Person of the Week: Megha Gupta

Dear Readers,

In this interview series we ask questions to people who are making a difference in our society, it can be big, it can be small, it doesn’t matter, what matters is their contribution. It can be anyone from any walk of life and from any country. Please, do send us suggestions of people whom you think we should interview for this series.

Megha Gupta is the founder of DEMS (Deaf Education & Multitasking society) in Gwalior, she and her organization works for the education of individuals of all age groups who are speech and hearing impaired. She has won numerous awards for her work in this field. Following is our conversation with Megha about her work and experiences. 

  1. Tell us something about yourself?

I am the founder of DEMS (Deaf Education & Multitasking Society) which works for the education of children who are hearing and speech impaired. We operate in Gwalior and besides that I am also a brand ambassador for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign in Gwalior, Chambal region. I have done Post graduate in Social work and holds a diploma in sign language. We are a small family, both of my parents are speech and hearing impaired, I have a younger brother who is pursuing engineering studies. 

  1. What inspired you to take up this cause?

When your parents are unable to speak or hear, the childhood does not remain the same like other families. We were kept at the sidelines by the society, the interaction was minimal, a perception was there that being unable to speak or hear amounts to nothing in life. Witnessing struggles of my parents inspired me to do something for people with this disability. They were my role models and support me whole heartedly in my work. 

  1. How was the start with DEMS? What were the challenges?

I went to a program few years ago organized by the local hearing and speech disabled community in Gwalior, there were about 300-500 people from MP & Chhattisgarh along with the invited guests but no interpreter was present at the event. So somebody suggested my name to act as an interpreter, I did it effectively and found that I was good at this. So I collaborated with different clubs who were working in this field and it eventually lead to foundation of DEMS in 2013.

But there were lot of challenges along the way. First, I had no experience of social work to begin with, I was merely 18 when I started DEMS. I didn’t have any contacts or resources and no one was there to guide me in this effort but another major problem was that people who are deaf and dumb were sort of in a silent zone, they don’t have interaction like regular people, they are often left behind which made it much more difficult. 

  1. Why many parents do not take education seriously for their speech & hearing disabled kids?

I will tell you about by father, he is 57 years old, he did went to a govt school just like other kids but he never learned from it, nothing came out of that education. The same story is repeated with other students with speech and listening disability. The school try to impose their language of children with this disability but without sign language it becomes extremely difficult for them.

A child who cannot speak or listen can only use his hands for communication, no speech therapy or lip reading will be of any use to them. In some places they even tie the hands of kids so that this pedagogy can be forced upon them. There is lack of awareness and proper system which frustrates the parents, which is why they also give up on their child without realizing the potential he may have.  We at DEMS tend to work closely with the parents so that they may develop confidence in their child’s ability. 

  1. What changes do you want to see in the education of these children?

If I had that change making power, I’d like to change the way these kids are educated. I’d find all the organizations who are working in this field and merge them to form an institute. I’d have teachers who are also challenged by speech and hearing ability but who are qualified and would keep the staff that could interpret for them. I’d want to make general-public more aware about sign language and have it included as part of education curriculum. I’d also like to see Gwalior to be developed into a sort of hub for education of disabled kids especially hearing and speech impaired. I’d like to see public facilities like banks, railway stations to be friendly to people with such impairments. 

  1. Where do you find strength & energy to keep going?

I’d say if you have faith, motivation and persistence you will achieve your goal. I consider myself a spiritual person, I know difficulties are there but I keep this belief that with god’s grace I will get results which is what keeps me motivating. When we were thinking to start DEMS, we did not have any resources but we got all the necessary things within two months, just before the start date. Have faith and things will fall in place. 

  1. How do people support you in this effort?

From my experience, I came to realize that people don’t often work with NGO’s, to them NGO means Grants, life a business of sorts. They have that negative perception which is why we don’t ask for monetary help. It’s not that we’d refuse anyone who’d wish to help with funds but we request help in terms of necessary resources like books, toys, tables etc. Sometimes people volunteer their time and help us in teaching or organizing activities for kids.  We are very transparent with our work. 

  1. What are your plans for future?

Our future plan is to upgrade our school, we want to have our own premises along with that we want to work towards more public awareness towards sign languages and needs of children with speech and hearing disability. I have a friend, her name is Alecia Sort, despite being deaf and speech disabled she became a psychologist with her dedication and hard work. I want my students to become like her, an independent, self-made, motivated individual. 

  1. Can you share some of the inspirational stories from your work?

I’d say the confidence of our students & their parents in our work is the most important thing. The positive change that they see in their child gives us immense happiness and motivation to keep working for their rights and welfare. 

  1. Your message for our readers?

To the parents who have kids with speech and hearing impairment, I’d say have confidence in your child’s capability, don’t give up hope and try to get involved with the organizations who are working towards the education and betterment of such kids. To the general public I’d say is that people with such disabilities are also part of our society, please do not shun them. Please, be inclusive and understanding towards them. They may be silent but they are just like you.



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