Photograph of Shruti Pushkarna

What’s Your Deaf Community Awareness Quotient?

Growing up in the 1980s in New Delhi, India, I was allowed limited television time. One of the permitted indulgences included a feature film on the national channel, 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?

Computer Tablet with news video of Indian politician speaking with sign language interpeter
Doordarshan Indiant Public Service Broadcast channel has had sign language interpretation since the 1980s at least

According to the World Health Organisation, one in every four individuals, or around 2.5 billion 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.

India alone is home to 63 million people who are deaf and hard of hearing

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.

Officially there are only 250 certified sign language interpreters

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 Programs and Media Specialist working towards Disability Inclusion. As a primary caregiver herself, she strongly advocates for equal rights and dignity for persons with disabilities and people living with chronic illness. She is a former journalist with extensive experience of producing television and digital content. She believes that the only limitation in life is our imagination. And the fight against discrimination and exclusion is about altering collective societal mindsets. This article first appeared as Deaf Awareness Month: What’s your deafness quotient? at MxM India

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