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Success & ABILITY

India’s Cross-disability Magazine

April–June, 2011

Rs. 30




hear more,
when it’s through your imagination!

Sounds of Silence

9th Cavinkare
Ability Awards

Calling All Creative People!


60 Seconds To Fame!

All India One Minute
Film Competition
On Disability


Breaking Barriers Together

Rs. 2.25 lakhs to be won!

India International Disability Film Festival

26, Second Cross Street, Gandhi Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai – 600 020, Tamil Nadu.
Tel: 91 44 2445 2400

Contribute towards water conservation Ad

Editor: Jayshree Raveendran

Deputy Editor: Janaki Pillai

Associate Editors: Radhika Venkatarayan

Shashwathi Sandeep

Assistant Editor: Padmini Natarajan

Senior Designers: RG Kishore Kumar

Cover Credits: Ogilvy & Mather

Illustration: Vikram Nandwani


Gayatri Kiran Ph: 09844525045
Ali Khwaja Ph: 080 233302000

Sai Prasad Viswanathan Ph: 0810685503

New Delhi:
Abhilasha Ojha Ph: 9810557946

Saaz Aggarwal Ph: 9823144189

Dr. Sruti Mohapatra Ph: 0674 2313311

Anil Mudgal Ph: 0755 2589168

Manbir Sambyal Ph: 233914

Javed Ahmad Tak Ph: 01936 211363

Malathi Rajagopal
10247, Fairway Drive, Ellicot City, MD 21042

Anindya Bhattacharyya

Helen Keller National Center, Sands Point, NY 11050


PUBLISHERS: Ability Foundation

EDITORIAL OFFICE: New no. 4, Old no. 23,
rd Cross Street, Radhakrishnan Nagar,
Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai 600 041, India.
Tel/Fax: 91 44 2452 0016 / 2440 1303
Website: www.a
Published by Jayshree Raveendran on behalf of
Ability Foundation, 27 Fourth Main Road,
Gandhi Nagar, Chennai 600 020.
Ph: 91 44 2452 0016

Printed at Rathna Offset Printers,

40 Peters Road, Royapettah, Chennai 600 014.
Tel: 91 44 2813 2790 / 2813 1232

Rights and Permissions: No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of Ability Foundation. Ability Foundation reserves the right to make any changes or corrections without changing the meaning, to submitted articles, as it sees fit and in order to uphold the standard of the magazine. The views expressed are, however, solely those of the authors.


6 Events CareerAccess 2010, a first time job fair in the North East – a joint venture of Sishu Sarothi and Ability Foundation: Monideepa Choudhury writes.

10 Happenings The Second National Conference on DeafBlindness at New Delhi was a sterling affair with many firsts as well, writes Vaishnavi Ventatesh.

13 The Awards 2011 9th CavinKare Ability Awards: an evening of glitz, glamour and celebrations – a stirring account of the event and the recipients.

26 Management Mumbai Dabbawallas – we have so much to learn from them… Dr Ketna L Mehta tells us.

29 Taste Buds Puja Subramaniam and Vaishnavi Venkatesh offer a variety of ways to add to our cooking spaces and methods… making cooking a more pleasurable and disability friendly experience.

33 Alternatives Pet therapy can work wonders and make inroads where medicines fall short… Shashwathi Sandeep visits St. Johns Hospital, Bangalore that follows this.

36 Film Review A part poetic and part appalling tale of an artist as depicted in the movie “Black Swan”: a review by Kavitha D.

37 Book Review One Little Finger by Malini Chib, is a journey of her spirit and passion for an independent life says Saaz Aggarwal .

39 Poems A myriad of human emotions in verse beautifully brought out through words by Srividya Suryanarayanan.

41 Literature The Jaipur Literature Festival – an extravaganza recounted by Radhika Venkatarayan.


Sounds of Silence
An in-depth look at various aspects of hearing impairment.

43 Spotlight Aileen Crowe Nandi and Madan Vasistha introduce us to our very special feature on deafness, brought out specially for “Success & ABILITY”

45 Teaching Methods An educationist's perspective on the loops that exist in classrooms

49 Dialogue A diplomatic dialogue on the web… a virtual meeting examining a gamut of experiences by three highly successful deaf persons.

