How Yogesh Brought State-Wide Policy Change for Deaf Children
In a new state policy, every child in Maharashtra with a hearing and speech impairment will receive 1,00,000 rupees towards their treatment - including early-age tests, hearing aids, and speech therapy.
This new provision, which will open the door for the 2-4% of children who are diagnosed with hearing and speech disabilities to receive immediate, impactful treatment, is the fruits of years of effort by Yogesh Bhange, a CORO Grassroots Leadership Advanced Fellow.
It all started when Yogesh’s son was born with 95% deafness. Yogesh was determined to give his son every tool necessary to flourish. With much training and care, his son was able to learn to speak and now has a happy everyday life. This deeply personal experience inspired Yogesh to start his NGO - Voice of Voiceless (VoV). Based in Solapur, Voice of Voiceless has been supporting children with hearing and speech impairments as well as extensively advocating on their behalf. A little known fact is that if deafness is diagnosed before the age of 3, the child can still learn to speak with the correct intervention. Therefore, Voice of Voiceless focusedly campaigned with government stakeholders to enstate early-age detection of deafness.
Yogesh even invented a simple but highly-effective hearing test called Taat-Vaati-Chachni (Spoon-Bowl-Plate) for detecting deafness in children younger than 3 years old. During CORO’s Advanced Grassroots Leadership Fellowship in 2015, he mapped the needs of parents of deaf children, the facilities for hearing and speech tests and treatment at primary health providers, and the available health schemes for deaf children at the district level. After completing CORO’s Fellowship, Yogesh was inspired to take his passion ahead,
“Earlier I had never dreamed that I would be trying to bring change at policy level. But the Advanced Quest Fellowship has taught me to dream big and has given me the confidence to work towards it.”
Yogesh trained over 4500 Anganwadi workers to conduct the Taat-Vaati-Chachni test for more than 287,000 children. In this way, communities and child-care providers were sensitised about hearing and speech impairments at a high level. Still, it took Voice of Voiceless four years of awareness campaigning, testing and support of hearing-impaired children, and advocacy with various stakeholders before a strong policy for these children was at last signed into being.
The name of the new policy is the same as the book Yogesh wrote about the his experience with hearing-impaired children: Hoy Karnabadhir Balake Bolu Shaktat! (Yes, Deaf Children Can Speak!)