EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
Meera Chetan Bhatia
Monday, 22 March, 2021
This time VictoryTales with the objective to bring the inspiring stories around the world came across Mrs. Meera C. Bhatia, Founder & CEO of Sai Swayam Society, a Delhi based PAN India NGO focusing on Empowerment of Deaf-Mute individuals through Education, Skill Training & Job Placement. Mrs. Meera is one of three siblings born to Speech and Hearing Impaired parents. She worked as a teacher of Computer Science in Modern School, Barakhamba Road, and founded a socially impactful NGO called Sai Swayam Society.
Her father, Mr. Suraj Prakash Kanchanbaras was the Treasurer for All India Federation for Deaf (AIFD) and the President for Silent Sports Promotion Society for the deaf. He was the captain of the deaf cricket team of India under All India Sports Council for Deaf. He was formerly General Secretary, All India Sports Council of the Deaf from 1984 to 1992. Her Mother, Late Mrs. Mohini Kanchanbaras was the Executive Member and also the Cutting & Tailoring Instructor at Delhi Association of Deaf (DAD) and was a trainer at All India Federation for Deaf. She worked as a battick & bookbinding trainer and manufacturer at Delhi Foundation for Deaf Women (DFDW). Consequently, she received the National Award as the Role Model Employee PwD in 1997.
Drawing inspirations from her parents, Meera started working as an Indian Sign Language Interpreter at the age of 16 years and worked for various organizations like the Delhi Association of Deaf, Delhi Foundation for Deaf Women, All India Federation of Deaf, National Association of Deaf and All India Sports Council of Deaf. In 1994 she began working as a News Anchor in Sign Language for the Hearing Impaired at DD News (National Network) and played an instrumental role in policy advocacy which led to the weekly bulletin being converted into a daily news show which now runs successfully till date and she continues to be the senior newsreader there. In 2007, she interpreted all the travel instructions for the hearing impaired travelers for Air India Airlines which is played in all international flights till date. Spearheading the fight for news accessibility for the deaf; since 2014, she has been interpreting all nationally significant telecasts such as Republic Day Parade, Independence Day, Teachers Day, Oath Taking Ceremony, and other such events.
After a tryst with life as a Computer Science Teacher in Modern Barakhamba school, Meera finally acted upon her lifelong calling and founded Sai Swayam Society for the Speech and Hearing Impaired in 2006 at the age of 36 years.
In 2010, Meera received the Helen Keller award by NCPED as the Best Placement Officer for PwDs. She was honored with the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Best Placement Officer) by the President of India in 2014. For her experience and contribution to the field of Indian Sign Language (ISL) in India, she was awarded the Jazbaa Award for Excellence in ISL by the Minister of Minority Affairs in 2016.
Being raised by deaf parents and growing up as a voice for their community, Meera has a lifetime of learnings and experience of the issues and solutions for them. An experience of 36 years as an interpreter and activist, along with a professional experience of 14 years as the founder of an organization dedicated to empowering the community is what she brings to any forum for People with Disabilities.
Recognizing this, she has been actively involved in policy advocacy and formulation with the Department of People with Disabilities (MSJE) -
• Committee Member, Empanelmentas Skill Training Partner (PwDs) under the National Action Plan (DEPwD, MSJE)
• Committee Member, Task Force for the Early Intervention and Parent Sensitization for Deaf individuals
• Selection Committee Member, National Awards for PwDs 2016
• Committee Member, Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre
For the certification of SODA and CODA, Meera wishes to revolutionize the world for the deaf and mute through efforts of school empowerment, skill training, employment opportunities, awareness generation, ISL workshops, policy advocacy, and policy formulation. Attempting to use all her experience, knowledge, and passion she hopes to create an inclusive and better world for Persons with Disabilities.
Know more About
Sai Swayam Society
Sai Swayam Society for the Speech & Hearing Impaired (SHI) is a Non-Government Organization focusing on Empowerment of the community through Education, Skill Training & Livelihood Generation. SSS focuses on "Signs- Skills- Strength” to transform lives. With an inclusive team of Deaf and Hearing Staff Members, we practice Inclusion & Accessibility right from the start, ensuring that Deaf individuals are key stakeholders in our organization.
With 9 extended centers and a hostel facility in Delhi, SSS reaches out to Deaf individuals across India. SSS is an empaneled skill training partner with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE). It is also a PMKVY skill training center. Over 12,000 Deaf individuals have been placed across India in about 170 corporate companies.
SSS conducts remedial classes for school students from deaf government schools. Also, year-long education & fee support is provided to drop out students who get enrolled in NIOS. They have reached out to over 1000 Deaf students.
Since Sign Language is the medium of communication for the SHI, SSS conducts Indian Sign Language Workshops for hearing individuals to generate awareness. Special focus on Police, Lawyers & Doctors. 18,000 people have been taught so far. Certification Workshops in affiliation with the Rehabilitation Council of India are also conducted.