Shruti Pushkarna | Deaf Awareness Month: What’s your deafness quotient?

15 Sep,2022

By Shruti Pushkarna

 

Shruti PushkarnaDiversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI seems to be the latest fad. With no intention to offend those working hard to achieve inclusion in their respective areas of work, there are individuals and groups who use the term for a voguish propaganda as opposed to a sincere acceptance of differences.

 

And there are people who advocate for inclusion of one community while discriminating against another. For instance, disability advocates might not necessarily support LGBTQIA+ rights. Or, feminists may be indifferent towards an equal status for Dalits or other underprivileged groups. This half-baked subscription to the idea of inclusion dilutes the very essence of equality for all.

 

I must confess, that I align myself more to the cause of disability Inclusion but that’s more to do with my lack of awareness regarding other communities’ diverse needs. It isn’t willful or conscious discrimination. If I think back to my childhood, I was always scared of transgender people when they came to our colony to celebrate someone’s matrimony or birth. Fear emerged as a natural reaction to the different physical traits. But I recall frequently seeing a person with dwarfism who didn’t seem to petrify me.

 

I wonder how we internalise and react to differences. If lessons in inclusion and exposure to diversity is available at an early age, there would be a lot less systemic societal stigmatisation.

 

Doordarshan was the first to start a sign language bulletin for the deaf

Growing up in the 1980s, I was allowed limited television time. One of the permitted indulgences included a feature film on Doordarshan on the weekend. It was preceded or followed by a news bulletin which had sign language interpretation. That acted as an effective tool of sensitisation for me, immediately helping me understand that there were more ways to communicate than what I was accustomed to.

September is the Deaf Awareness Month, with World Day of the Deaf celebrated on the last Sunday of the month. This year it would be September 25. It is a way to highlight the importance of equal access to the deaf, hard of hearing or anyone experiencing hearing loss.

Did you know that 5% of the world’s population is deaf?

According to the World Health Organisation, one in every four individuals, or around 2.5 million people will experience mild to profound hearing loss by 2050. It is estimated that approximately 700 million people will have disabling hearing loss as against the current count of around 450 million.

 

With 80% of this population in developing countries, India alone is home to 63 million people who are deaf and hard of hearing. If you find this number appalling, here’s the real shocker.

 

In India, officially there are only 250 certified sign language interpreters, translating for a deaf population ranging anywhere between 1.8 million and 7 million (as per Census numbers).

 

With challenges of communication, language barrier is the real disability and not deafness!

 

As per a 2019 news report, only 1% of the total deaf population gets quality education in the country. Needless to say, it is harder for them to find jobs in comparison to the hearing people.

 

What stops us from including deaf people into the mainstream?

 

The optimist in me believes it is ignorance rather than apathy. So in the true spirit of Deaf Awareness Month, I’ve put together a quiz to quickly assess how little (or not) do you know about this community.

1. What is deafness?

a. When people can’t hear

b. When people can’t speak

c. When people can’t focus and get distracted

d. When people can hear only loud sounds

2. How do deaf people communicate?

a. Writing

b. Signing

c. Lipreading

d. All of the above

3. Which country has the highest deaf population in the world?

a. India

b. Russia

c. China

d. United States

4. According to the World Federation of the Deaf, how many sign languages are used worldwide?

a. 19

b. 327

c. 200

d. 53

5. How can deaf people access education?

a. Regular school

b. Special school

c. Home schooling

d. All of the above

6. Other than being born deaf, can you acquire deafness? If yes, how?

a. Old age

b. Exposure to loud sounds

c. Accident

d. All of the above

7. What is the most acceptable term for deaf people?

a. Deaf

b. Deaf and Dumb

c. Disabled

d. Hearing Impaired

8. Which of the following activities can’t be done by deaf people?

a. Driving

b. Using a phone

c. Listening to music

d. None of the above

9. What is the most common cause of deafness according to WHO?

a. Born deaf

b. Untreated ear infections

c. Accidents

d. Old age

10. When speaking to a deaf person, you should?

a. Speak slowly

b. Look away from the person

c. Face the person

d. Both a and c

 

Answers: 1-a, 2-d, 3-b, 4-c, 5-d, 6-d, 7-a, 8-d, 9-b, 10-d

 

Is your score indicative of someone who can champion the cause of deaf inclusion? Or are you at the lower end of the spectrum, mindless of the barriers in access for a whopping 63 million? It’s never too late to sensitise yourself and the others around you. This month, post one less selfie on Instagram, and replace it with some deaf trivia!

 

Shruti Pushkarna is a former journalist who now works as Director, EnAble India where she heads North India operations as well as media and communications outreach. Shruti writes for MxMIndia every other Thursday. Her views here are personal. She can be reached via Twitter at @shrutipushkarna

 

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