Opening doors; Ignite Summit welcomes Deaf participants

The Ignite Summit opened its doors to a new set of potential entrepreneurs this year. Thanks to efforts to increase accessibility, three deaf participants travelled to Calgary to take part in the conference in May 2019.

During one of the sessions, then Council for Canada President Malik Talib felt compelled to mention the presence of the three participants.

“They’ve inspired me by their confidence, they’ve inspired me by being here, and they’ve inspired me to say we can do anything we put our minds to,” said President Talib.

The three participants spoke about their experience at Ignite and about how much the increased accessibility meant to them in the video below.

Published here:

Azima Dhanjee, CEO ConnectHear, to speak at Digital Youth Summit 2018

Azima Dhanjee, CEO ConnectHear, to speak at Digital Youth Summit 2018

Growing up with deaf parents, it always bothered Azima how a simple communication was a challenge for the deaf due to language barrier.

Azima Dhanjee

“You see, both my parents are deaf and mute while my brother and I have no such ‘limitation’,” shares Azima. “The first time my classmates saw me communicate with my mother in sign language, they started laughing because they had never seen such a thing before. I did not understand what was so funny but I knew there was something “different” about the way I communicated with my mother.”

Before this point, her parents had never let her feel any different. Her family is like just any other family. The only difference is that she has had to use sign language to talk to her parents. However, gradually, she started to notice how life isn’t the same for her parents as it is for other people. Growing up, she also heard a lot of stories from her grandmother about the struggle her mom has had to go through. She has also faced a lot of questions about how her family manages to live through this disability and some people have even gone as far as to ask her brother if they ever wished that their parents were not the way they are.

“Fortunately, our parents brought us up to be both affectionate and strong and so none of this ever bothered me much,” she shares. “I have always liked being the interpreter for my parents whether it be a parent-teacher meeting, a doctor’s appointment or just me translating my mother’s favorite TV shows for her. If anything, I think it has brought us all closer.”

This is what pushed her to try and create her very own startup. Having already seen the difficulty the deaf community had to face to cope up with the rest of the world, Azima knew what she had to do.

I just couldn’t process that in a world so advanced, how can a small limitation become such a big hurdle. When I was in the USA, I learned about the amazing systems they had in place to help the deaf community and I knew I could play my part in creating something like that over here.


ConnectHear provides in-person as well as video-based Pakistani sign language interpretation to the deaf and mute in order to bridge the communication gap in the society. Any hearing-impaired person can avail their services and reach out to them for help.

I joined up because I believe in the steps they are taking to bring the deaf and mute community together. I hope we keep working for the betterment of all; this is a cause to work for!” said Burhan, one of the eight people behind ConnectHear.

They regularly post videos on saying phrases in Pakistani Sign Language as a part of their teaching tutorial. This is just a part of their broader plan to educate everyone about common signs. They also plan to approach other organizations working for this cause such as KFC, which recently inaugurated an outlet in Karachi that is operated by deaf people.

“Working for civic causes is a social responsibility I have towards the society. As an engineering major, I believe in problem solving through technology,” shared Areej, Co-Founder, ConnectHear.

One major challenge that they face right now is educating people that words in sign language don’t come in the same order as in a natural language. For example, “Thank you for meeting me” doesn’t necessarily mean that the signs will translate to “Thank”, “you”, “for”, “meeting”, “me”, in that exact order.

“The reason I love working with ConnectHear is how it’s bridging the gap between the disabled and the able. We have alienated them in every way of life and ConnectHear can prove to take the alienation away from the society.” added Nafay, the Graphic Designer.

Previously published: here

Poem to celebrate Hazar Imams 79th birthday in Sign Language

Humble nazrana on the auspicious occasion of Hazar Imam’s 79th birthday

…dedicated to all the non-verbal, hearing impaired brothers and sisters of Ismaili jamat around the world!

Inspired by Ikhwan Allani’s poem (originally posted at, few mureeds from Chicago got together and recorded a presentation of the poem in a sign language.

