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Battling an 'invisible' disability - My Take by Nandita Venkatesan

May 28, 2017

On a cold winter's evening, as I stepped out to shop for groceries, a rash biker who raced past me, turned behind and shouted - 'Are you deaf! I honked at you'.

I was dumbstruck and could not respond to him, but his way of talking made me realise how often we casually convey deafness, as if it's a slur.

Yes, it's true I am 90% deaf (profound deafness). And due to this, I could not distinguish between the sounds of a honk vis-a-vis other noises on the road.

I was not born deaf, I lost my hearing three years back, two days after celebrating my 24th birthday, due to a rare side-effect of an injection administered to treat life-threatening tuberculosis and six surgeries.

I was devastated. Deafness is an 'invisible' disability. I am not visibly on a wheelchair, that you come, show your sympathies and walk away. To an ordinary eye, I am like any 'normal' person.

But there is a whole world out at there that is almost completely inaccessible to people like us and hugely impact the morale: TV, music, phone calls, videos, proper conversations, which are as important in today's world as breathing.

In an attempt to break these barriers, I decided to start working, albeit with a lot of hesitation. Many told me - 'No corporate will give a job to a deaf person'. I ultimately started working with the Economic Times (ET) last year and am the only PwD in ET's editorial department.

I am also a tuberculosis treatment advocate and gave a TEDx talk in Jaipur in March, where I spoke about my journey battling TB twice and focused on my subsequent disability.

The journey has been tough and presents some important lessons. It is highly important to sensitize people about PwDs and present an equitable environment to enable them achieve their dreams.

About the Writer

Nandita Venkatesan works with the Economic Times in Mumbai- she is the only person with disabilities in the newspaper's editorial department. She is also a vocal disability and tuberculosis advocate profiled across prominent media organisations, a TEDx speaker and a recipient of Rotary's Vocational Excellence Award.

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