Voicing Their Silence

Vol 4-Issue 1 Voicing their SilenceImagine landing at an airport in a remote corner of Europe. At the immigration counter, you are bombarded with questions in a language you’ve never heard before. You try to communicate with the immigration officer the best you can, but he just doesn’t seem to understand. In fact, even the people queued behind you seem to be unable to comprehend your language and start getting irritated by the hold up. Eventually, the officer pulls you aside, so he may deal with the others in line. You stand there feeling helpless, angry, and humiliated. This feeling would give you an inkling of what most deaf people often feel, when dealing with the ‘normal’ people.

Difficult enough as it is to live among the ‘hearing,’ finding a decent job is almost impossible. Unfortunately, Karachi has very little to offer its hearing impaired citizens, other than a few schools teaching the universal sign language. Now, KFC Pakistan endeavors to bring them into the work arena for proving to the public that they are an able and capable task force. KFC has opened an outlet dedicated and operated by the hearing impaired.

This KFC outlet is specially equipped to be run by the hearing impaired – for instance, the bells, which are used to alert a cook, have been replaced with flashing lights. This outlet does more than give the deaf a vocation; it seeks to educate its customers about bridging the communication gap between them. The walls are decorated with images displaying the signs for such simple phrases as “thank you “and “I don’t understand”. The menus at the counter show the orders with the images of items and their sign language equivalents, so a customer may simply point out his desired meal, and for less inhibited, ‘sign’ the order.

Setting up a facility, which caters to their vocational needs, doesn’t mean that things have been smooth sailing for KFC’s team of 32 hearing impaired. Vigorous training to run the restaurant and serve the customers cannot build the courage and confidence they need to deal with ‘normal’ hearing customers. “They have had to deal will all kinds of customers,” explains Ahsan Farhan Naqvi, assistant business manager at the branch. There are those customers, who are very encouraging and specially come to dine here for supporting the staff; however, many have demonstrated much impatience, which naturally disheartens the team. In fact, a number of the initial hearing impaired team quit soon after the restaurant launched.

Currently, the outlet has some ‘hearing’ members, who supervise the running of the outlet and do deliveries. As learning sign language takes some time, they have been provided by communicators proficient in the language to act as mediators amongst the team and customers when necessary. Many from the hearing team are keenly learning the sign language through their everyday interaction with the rest of the team. But in the forefront at the counters, you will be greeted by a smile from the hearing impaired.

Ahsan explains that the KFC Gulshan branch team consists of educated and very capable young people. They can operate computers, fix electrical equipment, and have been handling most of the branch’s maintenance work as well. Karachi is lacking in opportunities for them, which is why they are thankful to KFC for providing them with the platform to bring about a positive change for the future generations.

Furthermore, KFC also offers its hearing impaired team career growth opportunities. As they strengthen their capabilities within the branch, they can apply for positions further up the KFC career ladder, just like any other ‘hearing’ employee. This symbolizes KFC’s promise of not making distinctions among its employees, which is difficult for most organizations dealing with the deaf.

Most organizations, in fact, are unwilling to take on the challenge of setting up a work environment conducive to the needs of the deaf at all, and many of the hearing impaired themselves hesitate to go out of their own home environments. Ahsan explains that though the schools for the deaf teach them sign language, they do not help build a strong command of reading and writing Urdu and English. This handicap decreases their chances of securing any meaningful employment.

Bringing this hearing impaired team together was not as easy as simply putting an ad in the papers. Forms for potential employees were initially sent to the “Deaf Reach Centre” (which teaches computer literacy) that eventually circulated them to other schools for the deaf. The response was slow at first. Many of the deaf, like most young people, were initially anxious to take on the world. However, their first interaction with the real world had been so daunting that they hesitated to consider this to be a true opportunity. Currently, though, there are over a hundred applications in pending, Alhumdulillah.

There are many young and proficient individuals out there, who can see, think, read, and write but just can’t hear our language. They need jobs. KFC has taken the lead in improving their futures, and others need to follow through for expanding their horizons. Allah (swt) has said: ”Who is he that will lend Allah (swt) a goodly loan, so that He may multiply it to him many times? And it is Allah (swt) that decreases or increases (your provisions), and unto Him you shall return”(Al-Baqarah 2: 245). A little investment in this world to overcome our handicap – our inability to communicate with the deaf, which can give us great returns in this world and the Hereafter. Insha’Allah (swt).

