A beautiful and brilliant place in Navi Mumbai – it’s one of my favorite place in Mumbai, where it proves that learning is a continuous process. Outside it is red bricked, four floored building with a signboard that reads “WE TOO SHALL CONQUER”, spacious compound wall with full of greens and a swimming pool. Inside, complete silence almost all the time (day and night), and all the seasons. You and I can count heartbeats, pulse and respiration rates in an extraordinary manner. There is a lot of place with few rooms which are not separated by walls.
In the ground floor I find a lot of space and toy-vehicles to play, a swing, Braille alphabets chart, a building model, and creative work by young unheard of citizens are exhibited on the walls, very neat and clean. There is a bell, which is hanging just beside the water cooler near the staircase and on the way to the admin block. The building has staircase and a lift with elevated numbers on the switches and of course at present the lift is out of function.
As I walk on to the first floor my vision shifts on to the small little objects which are dangled with chains at knee length. The objects are not just objects but they are indicators; like signals on the road. A pencil box indicates or symbolize classroom, toys for playroom, soap case for toilets, spoons for dining hall and a square shaped pieces for staircase. It’s an amazing work, looks very simple but the important components to avoid accidents of losing confidence, independent, self-esteem, away from world and messed up with oneself till death of individuals. Second and third floor no indicators except a note on the wall “NEXT FLOOR DEAF SCHOOL”. Fourth floor has computer room just in front of the stairs and right side two rooms are rented by a not for profit organization called Youth 4 Jobs (Where I am working at present). The Helen Keller Institute of Deaf and Deaf Blind is a special place / school.
Our society and experts define the word disability or persons with disability differently from time to time. Centuries ago it was a curse from God for our sinful deeds and now in 21st century it is functional impairments which lead to participatory limitations. But our attitudes and behavior towards persons with disability are unchanged.
How can we identify a person with hearing impairment (HI), who absolutely looks apparently healthy (able)? I could not imagine – not being heard, express my emotions and feelings. I get angry, sometimes frustrated when other people don’t listen to me and understand what I try to say. Since two months things are turning different while working with hearing impaired candidates who passed 10th and +2 and looking for a job to financially support themselves and family. After persistent trials and failure to get job due to their disability because they don’t find an institute which is HI friendly with minimum basic needs for their higher education.
In the process of learning sign language I understood almost everyone is disabled in one or other aspects during their lifetime. Hearing and speech are the medium for communication. But all people who can hear and speak are not good in communicating the message properly, reasons can be many. To name few language, culture, place, time, and qualifications etc. we use more or less nonverbal communication techniques in everyday conversations, then why can’t we put an effort to learn new language (Indian sign language- ISL) while we spend lot of time in browsing internet, social media, you tube, whatsapp etc. Many simple videos (free access) are available which can be used to communicate with hearing impaired people and creating a friendly environment which makes for an inclusive society.
The government and health professionals failed to make polices, rules and regulations which benefit the persons with disability especially HI. I feel it’s not right to blame them for not doing anything. It’s every individual’s responsibility to be sensitive and to handle this hidden social problem. Don’t be sympathetic – empathize and just treat them as fellow beings (an individual’s). That way it might be a beginning for an inclusive world, at least in the future generations.