When we started work in 1997 only 23 deafblind people received help. Today - over 49,000 are receiving support.
Most deafblind children in India remain in complete isolation at home. Many are neglected, in poor health and may be wrongly labelled as 'intellectually disabled'. Families struggle to know how to support their child, and may be ostracised by their local community.
When Sense International (India) began in 1997, there was little awareness of deafblindness and almost no services. One school - the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf and Deafblind – supported just 23 deafblind students.
“Initially I doubted the skills and strength of my son, but it is a changed story today. I am sure he will strive to be an independent person in his life. Until the end I will be grateful to Sense International (India) for giving my son a new direction in his life”
Ruksana, Mother of Feroz, a deafblind child.
Sense International (India) works in partnership with local organisations to develop sustainable services for deafblind people. Today we work with 45 partner organisations and the government in 21 states which provide services to almost 49,000 deafblind people. Our range of services includes: early intervention services in hospitals, inclusive and special education, vocational training and employment support, teacher training, advocacy and information dissemination.
These individuals now receive medical and educational support. They learn different ways to communicate, develop daily living skills and receive training for work. Rather than being isolated they can enjoy human contact, grow in confidence and play their part as a valued member of society.
A child or adult who is deafblind will need a very different education from someone who is hearing and sighted or someone who is only with hearing impairment or visual impairment.
Helping a child to find a way to communicate and express their needs is vital, and touch will often play an important part in this. Deafblind children also need to learn skills that we often take for granted– such as dressing and feeding themselves, and moving around safely in their environment.
Teachers and educators of deafblind children and adults require specialist skills and knowledge. Sense International (India) has worked tirelessly to ensure that teachers receive the right training. It has also collaborated with the Indian government to ensure that the educational needs of deafblind people are met.
We also recognise that parents play a key role in their child’s education. We offer information, training and support to parents and have played a key role in setting up the national network for parents of deafblind children with more than 600 families as members. In addition we have also set up the national network of deafblind adults (Udaan) with a membership of 100 and the national network of teachers (Abhi Prerna) with 420 members.
Sense International (India):
- Created the first teacher training course on deafblindness in India and supported the development of three training centres to deliver this.
- Has trained more than 2,500 teachers in 14 states about deafblindness.
- Set up four regional learning centres across India. These offer high quality programmes for deafblind people but also support less experienced local partner organisations to set up services.
- Developed a very successful partnership with the Government of India’s ‘Education for All’ programme, which has helped us to reach more than 32,000 deafblind / MSI children.
- Persuaded the Ministry of Human Resource Development in India to include deafblind / MSI children in primary schools at state and district levels.
For many deafblind children and adults, it is not practical for them to travel to receive specialist help. Field workers and volunteers trained by us - in partnership with health, education, vocational and social services - offer rehabilitation and education services to around 5000 children in remote rural areas.
Experience shows that when a deafblind child can learn successfully alongside their family this can be very positive for the child, and the family feel more able to care for them.
Home-based care often includes social activities like picnics, outings, parents' meetings, and festivals. These bring neighbours and the community together with deafblind people and their families and helps reduce stigma.
We offer training programmes which draw upon local skills and resources to help young deafblind adults to learn specific trades and skills and become part of the working economy.
Sense International (India) has supported the creation of vocational training programmes across various states. These help deafblind young adults to learn a specific trade or skill, so they can work and gain a measure of social and economic independence.
Caring for a deafblind child can be extremely demanding, especially for mothers. They may be isolated, have little social life and suffer from poor physical and emotional health.
Sense International (India) has set up respite care services in two locations where a child can be cared for so that parents can take a much-needed break, or attend to their other responsibilities.
Campaigning and advocacy
Deafblindness was an unknown disability in India before Sense International began its work.
We have worked tirelessly with other disability, community and parents groups to lobby with the government - including the ministries of Social Justice and Empowerment, Education (Ministry of Human Resource Development) and Health - to ensure that deafblindness is recognised as a distinct disability. The draft ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ Bill will recognise ‘deafblindness’ as a distinct disability.
This will mean that many more deafblind people and their families will receive education, social welfare, health and employment support from the government.
Our successes have included:
- We were invited by the Government of India to be a member of the drafting committee for the new ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ Bill in 2011.
- India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities which binds the State to make sure that all our disability related legislations and policies carry the spirit of the Convention.
- We have established three national networks with almost 1,200 members across India: a network for deafblind adults, for family members and for teachers.
- The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Government of India's flagship programme for achieving Universal Elementary Education (UEE) has included training and information material on deafblindness in regional languages across states.
- Mr. Akhil Paul and Mr. Zamir Dhale, who is deafblind, represented deafblindness and multiple disabilities on the board of the Government of India’s National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities.
- People's stories from India: Alisha | Rajesh | Rizwan
- Visit the Sense International (India) website
- Sense International (India) annual reports
Sense International (India)
2nd Floor, Administrative Block
Andhjan Mandal Campus
Opp. Indian Institute of Management (IIM)
Vastrapur, Ahmedabad - 380 015
Tel: +91 79 2630 1282
Fax: +91 79 2630 1590
First published: Thursday 27 June 2013
Last updated: Monday 28 November 2016