Grandma's Tales

December 3, 2006

My other Avtaar

Filed under: Language,My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:10 am

For the last two years I have been editing this unusual magazine that goes by the name of Success & ABILITY. It focuses on disability issues but has plenty of fun stuff. Disabled people are people first, aren’t they? So what concerns all of us affects them too, right? The idea behind the magazine (check out is to get people to change their mindsets about disability. It is to tell them, “Hey, give them that little bit of accommodation and see what they can do! Stop stereotyping them!”
Accommodation, say in a workplace, would be:
JAWS software for the visually impaired.
Facing those who cannot hear when you speak to them.
Making sign language an optional subject in high school. It’s fun to learn! You can talk across the classroom, across the playground, across a movie hall when the lights are on… well, you can guess the possibilities. Imagine being able to do that in a meeting!
In offices, grab rails everywhere for those using crutches, larger elevators and bathrooms for the wheelchair to move in, and so on.

There is a law that says any public facility must be “inclusive”. Tactile signs for the blind, ramps and neat curb cuts on roads, information on flashboards for those who cannot hear … the argument is, disabled people have as much right to use public facilities as anyone else. (The MRTS station at Mylapore has about a dozen steps at the entrance. My mom who’s a robust, “normal” 80 – she’d kill me if I called her “old” – finds it difficult to climb them.)

A lot of us now watch English movies with what is known as “closed captioning”. This captioning gives a clear idea of the sounds in the background and prints the dialogue. Why can’t we have that for all movies in India? Why can’t we have “audio description” of the silent parts of the movies? Don’t blind people have a right to watch movies?

Sometimes technology helps disabled people inadvertently. SMS wasn’t created with the speech-impaired in mind, right? Yet, it has opened the world of communication like never before! Now they can “speak” to others, make requests, have arguments, demand rights!

When I was discussing this with a disability activist the other day, he said, “There is one more thing. Earlier, if someone wore hearing aids he came in for pity or ridicule. Chances of a girl with a hearing aid getting married were zilch. Today, ever other person has wires dangling from his ears. Most don’t take off those earphones even when you speak to them. So the stigma of wires hanging from your ears or having a gadget attached to your ears has been wiped off!”

Hurrah for technology!

BTW, I hear ICICI is offering loans to buy XBox 360 or is it PS3?



  1. Its xbox 360

    Comment by Varun Chablani — December 4, 2006 @ 10:19 pm | Reply

  2. “This captioning gives a clear idea of the sounds in the background and prints the dialogue. Why can’t we have that for all movies in India? Why can’t we have “audio description” of the silent parts of the movies? Don’t blind people have a right to watch movies?”

    You mean, for DVDs to have an option like this (practical)? Or do you mean in the movie theaters (not so practical)?

    Comment by swami — December 5, 2006 @ 5:08 am | Reply

  3. Thanks Varun. Hire purchase is now on fast track!
    Hi swami,
    All the Hollywood DVDs that I borrow here (Chennai) have closed captioning. You have a choice: listen to the dialogue as you watch, or read the captions and watch the movie at the same time 🙂
    As for audio description, it is possible. In major art galleries in the west, you can rent a cassette player as you go in. You stand in front of a painting, press the relevant button and you hear a description of the painting. In movie theatres you could have boxes where such a facility can be provided for the visually impaired. You sit, put on the headphones and press a button and listen! At the UN there are simultaneous translations, aren’t there? The technology isn’t very different!
    The point is this: why should I be barred from going to the theatre for a movie experience (popcorn, dolby sound, people knocking off your knees, rustling their plastic bags, chattering ceaselessly at the back, the whistling, the clapping) just because I can’t see? I can hear, can’t I?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — December 5, 2006 @ 7:33 am | Reply

  4. Nowadays, BTE hearing aids come in many different colors to match your skin, hair, and bright colors for kids even!

    More Hearing Aids information

    Comment by Mo Louis — January 8, 2007 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  5. Hi Mo Louis,
    Thanks for stopping by. That’s great info! Trust the marketing guys to come up with something like this. Not complaining! The Director of my NGO, who’s hearing-impaired, when introduced to someone, says “So, you’re just normal!” with a dismissive wave of her hand.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — January 9, 2007 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

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