Tuesday, June 23, 2009


INSTITUTION : Bombay Institute for the Deaf and the Mute
3, Nesbit Road, Opposite Mazagaon Court
Mazagaon, Mumbai 400010
AGENDA : Institutional Visit
ISSUE : Disability (Deaf and Mute), Education
NAME : Prasant Mohanty
ROLL No. : 2009SW88
DATE/DAY : 22.06.09/ Monday


Set against the serious foreground of the Mazagaon Court, the Bombay Institute for the Deaf and the Mute stands guard to a history of 175 years of devoted service to the hearing impaired, the deaf and the mute. When the institute started back in 1885 it was the first of its kind in Asia and today it caters to 175 students, 95% of whom come from the lower socio-economic strata of Urban and Suburban Mumbai. The institute that is funded by the Social Welfare department of the Govt. Of Maharashtra and by a handful of willing and generous organizations, conducts 3 fulltime programs in English, Hindi and Marathi that run till SSC level. The teachers of the institute have all received special training from the Ali Awar Jung Institute to impart education and life skills to the hearing impaired.


The Infrastructural aspects of the institute are what set them apart from the normal schools.
  • The classrooms are equipped with hearing aid equipment that is used to communicate with students.
  • Each student has his/her own personal hearing kit that put on to enhances their hearing capacity.
  • Another feature is the loop induction system which was donated to the institute by an organization few years back. It is an integrated operational arrangement of speakers, lights and bells spread across the whole Institute and can be found on the corridors, in the classes and the surroundings; and is controlled from the Principal's Office. It provides additional sensory experience for students to interpret basic information (for example, to know when a class ends or begins). This system is also used by the Principal to communicate any messages to all the class and to call upon a student or a facilitator.


The Institute has over the period of 175 years tailored its organizational structure and has evolved into what has been demonstrated in the illustration given below which basically shows how control information flows. The institute caters to only to the hearing impaired and of both types, congenital & acquired. It has been noticed that a lot of students of the institute are from the Muslim community and their impairment is contributed primarily to the fact that they encourage marriages within kith and kin. The school is trying to sensitize parents about do and don’t’s to avoid and lessen such occurrences in the future. Also as majority of the students are from informal settlements in urban and suburban Mumbai and they commute varying distances to study in the institute. The Government does its bit by providing free public transportation to the students.

Learning for the specially-abled is a highly structured approach. The education system in this special institute is four fold. It caters to the following basic needs of the students.
(i) to provide life skills for self-identification and for identifying agents in the society that they need to interact with, for normal day-to-day living.
(ii) to help master at least one language that they can use for communication with the world around them
(iii) to provide opportunity to learn vocational skills for pursuing livelihood after the students are done with their education. and
(iv) to facilitate for psychological counseling and rehabilitation to the students
As evident from the above points, the techniques used to teach the students have been deeply thought after and are complex to interpret. They have been drawn from years of experience and learning.

The fact that the students have to go ahead and compete with the normal students and then with normal citizens under the same system, creates a pressure-cooker situation. This apart the discrimination that they face in the society and in their family, calls for timely psycho-social intervention. The students are taught to tame that feeling of agitation and the task for them is clearly cut out from day 1 of their induction. Infact work for them begins even before day one. The day they come to get admitted to the institute, they are routed to the Ali Awar Jung Institute to get an array of tests done to determine the degree of handicap (which includes the Audiogram and the IQ Report). This follows queuing up at the JJ Govt. Hospital to get the handicapped certificate. And these documents and reports form the basic criterion for entry into the institute.

For the student who is just a kid at that moment, this arduous process introduces him/her into the mainstream realities associated with being a handicap. In the institute however, the students are exposed to a rather caring system of learning. The education system is less taxing here and more task oriented that other conventional schools. Emphasis in the initial classes is laid on improving and mastering communication techniques that becomes a foundation for the education they would like to have. This apart, proficiency in vocational trades is absolutely mandatory for which a wide range of options are available to the students (like computers, type writing, screen printing, jewelry making, candle making, cookery, book binding & ornamental flower making etc). Having said that, since each student coping with this elaborate system also suffers from a different degree of disability and has IQ levels that differs from other, there is no system of dropouts. Only when a student masters the techniques required for one grade, is he/she allowed to go into the next grade. Also because the community outreach program is not so strong the school doesn’t get many new entries every year.

Pedagogy of Teaching : The whole idea of training the hearing impaired is to start helping them make use of their other working sense to the maximum. So students are initially taught to connect common words by the use of actions, images and objects. This is later combined with an advanced concept of ‘Total Communication’ in which two aspects are stressed upon. One, the Auditory Training and Two, the Lip Reading. The auditory training focuses on using whatever minimal voice or auditory abilities they have, to spell out alphabets etc using pitch modulation and vocal vibrations. Lip reading is perhaps the most important quality the students learn to master where they can connect to what others are saying. For imparting instructions a semicircular arrangement of seating is practiced in all classes which facilitates both the aspects of the total communication. There is use of microteaching methodology in which a teacher does not get more than 10 students to take care of, in a year. This ratio is lower in elementary classes. A lot of individual and group interactions happen amongst all the participants of the class (it teachers and students alike) which magnifies the learning experience. Another unique technique that they use to acquaint students with the practicality of day-to-day living is the ‘Interact Club’, where the students are given practical assignments to procure materials and essentials from the market for their vocational classes. Before they engage in assignments of this nature, they are taught how to transact using money. This exercise is however based on a structured approach that takes many years to connect to and master. For instance the students are first taught to recognize the material and means to identify and spell it to others, then to recognize the shop, and to communicate with the shopkeeper and then to use money to carry out the transaction.
Though the specially-abled students are trained through meticulously designed methods to compete with general student in the state board exams, there always remains that big gap in ideology between the kids of this school and the normal schools.

Role of the Social Worker :- I realized that the social worker is an integral and critical cog in the machinery of the institute. Sangeeta is the one and only social worker employed by the school. Like the teachers of the institute, she also draws her salary from the Social Welfare Dept.. The social worker takes care of the following aspects of the institute.
(i) Identifies prospective funding opportunities and pursues them as and when required.
(ii) Arranges for external medical, physiotherapic and counseling help for the students and the teachers
(iii) Helps in procurement of equipment for the school and hearing aid for the students and finds willing donors for the hearing aid (as they are a costly affair for the students to handle)
(iv) Supervises the process of admission and facilitates candidate scanning and background study
(v) Provides guidance to student by being a counselor
(vi) Finds out outreach opportunities for the students
(vii) Finds out avenues for family and community sensitization
(viii) Collaborates with external agencies like the Judiciary and Police
(ix) Analyzes timely reports of students and design remedial approaches for correction

As disturbing as it may sound, the position of Social Worker that had been introduced in mid 80’s back by the Government because of Mrs. Leena Kashyap’s intervention has now been dropped. So technically speaking there will be no successor to her when she quits the institute. Also it is worth noting that there is a vacant position of physiotherapist lying for many years together because of the poor salary structure. Also the institute currently requires mirrors for all the class rooms to help students practice lip-reading and other aspects of communication.

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