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Changing attitudes is changing lives

Published Date: 12 Aug 2022

Why our partners are educating the wider community about deafness

Too often we have seen that the parents of deaf children find themselves feeling alone after a diagnosis.

Our partners are there to help them in their journey of understanding what deafness is and isn’t, teaching sign language and in showing families how to support their deaf child so they can achieve just as much as a hearing child can.

Parents groups provide education and solace for parents of deaf children.
But outside of our partner organisations, parents are still raising deaf children in communities where pervasive stigma and prejudice remain against all people with disabilities. There are superstitions and myths around what causes deafness, such as in South Asia the belief that it is karma for actions in a past life, or in East Africa that God is punishing the parents for something they have done. There is often a widespread belief that deafness is a learning disability and that deaf children will never be able to go to school or get a job as a hearing child will.

That’s why many of our partners are actively working in communities to change these beliefs. One example comes from our partner in India, the Lower Income People's Involvement for Community Action (LIPICA). LIPICA trains people to become ‘Community Resource Members’, so that there are more people in the wider community that can support and advocate for deaf children. Community Resource Members come from a variety of backgrounds, but are usually people with an interest or connection to education (such as a retired schoolteacher) or disability (such as a relative of a person with disability).

In this blog, LIPICA community resource member Mr Jitendra Panda explains his involvement.

How did you become involved with LIPICA? What motivated you to join their efforts?

I have known about LIPICA’s work for a long time, because my nephew (my sister’s son) has been deaf since birth. The LIPICA project team were frequently coming to the home and village and helping my nephew in communication and education. Therefore, I started involving myself in the process and learnt with my sister and brother-in-law.

What was your experience of people with disabilities before you started working with LIPICA?

I always felt bad when people called them by their disabilities and not by their name. Before I used to think they couldn’t learn to read and socialise. But after seeing the progress of my nephew, I have realised that deaf children can also read and write as any hearing child. My nephew passed his 10th board examination and is now reading in college. He is independently doing his work and supporting his family in agricultural work as well.

How would you say your thinking about disabled and deaf people has changed after your training with LIPICA? How would you motivate others to support deaf people or those with disabilities more generally?

I attended the meetings and training organised by LIPICA that inspired me more to do something for the deaf children in my community. So, I came forward, to help the deaf children in education in my village. Though I do business for my livelihood, whenever I found some time, I goes to their home and help them in reading. Presently I am supporting two deaf children in my village.

Sometime I discuss with the Sarpanch (government officials) regarding their pension and other entitlements.

What advice would you have for another hearing person who wants to know more about deafness?

Unless and until you go through the difficulties that deaf children and young people face in their daily life, it would be difficult to understand how they will come out from that situation. So, as I got involved in the training and meeting, whenever you have the opportunity to get yourself involved in the process, go and involve yourself. Don’t call them by their disabilities because they have a name already. Help them getting their rights and entitlements.

I think the local community should work together for the development of deaf child. So that they could live a life with self-dignity. They have also right to live, right to development and right to education in the society.