52 Perspective A poignant account by Angshu Jajodia on being deaf and on people's misconceptions about deafness that will surely strike a chord in our hearts.

55 On Communication Sarika Mehta visits a school in Chengelpettu and looks into the many ways that the children there communicate.

58 Culture In conversation with renowned performer Astad Deboo, where he recounts his experiences of working with hearing impaired dancers and performing artists.

62 Reality Check Arun Rao evaluates the status of deaf education in India and, in an interview with Gaurav Mathur, goes on to elucidate about his association with the deaf community.

68 Corporate Mirakle Couriers, a company in Mumbai which makes it a point to employ deaf persons and where communication is, by and large, in sign language.

71 Personal Account Monica Punjabi's perspective on being a proud daughter of deaf parents and her views on education.

73 Wellness Yoga… Lila Lolling finds her calling in translating ancient Yoga texts into sign language.

75 Conversation Jean Moog speaks out to Aileen Crowe Nandi on the need to give importance to the spoken language for deaf persons.

77 Institution Balavidyalaya School for Young Deaf Children, Chennai – a profile.

78 Making a Difference Madan M. Vasishta introduces us to a pioneering school for deaf children in Indore.

80 Routes A vivid account by Mark Leekoff on what drew him to the field of Otology.

81 People Vidharthe Naga, a talented artist and a budding entrepreneur and her mother… on making a difference in the field of art – as described by Valsala Menon.

85 Higher Education The IGNOU- UCLAN tie up – making inroads towards felt needs.

87 Journey Geeta Shandilya talks about her daughter Avani's journey towards perfecting the spoken language.

88 Tail Piece Deafness manifests itself everywhere… in pets too… a heartwarming tale about Alica the pet dog, who found her perfect home.


From The Editor’s Desk


Have you ever wondered how your life would have been if you had a different perception of things? If you had just accepted instead of reacting? Life is full of ifs and buts. This was a thought that repeatedly occurred to me during the compilation of the lead feature of this issue – on deafness where the 'ifs and buts' of life seem to figure predominantly all through. The whole feature with the variety of articles it presents brings up a multiplicity of opinions and perspectives. All of which seem to seek out more than a few “what-if” questions. “What if I had insisted on sign language for my ward?” “What if I had focussed more on speech and lip reading?” “What if I had gone to a school for the deaf instead of a mainstream school? What would and what could I have done?” Profound ifs and but, to be sure... but nevertheless, necessary ones. I must say thanks a ton to Aileen Crowe Nandi, Principal Commercial Officer, US Consulate General, Chennai and Madan Vasishta, Associate Professor, Gallaudet University, Washington, for this. Together, they have done a brilliant job in compiling these articles... each so differently articulated from the other. Heartfelt thanks, guys... true friends are made of such stuff (sugar and spice and all that's nice). The compilation makes you pause and ponder... 'what if...' open ended questions that need answers.

Explorations as these, in turn lead to a discovery spree, taking us on a path of rediscovery. Discovering how much more we are capable of doing... understanding ourselves, making ourselves understood and reaching out towards horizons that we each believe as possible.

These discoveries urge us to redefine roles, to set out with determination to rectify matters and seek out what is ours by right, treading unknown paths in the bargain... which is what our CavinKare Ability Awards recipients have done. Each one of them bringing in his/her own distinct personality and unique dimensions. Yet, each and every one is united in their final answer to the problems of disability: “Be yourself. Believe in yourself. Do your utmost. Keep up your courage. Reach for the moon. Dare to dream...” When we do this, then comes the greatest step: we must move ahead and accelerate. In action, comes true knowledge and a wonderful sense of freedom and achievement... though discouragement may seem oftentimes inescapable, we learn to put this aside, and when we do that, we win.

In conjunction with all this, we bring you a kaleidoscope of profound as well as pleasurable reading, all put together with care. Hope you enjoy this issue.

Jayshree Raveendran




Like all good things Career2010access also began with a dream.