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan. Sanna Ali has been non-verbal/hearing-impaired since birth. She is from Glenview (Chicago) Illinois. Anar Rehmani is her sister who has rendered this poem in her voice. Idea conceptualized and executed by Irfan Ali. Irfan is a systems engineer by profession and a RE volunteer. Video recording by Mansoor Dadwani.

Previously published here:

Nazim Bhimani: The Deaf World

Profile: Here is Nazim Bhimani’s profile in his own words:

“My name is Nazim Bhimani, but I like to call myself  ‘Deaf 1 Naz’ as I am a deaf rap-poet, since I was four. I believe I am very blessed because I can hear with my heart. I write and recite only to make a difference in the world.

“I’ve been involved in several different fund raising events such as: DHK (children dying with cancer), Cancer Research, WPW, World Vision, Advocating for the Deaf community, as well as bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf world, raise awareness for the deaf community as well as raise funds to support school trips for deaf children, when there isn’t enough Government  funding.

“When I’m involved in fund raising, I feel like my soul is on fire, and this is what I’m supposed to do. I enjoy pricking people’s consciences; to re-adjust their values in favour of moral and ethical values.

“I am an Ismaili, and I am so very proud to be an Ismaili. We are grounded and very guided. Our community has made great stride in the world, and I just love that.”

And in a moving ending note to Simerg, he writes:

“…. I am really nothing special. In fact, if it wasn’t for spell check, I would pretty much be screwed. If it wasn’t for my mum, then I would be dead.

“And above all, if it wasn’t for Mawlabapa* spiritually guiding me to write what I write, and do what I do, then I would pretty much be a nobody.”

References: Please read more about Nazim at


By “Deaf 1 Naz”

















Editor’s Notes:

In poem, ASL denotes American Sign Language.

* the Ismailis intimately use terms such as Mawlabapa (as above), Mawlana Hazar Imam, Hazar Imam, Ya Ali Bapa (Papa) etc. when referring to their Imam amongst themselves. Their current Imam is Shah Karim al-Husseini, who is known worldwide as His Highness the Aga Khan, Prince Karim Aga Khan or simply as the Aga Khan.

His Highness the Aga Khan is lineally descended from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and is the 49th Imam of the Nizari Ismaili group of Shia Muslims. Ali was the first Imam of all Shia Muslims, and thus the Imam in office is also invoked by the name Ali, as in the greeting “Ya Ali Madad” (which translates as “May Ali’s help be with you”). Another greeting common among the Shias, particularly in Iran, is “Daste Ali Beh Hamrat” (meaning Ali’s blessing be with you”).

Last updated: August 30, 2015.

Previously published here:

Aliya Gulamani: My Education Journey

There’s several papers sprawled on my desk, which to the outsider may look frantically misplaced but to the trained eye actually have a perfect sense of order. There’s a fresh cup of camomile tea brewing, (drinking coffee during the exam period in my first year of University led to terrible jitters and a feeling of constant nausea. So I converted to camomile tea and have never looked back since), pens lying around somewhere, with missing lids of course, books forced open at certain pages with those amazing bookmark post it notes – whoever invented those is a genius who I will buy a drink one day; and at the centre of it all, here I am, frantically typing away on my beloved laptop which at this moment in time is the most precious thing. Yes. It’s deadline week.

I’m nearing the end of the first year of my Masters in Creative Writing. Insofar, my first year has been challenging, difficult but also immensely rewarding. Whilst, yes, in the midst of an impending scary deadline, a part of me (let’s say a five per cent minority) is screaming WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?! – the other ninety-five per cent is grateful to be where I am and to love learning how I do. Even though my education route hasn’t always been easy and there have been hurdles in getting to where I am now, I still have this passion for learning, for knowledge, that spurs me onwards.

Middle School changes

The first hurdle I experienced happened in Middle School. Up to that point I had a positive experience of education (I turned Deaf when I was 3 and from then onwards had both speech therapy and signing classes) wherein my bilingual needs were consistently met. I had a Unit in my Primary School which consistently mentored me and ensured that I had access. In addition to this, I was also encouraged to learn at home. I remember regular trips to the Library every Saturday which manifested within me a deep love for reading, which has stayed with me all my life. However, when I entered Middle School, this began to change.

