Statistics show that about 12,000 deaf people live in the Republic of Croatia, but unfortunately it is rare for them to complete their higher education.
As Ivan Tominac/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 14th of April, 2019, Josip Ivanković was born in Čapljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but just one year after his birth, he was declared deaf, and this fact was one of his reasons for his relocation to Croatia. His move to Croatia certainly paid off as being the right move, and Josip, despite the diagnosis, managed to develop his speech and the technique of listening. That was, as Josip himself states, a painstaking and long process.
“The situation is that I have to treat speaking Croatian as if I was speaking a foreign language,” Josip Ivanković explained.
For four years now, his speech and listening abilities have been being developed at the SUVAG Polyclinic, where Josip learned to speak with vibration, tone amplification, visualisation and by learning anatomy.
“When I learned to pronounce the letter ”r”, I had to touch the vocal chords of the logopad to feel a certain vibration and titration, then I’d lean my hand on my neck to feel the same vibration, so I learned to pronounce the letter ”r” I learned to pronounce ”ž” in a similar way, I just put my hand on my head. Generally speaking, the hardest letters to pronounce for the deaf are l,č,ć,đ,dž,lj and nj, and the reason for that is that such letters can’t be visually identified. They’re explained through the anatomy of the oral cavity, just like a doctor explains the heart’s organs, or where the blood enters and where it exits,” explained Josip.
After the kindergarten era ended, in which he learned the basics of socialisation, it was decided that he should attend a regular school.
This period of schooling, without any curriculum adjustment, he adds, was defined by perseverance, and communicational misunderstandings are, in his words, quite normal and natural.
“The professors made me equal with my peers, and this proved to be a good thing because I learned so much about the world of those who can hear, and I learned how to gather information,” said Josip. As stated, statistics show that about 12,000 deaf people live in Croatia, but it is rare for them to complete higher education. Josip was not one of them, and he completed a college which has some very demanding academic requirements for its students.
He enrolled at FER (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing), and the likelihood of him completing his studies was slim, yet Josip had different plans for himself.
“At the beginning of the semester, it was very difficult for me to adapt,” recalled Josip. Before Josip’s arrival, professors from Zagreb’s FER didn’t have any experience in working with people with impaired hearing. At the beginning, he failed several exams, but he didn’t let that dampen his spirit, and later he turned to further consultations.
This combination led him to become the very first deaf person to graduated from that college.
“The professors were very approachable, and our relationship was very flexible and adaptable. I will never forget how Professor Brnetić, instead of me asking him, personally invited me to consultations during the holidays and showed me much he cared that I didn’t miss anything from the lecture. On the other hand, one professor asked me during consultations why I didn’t go to the lectures and asked me how I was learning. I told him that I don’t go to the lectures because I can’t hear them. I took out a 100-page notebook with my assignments, and the professor was surprised that I did all that without having gone to any lectures. He asked me to lend him that notebook and later I learned that he’d showed my notebook to all of the professors. Believe it or not, a year after when I came to his office, that copy of the notebook was still on his desk,” Josip stated, recalling his faculty days.
In the end, none of the obstacles he faced along the way turned him away from his goal, and he passed 62 engagements that mostly relied solely on him and his level of dedication. This FER student didn’t have to wait around long before a job opportunity came knocking, and it wasn’t your regular offer. He started his working life at no less than Rimac Automobili as an Embedded Hardware Engineer. Rimac had no problems with his deafness and offered him a position after his interview.
”At the beginning of the job, I was given a pretty demanding project that I had to complete within a month, which was the length of my trial period, and when the project ended I realised that I was able to complete it and was given the green light to remain with the firm,” Josip said. The work never stops at Rimac Automobili, and at the moment, Josip is working on a project for the development of electric car chargers.
“Communication skills are the most difficult for me, because I have to invest extra energy into lip reading and that’s mentally challenging and difficult. Imagine a situation in which a colleague is referring to professional terms, and I need to decode them with and put them into context in order for me to have any understanding. Imagine switching off your ears, and focusing your eyes on their lips alone.
You aren’t likely to understand because they’re not using standard words, they’re using technical phrases that are difficult to decode and recognise. At the beginning, it was very difficult for me to follow verbal communication and understand the complexity of the project. Of course, since working here I’ve changed a lot and become much more calm, more focused and concentrated on the small things. The worst thing is when a colleague does not know how to communicate with me properly, and this is where I’m concerned about information which is valuable to the project, and that’s an extra effort. Each colleague has his own specific way of speaking and they aren’t all the same in communication. With time, I somehow adjusted to them, and they also had to adapt to me, I accepted that this was all normal and there would always be a situation where they couldn’t understand, but I’ll always ask them to repeat themselves not just twice, but 1000 times!” concluded Josip.
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