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The deaf TV editors

The deaf TV editors

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

In a crisis those on the peripheries of the labour market suffer the most. Who wants to invest in a deaf or deafblind when the future of the company hangs in the balance? ASVO in Bergen, Norway, does exactly that.

Gunnar Fauskanger heads a company department responsible for the subtitling, copying and editing of TV programmes. He wasn't always deaf, but lost his hearing as an adult in 1982. It means he can still speak, even if he no longer can hear himself talking.

- My hearing disappeared during a football match between my favourite team Brann and Mjøndalen. The score was 2-2 when Brann scored another goal. I was in a corner which amplified the sound of 15,000 screaming fans. After that match I was deaf, he says.

Between 4 and 5,000 people in Norway have become deaf. There is a similar number of those born deaf. Of those of working age from both groups, only 50 percent have jobs according to the foundation Signo, which provides support to deaf and some 400 deafblind Norwegians.

The foundation runs nine different businesses, and ASVO Bergen is one of the smaller ones. 32 of a total of 950 employees work there. In addition to Digidup, which Gunnar Fauskanger's department is called, ASVO runs a fruit wholesale business, delivers fresh fruit baskets to local businesses and is responsible for a bakery making gluten-free bread. It also runs a collective for deaf youths.

- Most other businesses that specialise in employing people with handicaps rely on 70 percent state support and make 30 percent of that back through the business they run. We've turned those numbers on their heads, says Nina Hurtley, head of ASVO Bergen.

- To secure growth, we cannot take out a profit. Any surplus goes straight back into the business to improve it further, she says.

A decent salary

ASVO pays each employee wages of 60 to 70,000 Norwegian Kroner. For some, this comes on top of their incapacity benefits, bringing their total income up to a normal salary level. There are also twelve deaf people here being paid ordinary salaries.

- We can run any business we fancy, but our goal is to always provide services on a professional level, says Nina Hurtley.

That goes for Digidup as well. The company is now the best of its kind in Norway for digitalisation and copying services for video and TV. This despite the rather unusual combination of video editing and deafness.
- I never believed it would become as advanced as it is today. This is my baby, says  Gunnar Fauskanger proudly while demonstrating an editing unit showing a TV detective series - completely soundless, of course.

With technical aids all is possible


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