She can’t see or hear. How does she learn?

Deafblind children and adults are often invisible. They are often mistaken as emotionally or intellectually challenged. In some rural parts of India, they are even branded as a curse...

...from the gods. 

Sense India has been working with deafblind people in India, like Sneha, since 1997, to break taboos and ignorance around deafblindness. They aim to reach out to many more of the half a million deafblind population in India.

A story by Our Better World – telling stories of good to inspire action.

Give her a chance like Helen Keller and she can grow up to be a parent, teacher and advocate.

My name is Bharat Pardeshi. I live in Nashik in Maharashtra, India.

I'm a father, a husband and a teacher.

I am an adult with deafblindness.

I wasn't always deafblind.

I was born deaf and diagnosed with Usher's syndrome. It was a given that I would gradually lose my vision, too.

My family first sent me to a school for the deaf and when my vision began to deteriorate.

I enrolled at Sense India's deafblind centre at the National Association for the Blind in Nashik.

The first few days were painful.

I was older than most of the children here and was grappling with slow and steady vision impairment.

I felt completely out of place. I remained aloof.

All along, my teacher, Sense India's special educator Jyoti Avadh, was observing everything I did.

She felt the only way to break the ice between my classmates and me was to help me learn to communicate, so she taught me sign language.

But it didn't stop there.

I was losing my vision much faster now, so she decided to send me to Mumbai to teach me Braille with whatever vision I had left. I was resistant at first, but gave in reluctantly.

And am I glad I did!

In Mumbai, I made many friends. Interacting with deafblind teenagers like me made my confidence soar. I learnt to use the computer, and read and write in Braille, too! 

This training has laid the foundation for my life.

Today, I am happily married, a father, a breadwinner and an advocate for deafblindness.

I recently convinced Mr Satish Pawar, the director of health for Maharashtra State, to issue disability certificates to persons with deafblindness. Deafblindness is not recognized as an official disability in India.

Bharat with his wife and child - Sense India, Good Story PitchI stated our case with utmost confidence, using sign language and other tactile forms of communication which led us to achieve our goals.

I am very fortunate to have had the support to go from a burden to my parents, to a proud father, husband, teacher and advocate for deafblindness.

Today, I play many roles but being a father is the most important one to me.

I cannot hear my baby babble or cry but when I hold it close to me, I feel its warmth, I feel like giving it my all.

How You Can Help

Sense India is crowdfunding to educate 150 more deafblind children like Sneha in the video, to give them a chance to grow up to be like Bharat. You can help.

Originally published here on Our Better World.

Film by Gautam Pemmaraju

Text Bharat Pardeshi

With thanks to MonikaGhurde at MO Labs. 

Our Better World

A story by Our Better World - telling stories to inspire good, an initiative of the Singapore International Foundation

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Video : She can't see or hear. How does she learn?

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