Thursday, February 18, 2010

Human Rights and Accessibility Lectures

Ayodhya Charitable Trust, an NGO for the deaf in Pune, invited us for a lecture on Human Rights and Accessibility on 18th January. Atiya who, with Aqil, had done a thorough introduction to ISL and Deaf Culture for them had insisted that we accept the invitation though I was a bit skeptical about what we could say to experienced teachers of the deaf from in and around PuneMrs. Sheth and I discussed how to go about 'lecturing' 20 teachers from in and around Pune on these topics without sounding presumptuous. I was prepared with my powerpoint programme and fancy jargon but unsure that we were authorities on the topics.

Mrs. Sheth then suggested 'group discussions' and it worked wonderfully. We gave the participants a list of points to discuss and 4 groups of 5 participants each got talking animatedly and making notes. We finally had one representative of each sub-group come up and voice their views. The energy was amazing. I ended the session by highlighting the points raised by the participants and the different ways in which the problems they encounter as teachers of the deaf can be solved with a little more assertion and commitment.

Today I was invited to repeat the lecture...and though Mrs. Sheth was not with me, Ramona came. I found that though I missed Mrs. Sheth, today, I was more confident and better equipped to address the new batch of 20 teachers. We had the group discussion. We got 5 new points from each group to dwell on and discuss. I will put up the points in my next blog for all to read and ponder. I ended with the quote
"if we're not part of the solution, we're part of the problem" and requested them to assert their rights as teachers and put down on paper all the problems they faced and the solutions at the end of the 3 day workshop held by Ayodhya and send copies to the authorities that are so that this doesn't stop as a discussion in a classroom somewhere in Pune but takes the shape of a mass movement begun for mainstreaming of the deaf led by teachers of the deaf.

The teachers were a happy, interactive, intelligent group and I've been informed that we'll be invited again for lectures! Cheers to that!

Silent Eloquence

We began our course in November 2009. Having scanned the internet for information on SIGN LANGUAGE and its multiple benefits, I was amazed at what I unearthed. I found out that people with challenges other than deafness could also benefit from signing. I contacted Prasanna School for the Autistic and was pleased with the response. 4 of their teachers signed up for our course and are happy with the learning experience.
We have over 15 deaf students who're trying to improve their English Language skills using the same ISL course. As we, the hearing, learn to sign, they try and correct their spellings and grammar. We also involve them in our ISL sessions by allowing them to demonstrate to us how to sign with the right expressions and ISL grammar. This serves as an interactive and confidence building exercise. We have over 15 hearing students including school going children who are regular and enthusiastic participants in the course. There have been many inquiries about organising more such introductory courses in and around Pune and we're are thrilled with the resposnse we've recieved.

Thank you, Aqil and Atiya for designing the course and conducting it for EKansh as freelancers. Thank you, Pune!


I am Anita. I've worked with the blind in Delhi and now work with people across the disability spectrum in Pune. My dream has always been that of an INCLUSIVE world - a world where there are no labels meant to help discriminate or differentiate. With an academic background in Law, Sociology and Psychology and work experience in the service industry, EKansh is my baby and she's lucky to have found so many Godparents in so short a time. My role is to conceptualize and actualize ideas to spread my/our slogan - Awareness, Acceptance, Sensitization and Inclusion.

Bhakti is my co-trustee in EKansh. She is keen to help change the situation for people with disabilities and the attitude of our society. She's taken over the task of documentation and official paperwork for EKansh.

Dr. ( Mrs.) Madhuri Sheth is a gem of an ally. She's a septuagenarian with a wild zest for music, drama and life in general. A moving force who prods us on, advises, scolds, gently explains and ensures that things get done the way they should. She's visiting faculty at TASMAC in Pune with very rich experience in training and HR. She's organised and participated in various Indian nad international conferences and seminars ..also run an NGO called SANCHETNA. She believes in woman power and epitomises it.

Mona is an EKansh member with a keen eye for details/grammar and a sharp mind for accounts. We'd be lost without her!

