Just as there is “white privilege” or “male privilege,” there is also “hearing privilege.” Hearing privilege is a set of societal advantages hearing people experience that Deaf people do not have access to, or are frequently denied.


Why is Hearing Privilege a Problem in India?

India’s Deaf population is estimated to be about 14 million. However, there are less than 300 interpreters who have completed the short 10-month ISL interpreter training program. The program is offered by Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities, and ethics seems to be an area that has yet to be addressed.

As a result, there is a dearth of quality in the interpreting services provided across the nation. The rise in hiring interpreters in educational settings has led to a greater need to provide specialized training for these interpreters.


What’s One Real Life Example of Hearing Privilege?

A serious abuse of hearing privilege occurred when a Deaf association in India asked a company for a charitable donation. The company agreed. However, when it came time to actually transfer the funds, the sign language interpreter present–a hearing person–slyly gave her own bank account information instead of the Deaf association’s, thus siphoning the money for her own personal gain.

What Can We Do?

Workshops and professional development opportunities are great ways to mitigate the use and abuse of hearing privilege.

In July of 2016, Young Achievers led a 2-day workshop on hearing privilege at the Indian Sign Language Interpreter Association’s International Conference. Sixty interpreters participated, and some came forward to share their stories on how they had used their hearing privilege in interpreting situations.


A few of the participants were so inspired by the discussions, that they initiated their own hearing privilege workshops back home. As a result, workshops on this topic have been held in Indore, Madhya Pradesh; Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala; and Pune, Maharashtra.