How it Started
Shireen Hafeez world changed when her son was diagnosed as deaf at 4 years old. It was a late diagnosis. Hearing aides were not covered by insurance as they were deemed cosmetic. Hafeez soon learned of the need for advocacy for children like her son and made it her life goal to change the improve inclusion among the Deaf. She has since been striving to do just that.
The Opportunity in the Digital Age
The economics are clear: 70% of the deaf are unemployed or underemployed. Hafeez learned this statistic then also learned about the term “ school to couch” as the negative pattern that is so often the pattern of children who have a disability. It's considered the typical life path that the Deaf follow. However, Hafeez is not here for that and strives to make a difference. She has already made strides to integrate education for the digital age and is leveraging this opportunity to develop tech talent. “We are in a new day and age where remote work is on the incline with over 1 million jobs projected to require computing expertise by 2020.” Hafeez sees the opportunity in this projection and believes that the “digital age is the great equalizer" for the Deaf/ hard of hearing. Coding languages are universal and visual thus allowing one to a have a equal voice and participation in the world.
Deaf Kids Code
With no fancy data to back up her vision, Hafeez followed her intuition to ignite interest in computer science and technology to kids who are Deaf/ hard of hearing. She started a local grassroots effort that quickly developed into a high demand organization nationally. The response has been amazing. She has been approached and invited by deaf educators to do workshops. Kids also ask for Deaf Kids Code to return.
Hafeez is now growing an ecosystem for deaf students with online and project based learning that helps them build their portfolio beginning in middle school and high school. This program is focused on developing talent for companies, not pity.
Hafeez is working with Purdue University’s EPICS team to translate 1000 Khan Academy educational videos to ASL. She has also led translation events at Dreamforce and tech fairs. She continues to advocate and raise awareness of the untapped talent in the deaf community.
We will leave you with a few closing quotes she shared in her amazing Ted Talk.
• "[The Deaf] the next great problem solvers.”
• “Inclusion and diversity should be societal imperative, no questions asked.”
• “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine.”
For more information on Deaf Kids Code, check out their website at https://www.deafkidscode.org/