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  • Sonkee Shah

HAVE WINGS? FLY! Being deaf does not make you disabled!

This is what Harshal Desai, a bright 21 year old taught each one of us at ARCH Development Foundation.

With our activities growing each week I felt the pressure to hire someone trustworthy and committed to share our burgeoning work load. This was sometime in mid-October 2017. Vacha, my team member who over-looked the Naya Savera program; our unique vocational and soft skill development initiative amongst physically disabled people, suggested we hire one of the participants of the program. Having designed the workshop myself, I was well-aware of what was in store for me. Besides, I took it upon myself to lead by example and agreed to the idea immediately.

Harshal, hearing impaired by birth, joined us from 1st November 2017 as an intern in the team. He was responsible for data entry, designing banners and simple experimental jobs with work timings from 10 am to 5 pm.

From the very beginning he was punctual, committed to his work and completed each task diligently. While his performance was more than satisfactory I still limited his ability to his lack of hearing and never invited him to our routine team meetings.

In a few weeks this discrimination began to bother him. His behaviour became peculiar and body language very different. And one final day, he skipped lunch. On much perusal we realised that this was a tantrum to show how upset he was about being excluded from company meetings. He was a part of Arch, an integral one and wanted us to acknowledge it.

We did! There onwards Harshal became an indispensable part of our review meets. He was energetic and highly participative. His ideas and thought process became invaluable for us as we were now getting insights from a person who was a direct beneficiary of our initiative. He found a unique way to read lips and clearly understand the knitty gritties of the discussion. We were never interrupted or asked to repeat ourselves. It was as good as having a normal routine team meet!

Harshal was a go-getter. He was an assertive and forthcoming individual who demanded equal status in the office. He was mighty upset about not having his name on the white board where I listed duties of each person every week. He made sure I wrote his name with equal and matching responsibilities in comparison to the team.

Further, he refused to take instructions from someone else and ensured that I delegated duties directly to him like I did to the others. His reporting was also directed towards me and made sure I acknowledged his work on a daily basis. He made all possible efforts to build a healthy employee-employer relationship and ensured that his efforts were noticed.

Today, Harshal is a devoted team player who responds beautifully to the tasks given to him. His performance has accelerated at work and so has our faith in him. While he’s still holds the status of an intern, he is shouldering great responsibilities and has an immense potential for growth. He is being groomed to manage and co-ordinate the Naya Savera project independently. He is travelling to cities for meetings where his observation and feedback have become instrumental in key company decisions. His camaraderie with his co-workers and zest to be noticed and appreciated by his superior is endearing.

I am immensely proud of him for all that he has achieved in a short time. In a few weeks he will enjoy the status of a full time employee with us and this is one success story I’m proud of!

(Harshal Desai is physically handicapped by birth and has a hearing disability. He passed class 12 from Akshar School and joined Naya Savera program in June 2017. He is one of the 19 students who was employed by ARCH)

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