In March 2010, Shishu Sarothi, a premier centre for rehabilitation and training for multiple disabilities in the Northeast of India, launched its Disability Employment Initiative (DEI). The project, funded by Austrian social service organisation Chritoffel Development Co-operation or Light for the World, was started to act as a focal point, catalyst, and facilitator for economically empowering persons with disabilities in remote Northeast India. One of the primary goals that the Initiative set for itself was holding a job fair for persons with disabilities. It was a challenging proposition in a region where private industry is in a nascent stage and government departments and public sector companies parrot about the three per cent mandate of reservation for persons with disabilities and a preset process of recruitment.

Dreams however refuse to die, and this one was infectious enough to embrace many hearts.

On March 18, Arman Ali, Executive Director, Shishu Sarothi, wrote a mail to one of his dearest friends, Jayshree Raveendran, Founder and Honorary Executive Director, Ability Foundation, which had been working for equal opportunity employment for 14 years. It has been the pioneer in holding annual job fairs for persons with disabilities in India: “I have this dream,” he wrote, “a dream to change the dismal state of employment among persons with disabilities in the Northeast, make our lives a little brighter. I realise that obstacles are plenty but with your experience and guidance I am sure we can overcome them.” Jayshree Raveendran wrote back, “Sure, we will join hands with you towards common goals and take this forward. Your dream is my dream as well.”

Jayshree Raveendran then invited Arman Ali to visit the Foundation's National Job Fair at Chennai. And then followed months of exchanging mails between the Ability Foundation and DEI teams and CareerAccess2010 began to take definite shape. No one quite realised it then, but CareerAceess 2010 was about to make history as the first ever job fair for persons with disabilities – not only in the Northeast but also in eastern India. Enthusiasts and well-wishers even love to say that in a strict sense it was the first job fair ever in the Northeast; this however is open to debate.

Persons with disabilities currently represent the single largest minority group seeking employment in today's market economy. Unfortunately, societal prejudice and physical barriers have severely restricted their access to employment. In remote Northeast, where private industry is still in a nascent stage and the overall employment scenario pathetic, the impediments are greater.

The challenge of assembling private sector employers for an equal opportunity job fair was therefore colossal. A few Pan-India corporate offices had only just set shop in Guwahati, local industry had just begun to gain momentum after years of insurgency, IT and ITES companies were conspicuous by their absence, and the concept of equal opportunity generally unknown. It was not surprising then that many corporate representatives mistook efforts to get them aboard an equal opportunity platform like CareerAccess 2010 as an exercise in corporate social responsibility. Several turned down requests for participation citing dearth of vacancies, and a few startled ones expressed reservations about the wisdom of holding such an event in the Northeast of India. As Radhika Rammoorthy, Programme Manager (Placement), Ability Foundation was to tell both teams after conversations with many corporate representatives, “They ask me, why Guwahati?”

Pioneering ventures are however always hard to explain.


However, as both the Ability Foundation and DEI teams believed – nothing is impossible, only a beginning has to be made. The Ability Foundation team impressed upon to run tickers about the event on its website. Representations for support were made to government departments and federations of industry, and they received fair response. The Federation of Industries and Commerce of the North Eastern Region (FINER) released a circular among its member companies, requesting participation in the novel venture. The FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) too helped both teams network with industry and government in getting potential employers and candidates aboard CareerAccess.

Disseminating information about the job fair among candidates across the eight states in the Northeast was a gigantic and costly task and it was realised that the government machinery also needed to be involved. The Commissioner of Disabilities, Assam obliged to a request to write to her counterparts in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, and Sikkim. The Assam Social Welfare Department and Directorate agreed to insert an advertisement in two leading English and vernacular dailies in the Northeast, calling persons with disabilities with 15 years+ education to apply for CareerAccess2010. The Director of Employment and Craftsmen Training, Assam and the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre came forward to issue circulars in this regard to their respective district offices. Enthused by the idea, the Employment Generation Mission of Assam too released a public notice about the job fair in all vernacular dailies.

Red FM and Newslive, an Assam-based news channel, were involved as Radio and TV partners. Shishu Sarothi's partner NGOs in the eight north-eastern states as well as disabled peoples' organisations contributed in distributing posters and spreading the word. Enquiry calls began to pour in from across the country and the last date for receiving applications had to be extended. The Shishu Sarothi office in Guwahati was deluged with applications, prompting Innocent Marak, the Project Officer of Disability Employment Initiative to pithily say that it was time to open a new office.

