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Using technology to hit the right notes | The Express Tribune

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Azima Dhanjee is a young entrepreneur who was raised by deaf-mute parents. But instead of being bogged down by what many would see as a challenge, she used her experience to craft a novel solution that is not only changing lives but reshaping organisational attitudes.

The young Dhanjee told her inspiring story while in conversation with Sidra Iqbal in a new series on The Express Tribune that will feature conversations with exceptional Pakistani women. The podcast ‘No Damage beyond Repair’ is supported by Dove.

Azima and two other students set up ConnectHear a few years ago. The platform focuses on sign language accessibility. It also aims to create a need for sign language interpretation services to “make the hearing speech-impaired community completely integrated into all sectors. Its stated vision includes automating sign language interpretation through technology.

While narrating her story, Dhanjee told Iqbal that being raised by deaf-mute parents made sign language her de facto mother tongue. “I felt my life was normal.”

Interacting with people outside the house made her realise the challenges facing those hearing and speech impaired.

Iqbal acknowledged the transformative power of technology in changing mindsets and uplifting those who have been marginalised in society. The belief in the irreversibility of ‘damage’ is a misconception, and with consistency and commitment, positive change is achievable, she said.

Dhanjee revealed how she faced discriminatory questions as a child due to her parents’ impairment. She said it was a challenge to explain it as a child and hoped to inculcate more sensitivity in people for a better understanding.

The hearing and speech impaired deserve to be recognised for their identity, and not be sympathised for it, she pointed out.

Dhanjee disclosed that she and her brother had been interpreters for their parents throughout their lives, handling tasks like making phone calls and booking rickshaw rides.

The initiative for her organisation did not happen suddenly; it evolved from numerous experiences. Dhanjee faced discouragement from many when she started ConnectHear in 2017, noting that the lack of awareness about sign language was a significant challenge. “People hardly know about this,” she said.

She said building platforms for rides, food, and e-commerce was comparatively easier because the ideas were clear. “ConnectHear not only provides services but also has to educate the masses, making the journey challenging,” she continued.

She highlighted how technology, especially social media platforms, played a crucial role in reaching out to the larger deaf community by sharing educational videos.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2023.

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