Growing up deaf is a challenge, but what if you grew up deaf in a small area of India where there was no access to any disabled supports or facilities?  What if there was almost no support for your education as a disabled student?  Our guest this week is Tanisha Dayal, a young deaf woman and masters student.  Tanisha, who now lives in Ireland, speaks to us about growing up disabled in India and her education challenges, as well as the disability challenges of traveling internationally.   

Tanisha grew up in India in a time when cultural values were different. There was a stigma to being disabled as well as even just being a girl.  Tanisha’s parents and younger brother were very supportive and fought for her right to study in the same school as everyone else.  Unfortunately, she was the only deaf girl in school so often felt alienated.  Teachers and students often seemed to forget about her needs due to her disability, making learning and making friends challenging.  There were no special disability programs or accessibility options available to her.

Rejection as a Deaf Teen

In her late teen years, Tanisha felt she was rejected by both the hearing and the deaf communities. Deaf students were shocked that she did not know sign language and she was labeled “too disabled” by the hearing community.  Tanisha often had to advocate for herself and navigate between both the deaf and hearing communities.  

Tanisha has also done quite a bit of international travel which raised her awareness on the disability challenges of traveling.  Not all aspects of travel are set up to assist disabled travelers.  There were multiple supports for wheelchair and blind travelers but nothing for the deaf.  Deaf travelers must be much more aware as their chance of missing flights due to not hearing boarding announcements is much higher. There are also language and accent challenges for those deaf travelers that read lips.  Tanisha feels from her own experiences that the travel and hospitality industry needs to raise their accessibility levels for disabled travelers and offer more assistance and services.  

Future Visions for Disability Leadership

Something Tanisha would love to see more of in the future is disability leadership – for example, a CEO of a large corporation who is disabled.  She feels that disabled individuals are sometimes given limited opportunities in the corporate world.  They are often only allowed limited resources and face challenging corporate environments.  There also needs to be a more inclusive and diverse community in the corporate world for disabled individuals.  Often Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) excludes the entire disabled community.  This shows a lack of awareness for disabilities and a need for people to realize that disabled individuals need this support as well and need to be included in the fight for their rights.

Tanisha dedicates this podcast interview to her family – her mother, father and brother.  Without the love and support they have given her, she believes she would not be who she is today.  They gave her the strength, will power and determination to achieve everything she has so far in her life.  Tanisha’s final note for everyone – Be Kind!   

If you would like a PDF copy of the closed caption script of this interview, please contact us Special Needs Companies 

Listen to the full episode here!

Annette Hines has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law, and Estate Planning for more than 20 years. Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice and podcasts as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep, personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to help others within the special needs community.