There are 15 million deaf people in India. And they’re waiting to hear from you.  

The sign language used all over the world to communicate with the deaf and mute was clearly designed by someone,though we may not look at it that way. Think about it. The sign language is, after all, a visual method of communication. And it shows how design can be used to do good. 

At 15 million, India has the largest deaf and mute population in the world. Imagine if we all knew sign language, we wouldn’t miss out on 15 million conversations.

Our latest design for Taxi Fabric by Harshit Vishwakarma, is a tiny step in that direction.

" Nobody is born without ability. Each one has their own. These kids just need a little bit of support. They don't need your financial help. You should make an effort to learn their language and communicate with them." Lata Nayak (Principal, Rotary Sanskardham Academy)

" Nobody is born without ability. Each one has their own. These kids just need a little bit of support. They don't need your financial help. You should make an effort to learn their language and communicate with them."
Lata Nayak (Principal, Rotary Sanskardham Academy)

Speaking of his design Harshit says, “After having experienced the prevailing gap between the deaf and the hearing communities in my college years, I wanted to intervene. There are more sign language users in Bombay than in all of Europe. Taxi fabric was an opportunity to create a fun, engaging way for deaf as well as hearing individuals to learn how to finger spell in Indian Sign Language, especially all the alphabets. So the next time they meet a deaf person they don't feel tongue tied.” 

Harshit feels that fun, playfulness and interactivity are inherent in the Indian Sign Language.

“The idea of doing it in a taxi was extremely interesting. Instead of people making an effort to learn the language, the language comes to them. It was a conscious decision of not taking the route of sympathetic sensitisation of people about the deaf community but to invite them to a conversation.”

He also believes that sign language can be a lot of fun. It’s what you can use to “talk in libraries, at places with loud music and even underwater.”

Harshit started his design career after graduation from College of Art, Delhi. Coming from a science background, he experienced a paradigm shift in the way he looked at things.  

“Exposing myself to that sensibility enabled me to identify problems and solve them creatively. It made me feel powerful and enabled me to bring about a change in my own little ways.”

" Interacting with these kids was a life-changing experience and I talk about it to every passenger who asks me about these signs in my taxi." Rampal Kailashnath, Taxi Driver

" Interacting with these kids was a life-changing experience and I talk about it to every passenger who asks me about these signs in my taxi." Rampal Kailashnath, Taxi Driver

 

Though he still feels that design is perceived as a luxury in India. 

“The possibilities around design and how it can solve problems is not well understood. So it gets tough to make people understand what I do for a living. Sometimes I make up pretentious terms to confuse them even more. Which is a lot of fun! Like calling myself a Diagramatist.”

Harshit believes that design can change the way we look at disability by enabling conversations. So if you happen to hop in his taxi, do pick up a few words and alphabets from his design. If nothing else, you’d be on your way to learning a new language. And that’s always a good thing.

This Taxi Fabric project has been supported by TEDxGateway


Get in touch with Harshit Vishwakarma
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Meet the kids at Rotary Sanskardham Academy Mahatma Gandhi Rd, Unnat Nagar, Goregaon West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400090

Meet the kids at Rotary Sanskardham Academy
Mahatma Gandhi Rd, Unnat Nagar, Goregaon West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400090