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Deaf students inspire carpentry classmates

Two Victoria University (VU) students are proving that deafness is no barrier to building a future as a carpenter.   

William Larsen, 18 from Footscray and Ben Spera, 19 from Avondale Heights, were both diagnosed with deafness shortly after birth. The two became friends while attending the Victorian College for the Deaf in St Kilda.

When Spera decided to become a carpenter with the goal of working alongside his father, he encouraged his mate to join him in a pre-apprenticeship course at VU's Newport Campus.

The two are now seven weeks into their 16-week full-time Carpentry and Joinery program which fast-tracks participants into an apprenticeship and a job in the building industry.

Carpentry teacher Robert Greaves said the pair has easily picked up everything they've been taught, with instructions relayed by sign language through an interpreter.

"They're really an inspiration to all the others and have added a great deal to my perspective as a teacher," he said.

Their carpentry classmates are picking up unexpected skills in miming and basic signing, with lunchtime classes on offer for those who are especially keen to learn more. Most class members now know sign language greetings, but they also have a fascination with learning how to swear without words.   

Their teachers have adapted certain behaviours to communicate, such as turning out lights when they want the young mens' attention, and waiting for their delayed laughter when classroom jokes take a few seconds longer to be interpreted.

The two are expected to do everything the rest of the class does, including wearing hearing protection. Their skill level and diligence has already put them among the top students, Greaves said.  

Neither young man is new to personal challenges. Before graduating from college, the two successfully completed the Kokoda Track with other deaf classmates. Through their interpreter, they said they were inspired by the courage and commitment they saw among the Papua New Guinea residents, the same effect they have on many of their teachers and classmates.

A photo of William and Ben in their carpentry class with their teacher and interpreter is available.

Contact:
R
obert Greaves, Carpentry Teacher
F
aculty of Technical and Trades Innovation, Victoria University
P
h: (03) 9919 8475.

Media contact
A
nn Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer,
M
arketing & Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph:  (03)9919 5487; mobile:  0403 556 001

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