In Middle School, there were a larger number of in-class lessons, the number of pupils in the class expanded and there was constant information to take in. The methods that had been working for me previously were not as effective now. A radio aid and a helper
croppedweren’t enough to access what the teacher was saying; I needed far more support. This was evidenced by my surprisingly low SATs grades in Year 5.

My difficulties weren’t just limited to my educational needs but also my social needs: as whilst I was a confident and friendly child, I found it difficult to consistently understand my hearing peers and follow conversation threads. This could, of course, be attributed to my physical loss, as my deafness is degenerative, which means that it steadily declines over the years. However, looking back, I feel that there is more to it than this – I was at this time becoming more exposed to the Deaf community and this, along with my increased use of Sign Language, shaped my identity as a Deaf person and from this my needs subsequently changed.

As a consequence of this, my mother began to explore options for secondary education. There were many, but it eventually came down to two – to continue in mainstream education by attending my local secondary school, or to attend Mary Hare School – where my elder Deaf sister currently was. I had visited my sister several times and loved the feel of Mary Hare. I remember seeing her year group comfortable mixing in the common room in Howard House and that, combined with the extensive book area I must confess, swung me in that direction. Thus, it seemed that my first hurdle would be overcome by a thorough examination of my needs and investigation of which institution would be best placed to support me.

Fighting a battle

This was not to be. The Local Education Authority were not, at the time, convinced by my academic decline. They saw no need to relocate me to a specialist school. Instead they were adamant that the local secondary school would be best suited to my needs. Despite several meetings and confrontations – that the option that they were trying to enforce upon me did not match my needs – they would not budge. It was a difficult situation – if I stayed, it was highly likely that I would have to put up with a substandard provision of education, which by now, as I was reaching the end of Middle School, I could clearly foresee – as my struggles in accessing both the social and educational aspects of school were increasing. I could not leave as the LEA would not fund for me to go to the specialist IMG_2846school. After discussion with various educational psychologists and specialists, my mother and I were presented with a third option – home schooling. This was intended to be a temporary set up, where, whilst I would be taught at home with full access, the legal battle for me to go to Mary Hare would continue.

Home schooling was an interesting aspect to my educational journey. I received the National Curriculum and my mother devised a rota based on advice from experts. Whilst, logically for a young child, there is a tendency to rebel, I really, really wanted to go to Mary Hare so I stubbornly stuck to the rota and ensured I completed the lesson plans. This had a positive effect on my future of learning; as from this experience I developed excellent self-studying skills which were a fantastic help to all the revision classes that subsequently followed. The most negative element of this experience was that I missed my peer group. My siblings and friends were in school and though my mother ensured I entered a range of after school activities I felt a persistent gap in my everyday life.

Finally though, after six months of battling with the council, we won. They agreed that I could go to Mary Hare! From then onwards, my experience was essentially positive. Of course, there were minor hiccups that occurs in any educational journey particularly at the sensitive age of puberty, but, aside from the Physics lessons which I could never understand – through no fault of the teacher but from a gene within me that cannot process Physics Laws – I was able to access my classes and functioned as an active and conversational member of my peer group.


I studied hard and achieved high GCSE results. My A-Levels were slightly harder as they required a lot more proactivity to ensure good grades but I persisted, and also did well in these. After my A Levels, I was certain that I wanted to go to University but I wasn’t quite sure what to study, where to go and of course, being in a specialist school meant that I had forgotten about techniques to meet my needs in a mainstream environment. Thus, it was from naiveté and panic that I selected my first University; Reading University to read English. Naturally, this didn’t work out – I wasn’t keen on the subject that I had quickly chosen and my needs weren’t matched. I dropped out within a month and did some voluntary work and travelling.

The following September I made another choice. This time I knew the support would be good as this University – Royal Holloway – was based in Surrey and Surrey Deaf Services was reputed as particularly excellent at understanding and providing for Deaf people’s needs. As expected, support wasn’t an issue – I had qualified interpreters, regular note takers and supportive tutors. However, though access to the course was provided, the course itself wasn’t stimulating enough and I didn’t feel that this would be the right place to undertake my degree. So, I completed my first year but decided to look for alternative courses. I initially wanted to stay at Royal AliyaHolloway and study a different course but in the process of researching I came across Goldsmiths College.

