I had an official meeting with an important client of my company. When the client began the conversation, I tried my best and paid my full attention to him but I couldn't understand anything, not even a single word. Soon I realized that there is something wrong with me.I lack somewhere. Fortunately, I came with my colleague for this meeting and they both established a conversation easily. I was just physically present. It was a very tough and stressful time for me because I was desperate to be a part of this meeting as he was my first client but sadly I failed to communicate a single sentence with him.
The client is deaf and he uses Indian Sign Language(ISL).
It is the first language of the deaf community in India which I got to know about after joining Sonant Technologies.
I guess, he noticed my troubles and desperation at that time. He, later on, sent me a message which said,
” Don’t worry friend, I am very patient and you will learn to communicate with me very soon. ☺”
After reading his message I realized my disability and then, I was engrossed in a different set of thoughts. As most of the hearing people don’t know about sign language, the troubles faced by deaf people in understanding their hearing parents, peers and people of the hearing community, in general, would be immense. Also, what would happen when a deaf child is born? So I started my quest and found out a few tragic facts. Statistics say that more than 90% of the deaf children are born to hearing parents.
Many parents who are excitedly expecting the birth of their baby with a set of dreams & aspirations. However, when their child is born and they get to know that their young one is deaf, the first emotions are of shock and grief. This feeling is only because of their ignorance of the deaf culture. Most of them have never encountered a deaf person in their life until they have given birth to one. The anxiety and cluelessness of how their child would cope up with and fit into the society are immense.
The world needs to know- such children, such people, are beautifully complete in their own sense. They don't need to ‘fit in’. The deaf community has a rich culture of its own- an articulate, sublime language of its own, sign language, but due to severe lack of awareness, the deaf community consciously and unconsciously faces terrible atrocities
Like every child, deaf children also need language for their growth and development. Unfortunately, children who are born to hearing parents don’t have access to language acquisition, a culture and a community of their own, the results of which are dreadful. Language deprivation affects one’s cognitive development and many children growing up develop emotional issues and eventual social isolation because of it. They have a linguistic delay. Statistically, people of the deaf community are four times more likely to have mental health issues as compared to the hearing community, majorly because of isolation and lack of communication. If there are no deaf people involved in the early stages of a child’s life, there is a high possibility of forcing them to live in a silo.
Hearing parents need to understand and accept that their deaf child is no different. Their child just needs a different method of being taught language and hence, their role becomes very crucial for the child’s development. This cannot be achieved without instilling sign language right in the early years of the child’s life. A frightening fact- worldwide there are approximately 70 million deaf people and only 2 per cent of the world’s deaf population has access to education in sign language. Although, about 25 per cent of parents uses sign language to communicate with their deaf children. The rest have a communication barrier with their own children.
Sign language is a beautifully lucid, visual language. Nowadays, learning sign language is not difficult. There is ample content on the internet; what one requires is the willingness to learn. Also, many deaf associations and NGOs conduct workshops and courses on sign language from time to time. Learning the basics of sign language would take some time but this small step has the potential to change the fate of millions of lives. It can transform the way they lead their lives and help them understand this world in a better way. It can boost their education and professional lives. It will allow them not only to dream bigger but also to pursue them
I hope when you meet a deaf person after learning even the basics of sign language, you would not feel as disabled as I felt; communicating with them might initially seem difficult but you would be able to connect with them, touch their hearts and be a part of their worlds as I can be now.
Trust me, the feeling is beautiful. :)