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Atulyakala Blog

Why we felt the need to do a #Deafnotdumb Campaign?

Why is it that a person with hearing impairment is referred to not only as ‘deaf’ but also as ‘dumb’? How many times have we heard the phrase ‘deaf and dumb’ being used to address people with speech and hearing impairment?

Standing at over 18 million, India has the highest population of deaf in the world. Yet, social awareness of hearing impairment in India is practically absent.

With such a large deaf population, it is of utmost importance that Indian society understands the problems and challenges that come with hearing loss. Rather than alienating the deaf community, we need to learn to embrace it.

The phrase ‘deaf and dumb’ reflects the prevailing image of the deaf community. The phrase comes with a connotation of lower intellect. This echoes the dearth of opportunities for the deaf community to grow and foster in their respective fields. It creates a barrier for the progress of deaf people and causes them to stay cocooned. The first step towards the betterment of the deaf community is to get rid of such demeaning terminology. Nyle DiMarco, the winner of Dancing With the Stars 2016, took offense to Fox News’ headline and tweeted, “I’m Deaf and I’m not ignorant at all.” It is time that we as a community start using better words to address the hearing impaired.

The #deafnotdumb campaign is a step taken towards the empowerment of the deaf community of India. Currently, there are only 250 interpreters for the 18 million deaf across India, or, 1 interpreter for every 72,000 deaf! This is a statistic that needs drastic improvement as soon as possible. Not only do we need more interpreters, but we need schools to adopt a bilingual mode of teaching. Just like English and Hindi or English and Marathi are used for parlance in many institutes and organisations, teachers need to conduct classes in Indian Sign Language as that is something a deaf student would understand. We need to train teachers in Indian Sign Language and ensure that children are not deprived of an education just because of their hearing impairment. Without sign language training, the deaf members of the community will never be able to receive quality education. Doing so will ensure better job opportunities and a brighter future for the deaf. In fact, sign language can help create job opportunities as people who learn the language can go on to become interpreters and instructors one day.

#Deafnotdumb Campaign on Twitter. Deaf community members sharing their success stories.

Due to the social stigma associated with deafness, deaf people usually have a very low self-esteem. Right from their childhood, they are forced to converse orally – which they cannot do. It is very important that parents with hearing-impaired children are immersed in deaf culture and made aware of life-skills essential for their children and themselves The lack of awareness of deafness and Indian Sign Language leads to a communication barrier between the deaf and the hearing community, causing the deaf to feel secluded and socially ostracised. The #deafnotdumb campaign aims to increase awareness of hearing impairment and the Indian Sign Language among the hearing community to bridge the gap between the hearing and the deaf.

Already as a result of this campaign, the deaf and hearing community came together to oppose the use of the phrase ‘deaf and dumb’. Additionally, it gave deaf people a platform to share their dreams, hopes, and accomplishments with the hearing community. Deaf individuals came forward and posted pictures of themselves with the hashtag deafnotdumb and talked about their achievements. The #deafnotdumb campaign is the first step towards ending the social stigma surrounding deafness.