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World Hearing Day with adidas: Masuma Akhtar’s Story

Category: Deafness Awareness, deaf inclusion, world hearing day

World Hearing Day with adidas

October 2019 saw the world’s greatest flagship, adidasLDN, officially open for business.

Promising the best brand experience for the 200 million shoppers that visit Oxford Street every year, the store boasts four floors of the hottest products, countless digital touchpoints and the brand’s latest innovations under one roof. All these impressive features however would count for anything without the world’s greatest team to first welcome our consumers through the doors and provide them with an unforgettable shopping experience.

The adidasLDN project demanded a colossal effort from those behind the scenes to source, recruit and train a diverse team who can provide a world-class service to our consumers. Every single role was advertised, sourced, screened and interviewed in line with the highest expectations before finally being offered to successful candidates.

In total, the flagship received over 3500 applicants! To meet the demands of such a high volume of applicants, whilst ensuring that every candidate received an inclusive and professional service from adidas, the recruitment and hiring teams delivered 25 assessment centres to source top talent for the flagship.

This is where we met Masuma…

Masuma Akhtar joined adidasLDN as a Specialist on Womenswear. Born deaf and with a hearing disability, Masuma has sometimes struggled in her working life and shares her experience:

“There are some challenges getting jobs. It’s difficult because of communication difficulties but I’m a proud deaf person. Some deaf people find it difficult to get jobs because they lip read and rely on sign language. If they’re speaking to somebody they may not know what they are saying which makes it’s difficult in the workplace”.


She shares that there are many different sign languages, but the deaf community can communicate in other ways too.


“I’ve got a lot of facial expressions and I sign as you can see here. It’s all different so it’s very interesting seeing people with different sign languages”.


In some cases, it can be difficult for the deaf community to secure new opportunities because not all companies have deaf initiatives in place to help candidates at the recruitment stage.


There is also a lack of awareness and training for the hearing community. By training non-deaf workers, companies can help them learn to communicate with deaf workers.


At adidas, the management staff undergo training to support Masuma and also help them communicate with her effectively. We met with Marina Domenech, Associate Recruiter for adidas, who is on hand to offer support to Masuma in her role.


“Marina supports me well, she even wants to learn how to sign and makes sure I have good communication. I’m really happy working here”.


We asked for Marina’s input on her experience of working with Masuma:


“When I was aware I was going to have a deaf person in the business I wanted to learn sign language. I saw her with a cheeky smile on her face and I was worried I was doing something wrong. She said there are different sign languages and I was using Spanish so now she is teaching me the British one. Masuma is a clear example of confidence and we want people to know that they won’t not get the job because of a disability”.


Masuma’s experience can hopefully provide confidence to any potential applicants with a disability looking for a role with adidas. Her story highlights how the brand can adapt their interview process for deaf and disabled candidates and the training that is offered to the wider team on how to sign.


“When I joined adidas I knew it was diverse and inclusive. The interview process was really interesting. I was grateful for the help during the recruitment process and getting the job. I thank Marina for the support and am really grateful”.


Masuma has encountered rude people in her private life but never been discriminated against at adidas because of her hearing disability. However, communication still remains the biggest challenge for Masuma in the workplace:


“Some deaf people do find it easy to communicate and some people find it difficult. Where it’s difficult to communicate, they use pen and paper. Some people can speak, it depends on the deaf person. When you’ve got hearing aids everything sounds really loud, it’s very amplified and I find that sometimes people are shouting so you ask them to speak softly”.


We asked for Masuma’s thoughts around World Hearing Day coming up on Tuesday 3rd March. World Hearing Day is an annual day to help raise awareness for the deaf community, how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and to promote ear and hearing care across the world.

“It’s an important day to celebrate because it encourages people to put themselves in a deaf person’s shoes. It’s like becoming a deaf person and showing the deaf community that you can be proud to be deaf”.


We also asked Masuma what she would say to young people entering the working world who also have hearing disabilities.


“It’s all about confidence, you don’t need to shy away from things, it doesn’t matter that you’re deaf. You can do it. I worked with the Olympic stage at school and they had a poster of me to show a confident deaf person. I won the 200 metres”.


Sourcing, recruiting and training top, diverse talent is a never-ending journey for adidas. A company that has appropriate systems in place means that there is no reason to shy away from applying for roles if you have a hearing disability. As Masuma made clear, deaf workers can be proud and, just like she has, excel in the workplace.

“The world’s greatest flagship demands the world’s greatest team”

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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