SA’s first deaf CA is blossoming

2013-01-27 10:00

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Kashveera Chanderjith says life presents challenges for everyone

Kashveera Chanderjith assures me the question I’d been asking myself since setting up the interview through a middleman is something she deals with all the time. She does not need an interpreter.

Kashveera is deaf. She is a chartered accountant and the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants says she is the country’s first deaf CA. She is also a motivational speaker, although she is unable to hear herself speak.

Born with profound sensorineural hearing loss, Kash, as she is called by her colleagues at the Anglo American office where she is audit manager of assurance services, has had to deal with ignorance and prejudice all her life. She moved from Durban three months ago, where she was born and raised, to take up her new position in Johannesburg.

Despite scoring five A’s in matric, she was almost declined a place at university because the dean of the faculty at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where she studied for a BCom – before completing a BCom (Honours) with Unisa – did not have “adequate facilities” for deaf students. Decoded, that meant there were no sign language interpreters.

Her devoutly Hindu family was shunned by some because they believed that she was the product of bad karma. “It was only when I started achieving that things changed.”

It is not unusual for people to assume she is dumb because she is deaf.

“Someone once asked me if I read Braille,” she says between chuckles.

“When I was born, the doctors told my parents I would never be able to speak. My parents did what any other parent would do.

“My mum went into a depression, but my father was stronger. My parents went for the sign language option,” she says.

With hard work by her parents and teachers at Stellawood Primary, where they have a partially deaf unit, Kash was able to utter her first words.

“The first word I said was flower. I guess it was significant. A flower takes a long time to bloom and it must be cared for and watered before it does. It felt like that was what had happened in my life.”

Kash, a bubbly and seemingly popular colleague, sees her life as a metaphor for all our lives, regard-less of ability.

“I see my story as not just about deafness. It is about life. Life has so many challenges and it takes the same determination, hard work and perseverance for everyone.”

That would explain why in the middle of her matric exams, she opted to do a public speaking gig. “When I was told what the project was – at Sathya Sai Primary School (a non-denominational primary school based on universal values that are the core values of all faiths and cultures) in Bayview, Durban – I could not turn it down.

“After I got off the microphone, people started opening their wallets.

“I believe that the gift of time is invaluable and one of the best things one can give. My father taught me the Hindu principle that service to man is service to God.

“Although my dad taught me never to talk about my disability, because it has been overcome, I cannot change my identity.

“The fact is that I am a deaf person.”

Kash has made peace with the reality that she will encounter prejudice along the way. That is why she has opted to take the first step and accommodate those who do not know better.

“My disability is invisible. You cannot see by just looking at me that I have a disability.

“I cannot expect to be understood if I do not make an effort to understand.”

And her commitment to community work is not about to end. “My community work and motivational speaking is about telling my story, giving hope and looking beyond the impos-sible.”

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