 

Islam Encourages Working in Spite of Disabilities

Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum (rta) was one of the early converts to Islam – a Sahabah, Muezzin, Muhajir, and governor of Madinah. He even bore the standard for Muslims during Jihad. He did all this in spite of his handicap – he was blind. He would, in fact, speak of his handicap as an advantage by saying: “Place me between two rows and give me the standard. I will carry it for you and protect it, for I am blind and cannot run away.” The Prophet Muhammed (sa) and his Ummah respected and accepted him as he was – a man worthy of honor.

Special Children – A Gift of Allah

Vol 1-Issue 2  Special Children“Congratulations! When is the bundle of joy set to arrive?” is the usual inquiry Sara was faced with sixteen years ago just before the birth of her second son. Little did she realize her son Hilal would be a special child – he was afflicted with autism.

Most parents are apprehensive to hear the news that their child might be disabled. Usually, they go through the steps of denial, blaming each other, bargaining with Allah, rationalizing, and finally arriving to acceptance. They have feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and anger. Why them? How will they manage? Will they be able to adjust? Sara recalls being haunted by all these questions. She would read the Quran for inspiration. “Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. ‘Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error, our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us; our Lord! Put not on us burden greater than we have strength to bear. Pardon us and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Maula (Protector) and give us victory over the disbelieving people.’” (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

When parents finally accept that their child might need extra help, they are at a loss of where to turn to. A student pursuing her Masters in this field recommends that the child get his IQ tested. In Karachi, the most reliable place to have this done is the Aga Khan Medical Center.

Once the psychologist has determined the cause of child’s limitations, the hunt for the proper institute begins. Just as there are numerous handicaps a child can face, there also are many institutes that specialize in some or all of them. Following is a list of institutes that are tried and tested by various parents and professionals. Special education professionals recommend that you personally visit the institute, get familiar with its policies, and inform the entire staff, from the van driver to the child’s teachers, of your particular situation. As with any child, each case is special and each child has his own learning curve. One important point to remember is that parents should not be discouraged by the slow learning rate of their child. It has been known for a child to take four years to learn the English alphabet.

There are several obstacles parents usually face, while caring for a special child:

EXPENSES

Parents of disabled children face three times the costs of parents of non-disabled children. It is usually the little things that add to the expenses, such as extra bed sheets, special food, medical attention, and supplies.

EMPLOYMENT

In the 21st century, we are slowly moving from single working parent to a two working parent family. With the arrival of a disabled child, special attention is required for his care. One or both parents have to compromise their careers, in order to provide adequate around the clock attention for their child.

HOUSING

Special children have special needs. Take the example of a blind child, the house he lives in should be designed to suit his needs, making it easy for him to lead as normal life as possible. However, parents can hardly afford such drastic changes to their homes.

EDUCATION

There are numerous foundations in Karachi that work for and with the disabled. However, most parents cannot afford the high cost of these institutions. In fact, most of the institutions have limited space and hundreds of children have to wait or suffer with inadequate care. The fees of some such institutions begin from Rs.9500 monthly.

SUPPORT

Several parents have showed their concern that there are not enough support groups sponsored by NGO’s or foundations dedicated to help the disabled children. A special education graduate said that the institutions usually do not want to get closely involved with the parents. They let the parents form their own network and support groups. There is no counselling available for these parents either.

The most important thing a parent should realize is that they must make their child as self sufficient as possible. Vocational skills, such as carpentry or weaving, will help the child to earn a living. Handling of money, managing critical household chores, and not losing confidence about him are the essential basics a special child should be taught.

Make sure your child feels important – if you give your child attention, so will everyone else. Train everyone around your child to deal with any difficult situations that might arise. One parent claims that her child is not socially very adept, so she works on developing his social skills by inviting the neighbourhood kids over to play. She entices them with pizza, burgers, and a play station. As always, a sense of humor is paramount to leading a stress free life.

Often, a question comes to mind: “What helps?” Several things can be implemented to help parents to make the transition for taking care of a special needs infant and adult. Parents are not the only ones who require help and counselling. The extended family should also be involved, so the child has a healthy environment to grow in. If anybody else takes care of the special child for an hour or so, parents can get away and have some time for rejuvenating themselves. Extended family members can also help by spending the time with the parents and the child as well as by taking care of the normal siblings. It is an opportunity to create stronger family bonds.

It is not easy to bring up a child; bringing up a special needs child is ten times more energy consuming and mentally draining. However, the reward of a smile, a hint of understanding, and a new skill developed makes it all worthwhile. This is your opportunity to create and strengthen the family ties. Encourage your other children to help a sibling in need. The single most important virtue is patience, depend on it, and you will emerge triumphant with a socially integrated, confident, and self-sufficient child, Insha’Allah.