At 23 years old Smriti Nagpal is the CEO and founder of a for-profit social enterprise named Atulyakala. Based in New Delhi, Atulyakala is a very young company that is empowering deaf artists through design partnership and creative collaborations.
India has one the largest deaf population in the world. The number of deaf people can’t be definitely estimated, but there might be more than 18 million. Despite being a big community, deaf people face numerous problems, as the lack of education. Writing and sign language are the only two ways for them to communicate. But because of the lack of structure and policies it is difficult for them to write properly.
Atulyakala is not just creating opportunities for deaf artists to grow and find their place, but also is trying to bridge the gap between the entire deaf community and the hearing community of India. Raising awareness about sign language is among the most important goal that Atulyakala has. For this purpose Atulyakala team is conducting different workshops in universities and is doing a handbook to explain to people the basics of sign language.
Smriti Nagpal has learned the sign language in her childhood to better communicate with her two elder siblings who were hearing impaired. Being the only one in the family who knew both languages, Smriti became the bridge between her parents and her siblings. This position will influence her entire vision over the problems in the deaf community. The first step she made to help this community was to volunteer at the National Association of Deaf (NAD). At that time she was just 16. Few years later, while she was enrolled in her Bachelor of Business Administration, she was recruited as interpreter of sign language for Doordarshan Network TV channel news program.
The idea of founding Atulyakala came to Smriti when she heard the story of a senior artist who had a masters’ degree in art, but who was working for an NGO doing manual work. She understood that his talent was completely wasted and she couldn’t agree with that. This is how, together with her friend Harshit, she started this social enterprise to avoid other deaf artists waste their talent. The senior artist that inspired Smriti also joined her project.
Atulyakala makes profit from selling online and offline art pieces that are signed by the authors. In this way deaf artists have the chance to make known their own name and gain confidence in their skills. In the future the social enterprise is planned to sell any kind of products, not only art pieces, made entire by deaf people.
Atulyakala is a big step in changing the mainstream attitude towards the disabled. The company is a great reminder for all people that deaf people are part of the same world, not a minority.
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