In 2018, O-I’s Rio de Janeiro plant employees asked management a vital question: What was the best way to connect with the plant’s 17 deaf employees? During a Diversity and Inclusion training on unconscious biases, the question came from shop floor employees.
After discussing with the Unlimited Employee Resource Group (ERG) team for the entire employee base, leadership created a simple but powerful inclusivity initiative. This program would include training in Brazilian Sign Language (BSL), also called Libras, or Língua Brasileira de Sinais.
“We identified that we had more than 30 deaf employees in our factories in Americas South. As a result, we realized that it was essential to create a sign language training program,” said Hadailton Sousa, People & Culture Manager at O-I Rio de Janeiro.
The Libras program, aligned with O-I’s diversity, teamwork, and integrity values, was introduced in 2019. Twelve employees from People & Culture, EHS, and Manufacturing took part in the introductory proficiency course in its first wave.
“After five months, the impact at the plant level was noticeable and very positive,” says Sousa. “Diversity and inclusion are important for our company, so we understood that it was necessary to take action to make diversity a reality in our daily lives.”
The Libras program takes place over five months with 40 hours of training. Each semester a new class begins. The Rio De Janeiro plant offers the course in-person, online, and recorded. There are assessments by period. A virtual assistant facilitates learning and makes sure videos and online training are available. By graduation, students understand primary sign language, enabling them to communicate with their deaf and hard-of-hearing colleagues.
“Brazil’s deaf community is very well-connected and very active,” says Phillipe Nathan, People & Culture Business Partner at O-I Rio de Janeiro. “You can find Libras everywhere, so training our employees in its use is both practical and appropriate.”
To date, 12 people have completed the course. According to Nathan, employee interest in the Libras training program grows as conversations about diversity and inclusion continue within the plant. As a result, he said the plant’s leadership will schedule a new class for 2022.