Meanwhile, Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), Oil India Limited (OIL), State Bank of India (SBI) and FINER came forward ; Employment Generation Mission, Government of Assam; Director of Employment and Craftsmen Training, Government of Assam;. Our TV partner is NewsLive and Radio Partner is RED FM.

Trepidation however matched enthusiasm and as the date for CareerAccess 2010 drew near, both teams, now simply christened the CareerAccess team, began to panic about the outcome. A few corporates who had confirmed participation at the fair withdrew, pleading a hold on recruitment. The team was also unsure about the attendance of the 352 registered candidates (among the more than 550 applications which had come in) on the day of the job fair, as many would be travelling from eleven states and remote areas.

On November 17 at a press meet formally announcing the event it was informed that CareerAccess2010, a one-day job fair, would bring together a dozen open-minded sensitive employers – representing Telecommunications, Insurance,


Retail, Manufacturing, Consultancy Firms, IT and ITES, Cosmetics, and FMCG – and for qualified persons with disabilities. This initiative was focussed on a region bereft of avenues of wage employment and at a time when private industry was just learning to recognise the wealth of talent that lies in waiting amidst disabled people.

Finally, at 7:30 am on November 19, 2010, the first of the candidates, eyes bright with hope and confidence, was wheeled in through the gates of Pragjyoti, ITA Centre for Performing Arts in Guwahati. Soon, by the time the last touch had been given to the stalls, the VIP enclosure, and the CareerAccess office, the waiting area was packed with hopefuls and their guardians. In the next two hours, human resource executives of 22 companies also arrived, awed by the scale of the job fair. As one of the HR executives was to admit later, “It was an emotional moment for me, a learning experience.... We were thrilled that such a talent pool existed among persons with disabilities.”

CareerAccess 2010 had begun.

When Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi arrived, interviews were on full swing. Enthused by the ambience of the job fair, Tarun Gogoi took a tour of all the corporate stalls, interacting animatedly with corporate executives and candidates. Finally, addressing all present, the Chief Minister appreciated the efforts of DEI, Shishu Sarothi and Ability Foundation and announced that the government would be keen to set up a skill development institute for persons with disabilities in the state.

The last of the candidates and corporate executives left the venue at 5 pm, overwhelmed by a host of emotions – hope, confidence, awe, and a motivation to help make lives brighter. A satisfied and happy Armaan Ali was to say, “CareerAccess has been a milestone in the promotion of equal opportunity and inclusiveness for disabled in the North East.” Jayshree Raveendran said, “This milestone job fair taking place for the first time in Assam involving all the Northeastern states, distinctly points towards common goals and needs of people with disabilities in India.”

A dream had seen the light of day.



2nd National Conference



'Invoke the Spirit, Stoke the Confidence' was one of the most reflective resolutions made during the 2nd National Conference on Deafblindness, held in New Delhi from 20th to 22nd January, 2011. The conference was jointly organised by Sense International (India) and National Institute of Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMED) under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. Ability Foundation, Chennai was the media partner. The entire conference was funded by the European Union. Aptly themed 'Building an Inclusive Environment', the conference brought to light a group of individuals whose claim for rights have always been witnessed by silence.

The Deafblind community is unique, in the sense that it can neither be completely incorporated into the Deaf category, nor the Blind. They have their own identity formed by the disability, which is largely unknown to most of the population. Hastily labelling them as either deaf or blind has cost this community years of exclusion, due to difficulty in communication. Therefore, the theme of building an inclusive environment focused on bringing their lives to the forefront, discussing their rights and opportunities, infusing them with a surge of confidence and attempting to mainstream them into society.

Since there are over 450,000 deafblind people in India, most of who are ignorant of the rights and facilities they can avail, such conferences are meant to increase awareness. The objective of this conference was to:

Involve practitioners, researchers, government officials, development workers, educators, deaf-blind people, families as well as experts from the related fields

Create an opportunity for creating an inclusive environment

Sensitise the medical, teaching and government personnel towards deaf-blindness.

