Gildan’s Sign Language Training Program: Encouraging Inclusive Communications in the Dominican Republic

Apr 2, 2024 9:00 AM ET
Multiple hands coalescing to portray diversity and inclusion
Gildan’s Sign Language Training Program: Encouraging Inclusive Communications in the Dominican Republic

In 2021, Gildan initiated a Spanish sign language training program in three of its facilities in the Dominican Republic. At the time, these facilities had close to 60 deaf and hard of hearing employees, and the program was established to enhance inclusive communication between these employees and their peers. Three years later, this initiative is now a fixed component of the Company’s annual training plan for the Dominican Republic, and an effective means of creating an environment where every employee feels included and supported in their professional journey.

Tailored to fulfill Gildan’s local needs, the program was designed and developed by the Company’s Human Resources team in collaboration with sign language experts from INFOTEP, the National Institute of Professional Technical Training. As part of the program, learners go through a four-tiered training, totaling up to a year-long commitment to acquire the skills needed to master Spanish sign language.

While participation in the program is voluntary, Gildan ensures that every cohort of learners includes at least one representative from each department, encouraging a sense of inclusivity and empathy within each team. Currently, there are more than 30 employees trained in Spanish sign language who are dispersed across Gildan’s various operations in the Dominican Republic.

“I am proud of our team for initiating this program and continuing to reinforce its importance within our workforce here,” says Vileika Ramirez, Director, Human Resources at Gildan. “Beyond equipping employees with the necessary skills to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing colleagues, this program has created an openness and willingness among people to step outside their comfort zone and embrace what it means to be inclusive,” she finishes.

Participants share below how the program has impacted them:

“At first, I found sign language challenging, but eventually, I understood its importance for successful communication with my co-workers. Now, I actively encourage my colleagues to learn sign language." - Evelyn Abigail Felix, Environmental Supervisor

“As the one in charge of recruitment, the sign language program has helped me a lot. I can now directly communicate with all our candidates to ensure a fair hiring process. Furthermore, I can better understand feedback from our current employees and respond to requests more effectively.” - Yudy Cuevas, Human Resources Analyst

Gildan has a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to sign language training, the Company has taken many steps to foster inclusivity within its employee base. Specifically, in the Dominican Republic, Gildan recently received the Gold Gender Equality Seal from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for its efforts to address gender gaps across eight dimensions in the workplace. Gildan also organizes annual on-site workshops to raise awareness about gender-based violence, facilitating open dialogue around this issue. Through these and many other initiatives, the Company continues to create favourable conditions for all its employees to reach their full potential. 

To learn more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Gildan, click here.