comes to the workshop two to three times a week to interpret interactions between the team. 

He is also able to communicate with other workers and customers by using a special iPad app developed by Fuso Geelong.

“This way, Chris can report to customers,” Richard says.

“We want him to report the condition of a truck and any problems that he has seen to the customer and the customer can give him the instruction to fix those. This way he has got the independence in the workshop; he doesn’t need a second person to do it for him,” he says.

Chris is grateful for the opportunity to show what he can do for Fuso Geelong, which was not put-off by the fact he is Deaf.

“I am really good at working on trucks and that notion that I couldn’t do it because I am Deaf is just silly really,” he says.

Chris is able to use his sense of feel in the workshop and can tell if a truck is approaching by picking up on vibrations coming through the concrete slab.

Feeling vibrations also allowed him to tune motorbikes in a previous job. Chris is a car and bike enthusiast and spends much of his free time working on a rock-crawling Ford Maverick 4WD, which he takes camping, and also drives a beloved Holden VL Commodore. Chris also rides his trail bike when he gets the chance.

Richard is pleased to have been able to give Chris an opportunity in the workshop and views him a valuable member of the ream, describing him as a ‘long term prospect’. “It’s fortunate that we are able to make a difference,” Richard says.

The Chief Executive Officer of NESA, Sally Sinclair, says Fuso Geelong and MatchWorks are worthy winners of the inaugural Innovation in Disability - Team Award. 

“This award is a great tribute to Fuso Geelong and MatchWorks, and shows how employers can totally change people's lives and improve opportunities for people with a disability when they invest the time to create truly inclusive workplaces,” she says.

October 26, 2016 | Posted in: News



Australian Trucking Quarterly