How Robert and his friends cut the mustard

This is the story of how one famous Norwich company gave deaf people a chance - and an appeal for others to do the same in the 21st century.

When Robert Scott went to work at Colman's of Norwich more than 40 years ago he was one of a group of deaf people employed at Carrow Works.

Over the years they left for one reason or another and now Robert, said to be the last one, has also had to leave – because he is losing his sight.

'My eyesight is going. I find it difficult to see things properly,' Robert, now aged 59, told me via Julie Dwyer, who works for Deaf Connexions in Norwich, and is also deaf.

Colman's has been a pioneering company when it comes to employing deaf people over the years – taking on about 30 deaf people working in various parts of the factory.

'I loved my job. They were a very good company to work for,' said Robert. 'They gave me the chance to work.'

Brought up in and around Norwich he went away to school at Preston before coming home to attend the East Anglian School for Deaf and Blind Children at Gorleston which closed down many years ago.

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He explained that back in those days there was a Mr Collins, who helped deaf people get jobs and he worked with the those who employed people at city factories, including Colman's.

'I went to work there when I was 17 years old. I loved it and made some good friends. I spent time in several different departments. Despite being deaf I managed okay and it was a good company,' said Robert.

Away from work Robert, who lives at Thorpe St Andrew, married Ann and they had twins Christopher and Paul – Paul is also deaf.

He then went on to marry Angela and they have Oliver, 14, and Lara, 12. Both are also deaf.

It was a sad time when Robert realised his failing eyesight was preventing him from doing his job.

'I didn't want to leave but I had no choice. I just couldn't see properly and it is getting worse,' he said.

Among the gifts he was presented with was a special enhanced vision computer. 'It is really good,' he added.

When Robert left school in the early 1970s it was easier for deaf people to find work than it is now. Jobs for everyone are few and far between these days.

Julie wants to congratulate Colman's who were willing to take on so many deaf people over the years.

'Nowadays many young deaf people find it so hard to get a job, mainly due to communication difficulties. I want to tell everyone that this is not a barrier,' she said.

She thinks some firms may back away from offering a job to a deaf person when they could do it just as well as a hearing person.

Robert is a shining example of a deaf person who grabbed an opportunity to work with both hands and it led to a job which lasted for more than 40 years.

If you are deaf and have a story to tell please drop me a line at