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Blog - Atulyakala - Empowering Deaf Artists Through Design | Hope Collective

Atulyakala - Empowering Deaf Artists Through Design

Posted in Partners By

Devakshi Nayar

4/26/2017 2:48 AM

Plugging the gap between the Deaf & Hearing community

Atulyakala is a lifestyle brand and a design house run by deaf artists which gives back. A large part of the proceeds from sales go towards the education of deaf and mute students at our training centre. Atulyakala aims to empower the 18 million deaf and mute people of India by providing employment, educating deaf students and spreading awareness about Indian Sign Language.

Atulyakala came into existence in 2013 as a result of a chance meeting between founder Smriti Nagpal and an artist at an exhibition. He asked her for a job as he was doing manual labour at an NGO even though he had a master's degree in Arts. This left Smriti disturbed and she brainstormed ways to find employment opportunities for the deaf and mute community. Smriti knew that deaf and mute people were really good at expressing themselves through art and hence she decided to sell products created by deaf artists to enable their livelihood. When she was faced with making a choice between a non-profit and for-profit model, she chose the for-profit one as she believed that businesses can do so much more than just making money. Understanding the difficulty that most non-profits face trying to obtain funding, Smriti set out to start a business based on sustainable giving. By directly tying charitable donations to the sale of an everyday product, Atulyakala is able to provide academic education and life-skills training to deaf and mute students in need and improve lives without depending on donations.

India has the largest population of deaf and mute people in the world and yet there is no awareness about deaf culture. It is estimated that the number of deaf people could vary from 5 million to 18 million. Hence, it becomes shocking to uncover that teachers at special schools for deaf do not even know what Sign Language is. Deaf community still faces isolation as the communication barrier is coupled with certain taboos. A deaf child is unable to receive the same kind of social immersion or education at home and school as there is no one to teach them in a language they would understand. Atulyakala is working towards fulfilling this lack by providing free of cost education to deaf and mute students in Indian Sign Language. To spread awareness about ISL, Atulyakala offers ISL classes for hearing people taught by a deaf teacher. Apart from providing classes, they also try to bridge the gap between hearing and deaf communities by creating engaging events and workshops.

What started as a goal to create India's first design house run by deaf artists has become a lifelong mission to empower deaf community across the globe. Currently, Atulyakala has branches in Denmark and Portugal. Smriti wishes that one day, every cafe, airport, theatre, embassy and other public places would have a sign language interpreter to make deaf people feel welcomed everywhere.





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