ConnectHear is a social start-up led by aspiring youth working for sign language accessibility and deaf inclusion in Pakistan. Azima Dhanjee, co-founder of Connect Hear, talks about the initiatives the startup is taking to increase dead inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis in Pakistan.
How has the current COVID situation affected your business?
We have major projects for this year that have now been delayed due to the corona virus threat. We do in-person sign language classes at a physical location, which have been delayed. While we have online modules for the same classes, the participants request in-person classes so those had to be delayed. As a team we’ve had to take care of a lot of details and delay things that we were really excited about. In spite of all this, however, we’re still able to produce a lot of sign language videos and do a lot of other outreach related work, for example doing sign language interpretation of the Prime Minister or Chief Minister’s speeches. We’re producing these interpreted videos at a time when there is no other similar interpretation work being done for outreach. We’re glad that we have a strong network available on our social media pages, which enables us to do this outreach to the deaf people, which has shown us that we’re connected to them consistently and making a much-needed impact at a crucial time like this.
What are you doing to keep your operations up and running during these times?
We have a video interpretation service that deaf people can use when they need interpretation services to communicate. The interpreters can easily work from their homes, so that service is still going on. We are also producing our own videos and interpreting them – we’ve been doing all of that from home, so it’s still ongoing. While some of our work requires us to go out, we’re managing what we can from our homes, coordinating with each other and covering major things. We also have an online curriculum and we’re attracting more and more people to learn sign language and use the time that they have more productively. During this time, we’ve had the opportunity to market the online sign language course better and attract more people.
Which tools are you using to stay productive and for keeping in touch with your team?
We coordinate a lot on Whatsapp, which we did before as well. As we have to keep track of the tasks and KPIs that each of us has, we’re using Trello for that. We’re using Zoom for group meetings once a week.
What are you doing to stay positive?
Personally, I’m able to stay positive by talking to my team. When communication is there, it is easier to stay positive. When we’re staying in touch, it is also easier to be more creative and brainstorm great ideas. We believe that the work must go on and there are some things we can do in a better way.
This crisis has shown us that the world will be different once we move past this situation. How will you pivot and what would you do differently in a post-Corona world?
I believe that the world would be a different place after this crisis is over. I believe that after the crisis is over, it will take a while for businesses to settle in and understand how to do certain things and get into a flow. I think that we’ll have to rearrange some of our priorities and once we get back into the flow, we will continue with the projects that have now halted and we will be doing collaborations for that purpose.