When Danielle Gumina joined genU Training in August 2013, the talented administration professional was excited to return to work in the education sector. Then she was told the shattering news that she was profoundly deaf a few months later.
“I was born with a moderate to severe hearing impairment and I knew it was going to happen at some point in my life. Still, you are never prepared for when it does,” Danielle said.
“The most significant place it affected me was at home. I was in a completely silent world without hearing aids and I missed a lot. Conversations became difficult even with hearing aids and I found myself constantly relying on lip reading. I didn’t actually know about hearing dogs then, I had never heard of them.”
Learning a new world of sound
As one of over 40 family members with a disability across six generations, Danielle was driven to work for an organisation whose services included supporting other people with a disability.
“I always wanted to work in disability. Training was my original background and administration and organisation was where I excelled,” she said.
When Danielle started having trouble answering the phones, workplace adjustments were made to enable her to continue putting her exceptional administration skills to use.
“I was hugely devastated when I couldn’t use the phone anymore,” Danielle said.
“I then had an operation in 2016 to try and restore some hearing with a cochlear implant. Initially I thought I had made the biggest mistake having the operation. It was a scary journey and took me 18 months to adjust as I had to learn a completely new world of sound.”
Setting Danielle up to succeed
Seconded to the Accommodation Support team from Training, Danielle was then set-up to succeed and supported by her team in her day-to-day work.
“After the operation, I couldn’t walk for 6 weeks as my balance was highly affected. It truly was a very difficult road. The team adapted to me which was phenomenal; they were all very caring and often advised me of what sounds I was hearing as I still couldn’t distinguish them at that point.”
Today, Danielle is a highly valued member of the Allied Health and Contact teams and has the additional support of an Australian Lions Hearing Dog ‘Honey’ to alert her to everyday sounds, including emergency alarms.
“I received Honey two years ago and it’s been amazing to have her at work,” Danielle said.
“We had to train staff in the do’s and don’ts of service dogs, which included not patting or feeding Honey. This is because she works for treats and when she is wearing her service dog coat, she is in work mode. So it was an educational process for everyone.
“Honey’s trainer stayed for the week to teach me what I needed to do to keep Honey continuously working. She taught the family and genU staff how Honey needs to be treated and also assessed the genU building and her daily ‘work’ area/s.”
Danielle said having the support of Honey has been life-changing at work, home and in public.
“Honey has brought me out my shell a lot,”
she said. “She has given me way more confidence and at home, I now feel 100 percent safe knowing Honey is there to alert me.”
“It’s been amazing to have her at work. She alerts me to sounds and people calling my name. They [genU] are so supportive of Honey and my manager Ashlan Smith is a huge example of that support.
“I wanted to be amongst an organisation who supported people with a disability. Hence 9 years later, I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere.”
At genU, we’re committed to creating a truly inclusive workplace where all people can be empowered to tap into their strengths and reach their potential.
As a Disability Confident Recruiter, we provide accessible, inclusive, and equitable recruitment processes for all candidates. Find out more about our recruitment practices here