Chan Chi-kong lives in a 'silent world'. He neither speaks nor hears, but as a hotel cook he has done so well that he was named an outstanding disabled employee yesterday. Mr Chan, 34, was one of the 12 winners of this year's awards organised by the Labour Department. Born with his disabilities, Mr Chan has never found school or working easy. He did some wood work after completing Form Three and joined the Royal Garden Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui East as a room attendant in 1986. 'But I didn't really like being a room attendant. I wanted to be a cook. So I went to the kitchen to see how the cooks worked everyday after I finished my work,' Mr Chan said in sign language. 'Two years later I was transferred to the kitchen. I was so happy that I was given that opportunity.' At first he communicated with his colleagues by writing notes and, later, with simple body and sign language. Mr Chan recalled the time he chopped his thumb, but could not tell his colleague. 'My colleague only realised after I rushed to him and showed him my thumb.' His wife is also handicapped, but his two children, aged five and eight, are not. The Labour Department has helped 16,800 disabled people find jobs over the past 17 years. In the first eight months of this year, about 2,000 disabled people have applied to the department and 1,000 have found jobs.