Azima Dhanjee is a young entrepreneur who was raised by deaf parents. But instead of being bogged down by what many would see as a challenge, she used her experience to create a new solution that not only changes lives but reshapes organizational attitudes.
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 extraordinary women from Pakistan. The ‘No Damage After Repair’ podcast is sponsored by Dove.
Azima and two other students created ConnectHear a few years ago. The platform focuses on sign language accessibility. It also aims to create a need for sign language interpreting services to “fully integrate the hearing impaired community in all areas. Its stated vision includes automating sign language interpretation through technology.
In telling her story, Dhanjee told Iqbal that being raised by deaf parents made sign language her de facto mother tongue. “I felt like my life was normal.”
Interacting with people outside the home made her aware of the challenges faced by the hearing and speech impaired.
Iqbal recognized the transformative power of technology in changing mindsets and uplifting those marginalized in society. Belief in the irreversibility of “damage” is a misconception, and with consistency and commitment, positive change is possible, he said.
Dhanjee revealed how she faced discriminatory questions as a child due to her parents’ disability. He said it was a challenge to explain as a child and hoped to instill more sensitivity in people for better understanding.
People with hearing and speech impairments deserve to be recognized for their identity, not sympathized with, he pointed out.
Dhanjee revealed that she and her brother have been interpreters for their parents throughout their lives, handling tasks such as making phone calls and booking rickshaw rides.
The initiative to organize it did not happen suddenly. 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 major challenge. “People hardly know about it,” he said.
He said building ride-hailing, dining and e-commerce platforms was comparatively easier because the ideas were clear. “ConnectHear not only provides services, but also has to educate the masses, making the journey difficult,” he continued.
He highlighted how technology, especially social media platforms, has played a critical role in reaching out to the wider deaf community through the sharing of educational videos.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25u2023.
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