From Day One, there was a positive energy amongst the audience that sustained, even doubled by the finale of the conference. During the inaugural ceremony, Zamir Dhale (Advocacy Head of Sense International), a deafblind person himself, spoke of his aspirations and expectations from the conference. He hoped that through the conference, barriers of exclusion would be broken and give way to more avenues for programmes on Deafblindness. An inclusive environment was as important to the deafblind community as any other disabled community, in fact, more so, because of the years of


exclusion due to ignorance.

Slowly and steadily however, milestones are being set in the deafblind community's progress. As Akhil Paul, Director, Sense International- India, observed in his inaugural speech, the resolutions made at the end of the previous conference was mainly to recognise deafblindness within the legal system and provide access of facilities to deaf-blind people near their areas of residence.

Now, not only has deaf-blindness been included in the new draft of the law, but government has also extended support in providing access to regional learning centres in as many areas as possible. The numbers are small, but significant enough to give hope to more deafblind people in the country who struggle to be noticed. Truly marking his words, it was seen that support from the government was assured, and reiterated by the presence of Mukul Wasnik, Minster of Social Welfare, Justice and Empowerment. Not only did he work around his tight schedule to make it to the conference, but also understood the nuances of communicating with the deaf-blind and vowed to provide solidarity and commitment to support the endeavour.

The conference covered various aspects related to deafblindness, from communication to human resource development and mainstreaming for inclusive education. While the first day focused on the lives of the deaf-blind people, the second and third day focused on current situation and remedial techniques for making the society more inclusive in the areas of education, healthcare and community at large. A finale plenary discussion was on fundraising, an important aspect of any NGO that strives to meet challenging goals.

Some of the topics that were discussed and presented during the conference were ­:

Facilitating communication for persons with disabilities

Quality of life

Resource mobilisation to initiate and sustain services for the deafblind

The topics presented through papers and posters were case studies on successful inclusion, understanding the reach and impact of regional learning centres etc. By the end of the three days, several resolutions had been proposed and


discussed by the audience and the panellists.

It was resolved that early identification and remediation would be a key initiative, and more emphasis would be given to pre-school training, alongside strengthening the mainstreaming initiatives. Furthermore, mainstreaming would not be possible without adequate resources, therefore, it was also resolved that the human resources required for training and implementation of facilities would be strengthened. Empowerment and Capacity Building would be two important initiatives that had to be partaken in order to provide good quality facilities. Finally, it was also resolved that the deaf-blind community should have adequate representation in decision making bodies, as these are presently dominated by single voices coming from various disabilities.

A very valid observation and suggestion made by a person in the audience was that in order for fair representation for all disabilities, the sectors should all unite and claim their rights as a single entity. Members of each disability sector fighting for their own rights would cause fragmentation of the disabled as a whole, resulting in further exclusion of people who overlap disabilities.

The conference on deaf-blindness provided a very educative insight into the lives of the deaf-blind community - that it is certainly not a silent spectator to the changing world. While many interesting initiatives were proposed and discussed, one of the most important messages this conference delivered was the importance to strengthen human resources in this field to further train and educate deaf-blind people. As M.N.G Mani, Keynote Speaker of the conference aptly quipped, “There is no dearth of Helen Kellers in the deaf-blind community. What the society lacks, is the Anne Sullivans.”

Did the conference meet the expectations of the organisers? “Certainly”, said Akhil Paul. In fact, he was overwhelmed with the support from the government, Indian and foreign agencies and felt bad that many participants had to be turned down due to limited seats. One of the most encouraging aspects of the conference was that over 70% of the speakers at the discussions, paper presentations, poster presentations and workshops were first-timers, and a majority of the participants in general, were women. This not only diversified the audience, but also provided an excellent platform for those who wish to make a difference.

The finale of the conference was a beautiful dance-drama by the disabled children of Saksham Daksh, a school in Noida. The overpowering applause that followed their performance bore testimony to the confidence and zeal stoked amongst the participants, truly reiterating the fact that if a sense organ is lost, something is lost, but if spirit is lost, everything is lost. Conferences such as this one are in place to revive that spirit, stoke it, and build it to a fire of empowerment.

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