I went to check it out further, and learning from my previous mistakes I spoke to the Disability Department in great detail about my needs and how these would be met; and also to the tutors on the course I was interested in (English and Drama). I asked them what exactly the course entailed and what modules, opportunities and responsibilities the course contained. The tutors and support services were incredibly encouraging and gave me a lot of information to enable me to make a decision. So, after looking carefully at my options I made the decision to study English and Drama at Goldsmiths.

This time, I didn’t leave! My educational experience at Goldsmiths was beyond what I expected. Not only was the course really interesting, but Goldsmiths also exposed to me to issues in the wider world – politics, society and sociology – and so my education extended from that of the classroom. I was also much more aware of my needs and ensured that I informed the University of them, which they subsequently fulfilled. On a social level, Goldsmiths was also amazing. I consistently informed my peer group about how to communicate with me; and from this understanding and effort on both sides, I created some lovely friendships, some of which I still dearly treasure today.

That’s not to say my University experience was easy – there were moments when I struggled with some modules, many late nights and the regular anxieties that most University students encounter. But the support I had, along with my own self-motivation, ensured that my University experience was essentially positive.

After I graduated (2.1), I left to go and work abroad in Sri Lanka. In my time there, I decided to come back and do a Masters in Creative Writing. I have always adored writing and have written articles, plays and short stories for years. I decided I would like to develop further as a writer and a Masters in Creative Writing would give me the necessary skills, knowledge and development required to do so. So here I am, working on yet another deadline, comforted by the smell of camomile, still writing, still learning.

Aliya is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing. In 2010 she was accepted to the Royal Court’s prestigious Young Writer’s Programme, after having been a member of Deafinitely Theatre’s ‘Deafinitely Creative’ group for two years. This year one of her scripts has been developed and performed as part of 4Play at the new Park Theatre in London. She is interested in being involved in teaching projects abroad, writing short stories and a possible career in publishing. She likes world cinema, psychology, politics, literature, theatre, running and writing.

Previously published here:

Aga Khan Youth & Sports Board for Pakistan: Deaf players compete at friendly Cricket Tournament

With the aim to encourage and include all segments of society in sports and fitness initiatives, Aga Khan Youth & Sports Board for Pakistan (AKYSBP) partnered with Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for Pakistan (AKSWBP), to organize a friendly Cricket Tournament, here today.

The six teams that participated in the tournament were:

Shia Imami Ismaili Organization of the Deaf
Pakistan Deaf and Sport Welfare Association
Pakistan Association for the Deaf
Ida Rieu School for the Deaf
Sindh Deaf Welfare Association

After a tight match, Shia Imami Ismaili Organization of the Deaf Team won the match by 8 wickets. Speaking at the closing ceremony of the event, the Chief Guest, Chairperson Aga Khan Youth & Sports Board for Pakistan, Ms. Shams Jeewa appreciated players from all the six teams that participated in the tournament, and said, “this was one stepping stone in the ongoing partnership between Deaf Organizations and the Aga Khan Youth & Sports Baord.

We need to use this platform to encourage young girls to come forward and participate in sports, fitness, arts and other activities”. Chairman, Shia Imami Ismaili Organization of the Deaf, Mr. Anwar Khawaja expressed his gratitude to all the teams that participated in the tournament. Mr. Khawaja added that success of the event was due to the cooperation and support of various volunteers and well-wishers.

Click here for more details and photographs at the official press release (PDF)

Previously published here

Aliya Gulamani, deaf playwright, accepted to the Royal Court’s prestigious Young Writer’s Programme

Aliya Gulamani is a young deaf playwright who has recently been
accepted to the Royal Court’s prestigious Young
Writer’s Programme, after two years as a member of Deafinitely Theatre’s young writers group.

When did you first start writing? I started writing poetry when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I’ve loved writing short stories for as long as I can remember. My venture into playwriting began when I joined Deafinitely Theatre’s ‘Deafinitely Creative’ group.

How did that help you? The course taught us how to observe the world to feed our imagination

Previously published here: