Their presence may not feel ubiquitous but I assure you they are everywhere, they see everything, their intelligent eyes dart forward and backward learning things that we may not even pay attention to. They may be stripped of sound but their sight is exceptional. To them sound is not a requisite to understanding the world. It could be argued that it is nothing but a burden in their eyes. Tongues are nothing but Pandora boxes to them (very sticky and gross nonetheless) tools of undesirable repercussions. They on the other hand have a different way of communicating, a more non-orthodox approach. Rather than blurting out alphabetical mishmash they have a preliminary thought process and then they proceed, their hands moving swiftly. There is beauty in it; so concise, accurate and to the point yet so complex. It was like watching a shadow puppet show written and directed by Scorsese. During my internship at Government deaf and defective hearing high school in Gujrat I met a boy of age 10. He had seemed to take a liking to me and thus started holding my hand pointing towards things that intrigued him to get my attention. Even though words couldn’t come out of mouth I could still understand the look in his eyes. I met other children and they too possessed the same zest that he did, running around, asking questions. They weren’t deaf children… they were just children. For a moment you’d forget that they can’t talk and can’t hear, as they created this beautiful bubble.

We spent most of our time with class 4 to 5, and although we had grown fond of the children something troubled us. It was the condition that they went through every day. They were ostracized from society in a way because of their disability. Even though their potential was the same as that of other kids, albeit with different needs, they were ignored by society as a whole. These repressed, silent voices were suppressed in their own homes, being seen as a burden rather than an opportunity. I learned a few signs during my time: brother, friend, play. It was nice. A day without words was nice.

It really saddens me that about 2% of the 9 million children who are deaf and dumb are the only ones who get to have a formal education. Due to their disability they are also held back on their studies. The syllabus is not properly integrated to their needs leading to discrepancies which disturb their learning process. A lack of teachers is very apparent and those who come have very little experience. Granted that it may not come near the dilapidated state many public schools re in, special institutes have their share of vices that will make you cringe. Physical and mental abuse is a commonplace in special institutes. This comes mostly from teachers and the custodian staff who misuse their power and authority. Absentees are nothing new and have no repercussions for the staff. There have been cases of students being unable to learn sign language because of increased mental trauma. Yet these institutes get away with this, their malevolent eyes looking down with contempt on those silent angels, only because they were blessed with a good set of vocal chords and non-infected ears.

Institutes like these can’t produce Hellen Keller and Louis Frisino. It’ll only produce broken bodies which once possessed great potential, children who could shine even in the darkest of times, reliable citizens.

Obviously this mistreatment is not limited to institutions but is also part of society. People’s prejudices against deaf people are one of the reasons for their decline in the modern world. Not acknowledging the fact that with a little help and proper tools to aid them they too can perform functions that a healthy good of hearing human being can. In foreign countries it is common for deaf people to drive. Even in Pakistan deaf people have shown exception in the field of graphic design and typing, however due to lower qualifications which stem from lack of facilities they are unable to pursue jobs in the corporate sector. But fortunately the corporate sector has quotas for them, like in some cases a few KFC outlets are run by a deaf staff. There are even bakeries owned and run by deaf people. But their employment situation leaves “a lot” to be desired. And this leads to my next point, the problem of interpreting sign language by people in the workplace. There aren’t many diplomas or degrees in sign language not even short courses that should be compulsory for employees of civil institutions. Instead hard of hearing and deaf people have to toil for hours and spend money on translators for example like going to the court or the hospital as the government does not provide them facilities. This leads us to conclude that there is yet another group which faces adversity by the hands of the people just because they are physically different.

Moreover there is still a solution. NGOs have contributed generously to the deaf and hard of hearing cause. There have been many cases of some NGOs giving free cochlear implants. This implant can help do the work of the damaged cochlea. This system has a battery powered processor which captures sound and turns it into digital code and the implant converts it into electrical signals and sends it to the brain. Not only is this better than hearing aids in the factor of providing better sound and giving better sentence understanding but they also don’t have to worry about the hassle of carrying a hearing aid or losing it. This can change the lives of hard of hearing people in a drastic manner. These NGOs even have sessions for lip reading by professionals. This skill is very important as it can help them adjust in society by even communicating with people who don’t understand sign language. With your donations NGOs can create solid opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people.

 

The writer is currently doing his A levels from LGS JT.