Down, But Not Out

Chennai-based sibling duo Abilasha and Ashwini’s initiative spread awareness on hearing impairment.
 Voice of the Unheard (VoU) is an initiative to spread awareness about disabilities, with special focus on hearing impairment and complete deafness. It was started by Chennai-based siblings, Abilasha and Ashwini Veeraraghavan triggered by the former’s life experience. They started VoU earlier this month with two other core members — Aravind Kumar and SA Vivekananda.

An improper injection impaired Abilasha’s hearing as a child and she subsequently became a victim of depression, as her schoolmates and teachers mocked her disability. “As I grew up, I started to do a lot of research and realised there was no proper awareness about people like me, which stirred me to start this initiative. Rather than sending me to a school for the deaf, my mother, being an MA Phil in English herself, would teach me one word, day by day, not giving up until I would pronounce it correctly. She and my sister helped me develop my speech clearly,” Abilasha says.

The initiative is in its nascent stages and the team is planning to register it as an NGO. For the next one month, the team  is going to completely focus on social media and kickstart their initiative with a documentary featuring real life stories about the differently-abled. “We have long-term plans, and plan to start organising events such as a talent show for the differently-abled.”

Already in one month, she says that the response has been overwhelming and supportive — “A lot of people have expressed their interest in joining hands with us.”  

The team’s aim is to spread awareness on disability, and bring people like Abilasha into the limelight, and persuade others that they deserve normal lives.

They focus on rehabilitation for the differently-abled, who do not have support, and organise counselling sessions for the parents to understand their child’s needs and groom them accordingly. The team plans to organise stage shows where they can showcase their talents and conceptual shows explaining disability through art. “We plan to tie-up with a team of well-established doctors and counsellors to fulfil the needs of the differently-abled. We also aim at reaching out to villages at a later phase of our initiative. VoU plans to tie-up with schools and colleges, and conduct seminars and various other programmes to educate the children,” states Abilasha. The team also plans to reach out to those villages where most residents are illiterate, and educate them about disability.  “This initiative means a lot to me, and I really hope this achieves the purpose I dreamt it to accomplish and succeed in educating society and gathering enough support to keep us going.”

The team also hopes to encourage parents to come forward and speak out, for the benefit of their children.  

“My family, and my passion for dancing, have been my biggest support systems throughout. Thanks to them, I am no longer ashamed of my disability and I aim to make the other people like myself also achieve self-acceptance, through this initiative,” says Abilasha, a second year BCom. Corporate Secretaryship student at SRM University.