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India's first deafblind interpreter

1 June 2015
Posted by Laura Brown

Sense International India’s Sachin Rizal on breaking new ground to become the first official deafblind interpreter in the country

Sense International's Training and Research Manager, Sachin Rizal has been working with us since 2007. He joined the organisation as India's first official deafblind interpreter. Using tactile American Sign Language, he helps people with deafblindness to communicate and express their thoughts and feelings to the rest of the world.

Despite describing his job at Sense International as his ‘calling’, Sachin started his working life in a very different line of business. Having graduated in Hotel Management he established a business partnership, a residential hostel for school and college students in poultry farming and travel, yet felt unfulfilled in his working life.

Having always been drawn to care giving roles Sachin enrolled at the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf & Deafblind, in Mumbai, India. Sachin said: “The first few months on the course were difficult, I even considered quitting at one point. I had never worked with disabled children in such close quarters, I felt frustrated and overwhelmed with my inability to help them.

“However, the more I interacted with deafblind people the more fascinated I became with the variety of communication methods. I felt that by becoming an interpreter I could become their voice, helping them to express their feelings, joys and thoughts with the rest of the world.”

Sachin communicates with a young boy with tactile signingThe course provided Sachin with hands on training and experience working with deafblind people. He learnt basic signs and sign language graduating with a Diploma in Special Education on Deafblindness in 2006 and soon after he began working at Sense International India.

Sachin developed his interpretation skills on the job while working with Sense International Advocacy Officer, Zamir Dhale. Sachin said: “Zamir is deafblind, he cannot see, hear or talk, but his disability has never proved a hindrance. He works as effectively as you and me.

“Zamir is actively involved in developing, implementing and monitoring advocacy plans of Sense International India and its partner organisations. He is also the President of UDAAN -National Network for Adult Deafblind and multi sensory impaired people in India. Zamir is not only an advocate for the rights of deafblind people but also an inspiration for all working in the field of deafblindness.”

Sachin campaigns alongside other disability, community and parents groups for the fundamental rights of people with deafblindness and their families to receive education, social welfare, health and employment support from the government.

Sachin’s experiences as interpreter laid the foundation for his work training other professionals, educators, parents and community members. He works tirelessly to ensure individuals receive medical and educational support they need. He said: “It helps me not only merely enhance the capacities of these stakeholders but also enhance their sensitivity towards a more inclusive world.”

Sachin hopes to change attitudes towards care giving careers in India to encourage more people to join his chosen profession, he concluded: “I often find that in our society people look at working with people with disabilities more as welfare or philanthropy and not a scientific skill based profession with a bright future.

I endeavour to reach out to as many students as possible and inspire them to look at this as a fruitful opportunity. I often meet students at teacher training institutes in Chennai an Mumbai to share my experiences and achievements and new learning’s and ideas with them. Supporting people with deafblindness is my life's mission and I wish more and more people would join me on this journey.”

Laura Brown is Senior Public Relations Officer at Sense International

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First published: Friday 7 June 2013
Last updated: Thursday 18 September 2014