This week, December 9 to 15, is being observed as national awareness week for speech and hearing impairments.
Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital has launched a screening programme to identify defects as early as possible and rectify them either by providing hearing aids, or through therapy. As with other types of disabilities, at one end of the spectrum is a segment of the population who cannot access the services of a therapist who could help them integrate with mainstream society. On the other end, are people who make a choice to partner with such persons and lead by example for those who are afraid to confront disability.
Statistics reveal that Tamil Nadu has around 16 lakh persons who are either speech or hearing impaired. And lack of sufficiently-trained speech pathologists and audiologists makes it difficult to identify the defect in the early years. The delay in diagnosis and therapy prevents children with disabilities from competing with mainstream society, be it for education or later for jobs.
Last year, at a programme organised especially for women with speech and hearing impairments, I came across a few women who had overcome their disability and obtained jobs. There were others who had married men with speech and hearing impairments.
As I was leaving the venue, I met Vennilla (name changed) who I learnt was married to a man with a speech and hearing impairment. “I married when I was 19, and at that time I thought I was making a sacrifice by marrying him,” Vennilla said.
Soon she realised that disability was no impediment if she could understand how to get around it. “It is only a physical disability. I realised he just spoke a different language and that if I learnt his language, I would understand him better,” she said.
She introduced me to K. Uday Kumar. His decision to marry was not based on sympathy, but love for the woman he married. “I knew her for seven years before I married her,” said Uday Kumar. “She lived a few houses away from my house and I proposed to her two years after I first met her. Five years later, we were married.” When his son got into the Madurai Medical College, his wife was upset. “She told me that I would have no problem as I could talk to him over phone. How would she talk to him? So I admitted my son to a private medical college here,” Uday Kumar said.
Their courage spells hope for others.
Despite a lack of resources, several persons with disabilities have obtained jobs