Ramona is a new member who lost 8 months of her active life to a broken leg and was at home thanks to non-existent public spaces with facilities for people with disabilities in our country. An editor with Jacaranda and an MBA, she's a hands on person with a keen mind who wants to learn the ropes yesterday.

Girish is 'guest' volunteer who shows up and helps us out when we least expect him to.

This is our team today. Besides these friends, there are many who've supported us in many ways. We'd like this family to grow and welcome anyone who has the time and inclination to make our society more inclusive.

Atiya has a freelance ISL consultant to us and friend since 3 years. We still argue with each other from opposite sides of the same issue. Me, a representative of the insensitive 'non-disabled' society and she, an ISL interpreter and resource person AND an insider from the deaf community since she has a brother who is deaf. We argue about the rules that the self appointed authorities have laid more willing to break them than she. She worries about whether the 'hearing' will take the 'deaf' for a ride. I worry whether the 'deaf' will trust those 'hearing' people who are really keen on inclusion but are clueless and treading on eggshells. We share a strong partnership and know we will achieve what we set out to. She helps us conduct awareness sessions wrt ISL and deaf issues.

Aqil is Atiya's brother and our Mascot! He's deaf and a tireless advocate of ISL. He has also always been with us on our journey towards inclusion. He has evolved into a more confident human being, now even co-ordinating and assisting in designing and teaching our basic course on ISL.

We thank Atiya and Aqil for their support to EKansh as experts from within the Deaf World.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A balanced view: Different strokes for different folks

Giving Deaf Children Permission To Be Who They AreThere is one more critical aspect to making the right choice. This is allowing your children the freedom to be who they are. It doesn't matter if your child is fluent in ASL or an oralist; it doesn't matter if your child attends a deaf school or a mainstream school; it doesn't matter if your child is hard of hearing or totally deaf. The important thing is this: whatever works best for your child, your child needs to know that this is perfectly okay with you.
In an article titled Deafness: An Existential Interpretation by Stanley Krippner and Harry Easton, there was a quote so powerful that I felt compelled to include it in my book, Deaf Again. Here it is in its entirety:
"If parents are not able to accept the fact that their child is deaf and continue to deny the implications of the deafness, the resulting effects on the child are to encourage his own denial and lack of authenticity. Such a child is thus unable to accept himself and his capacity to emerge or become a unique person is blocked. He lives an existential lie and becomes unable to relate to himself and to other deaf individuals and to the world in a genuine manner."
And this, I promise, is the most effective communication method for a deaf child: a parent's assurance that, however they choose to grow up- deaf or hard of hearing, it is okay.

Learning Challenges

Sign is not only for the DEAF. There is this very narrow perception of SIGN as an alternative language ONLY for the deaf. It even helps in problems like Dyslexia and Autism.

It is wonderful to read differing opinions expressed with clarity and equanimity.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

For those who choose to remain misinformed.

Excerpts from the experts:

3. Informed Information/Decision (i.e. many new parents of deaf children are not aware of potential risks/side effects of Auditory Verbal Therapy(AVT) programs until their children experience mental health and language problems in their later life. There is no checklist for parents of deaf children to identify mismatched communication and acting-out behaviours.)
Fact: No information regarding the harmful effects of AVT and preventative mental health information is available to new parents of deaf children until their children reach their teen years and begin to experience difficulties. Many new parents of deaf children and professionals in the field of the health and education of deaf people are not informed of a full spectrum of information. Many are still not aware of (or avoid learning about) the realities, possibilities and accomplishments of Deaf people. They fear losing their jobs to Deaf people or losing their children to the Deaf community.
4. Misleading Information about implications of sign language (i.e. speech, language and intelligence development are compromised by learning/using sign language)
Fact: Parents of deaf children are often not aware that there is no research or empirical studies to support this perception for those parents of deaf children who choose to pursue to both AVT and ASL services. In fact, research studies show that using sign language greatly benefits deaf children's linguistic, speech, intelligence and academic performance.