A Taranaki employer has been recognised for his efforts in helping a deaf employee.

Building contractor Mark Wells, who owns Wells Building and Construction, employed Keith Morris over a year ago, after a family friend of Keith's asked Mark if he could offer the 31-year-old a job.

"A client of ours approached me one day and told me about Keith and asked me if I would consider employing him.

"I thought, well, I'm in a good position so why not?"


Mark called Steve Ander from Workbridge, which is a specialist employment service which matches people with a disability and potential employers.

"Me calling Steve was amazing in itself. I never call people normally, I wait for them to call me! I talked to Steve and asked if it was possible. I did have some health and safety concerns, so we talked that over too, and then I just decided to get on with it and give Keith a chance."

Keith, who communicates with sign language and by writing in a notebook, says he appreciated Mark giving him that chance.

"The team are good, they are all nice to work with. I like learning how to build and I enjoy being able to work as part of a team."

While Keith can lipread, he says it isn't always possible.

"I can lipread maybe 60 per cent of things. I can't lipread all people, but I also use text messages or write on paper."

His workmates have all started learning some basic sign since Keith started working with them.

"They have downloaded the New Zealand Sign Language app on their phones and use that to learn things."


Mark says he is happy to learn sign, although he doesn't think he is that great at it.
"I think it's like a pidgin sign I am using, I know some but not all, and when Keith is signing to someone else who knows sign he is very fast and I can't follow it."

Mark says now Keith has worked for him for over a year, all his initial concerns have gone away. "I think my main worry was others not knowing he was deaf, so expecting him to hear when he couldn't, if they needed to warn him of a danger or something, but actually we have had no problems, Keith is more than capable and I'm happy to be his employer."

Steve visited Mark and Keith on Wednesday to present Mark with a Workbridge Above and Beyond certificate, recognising his efforts