Updated: Mar 27, 2020
What's your educational background?
I moved to America from Pakistan when I was a toddler. My parents lived in New York, then Virginia where I started school. I first went to an oral program, but after a few years my parents realized I needed a signing program. I was in a total communication program from the time I was 6 to when I graduated high school. When I was a junior in high school, I competed in the Deaf Academic Bowl. My first time at Gallaudet University, when competing in the national competition, I finally felt like I started to develop my identity as a Deaf person. It was amazing to see everyone signing. I also started to get involved in other Deaf organizations around this time. I was admitted to Virginia Commonwealth University. I had an interpreter for my classes, but using CART, my teachers and classmates as resources helped me get through. I graduated in 4 years with my Bachelors of Science in Information Systems with a concentration in Project Management.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
My proudest accomplishments are being able to fundraise significant amounts for the non-profit, Global Deaf Muslim. Also, I currently have two start up companies: Foldify, and Noor for Sign. I also started a company several years ago called Anova, won Next big idea business competition. Foldify won the regional business competition in the NYBPC (NY Business Plan competition) and competed in the state finals.
How did ASL help you reach your goals?
ASL helped me develop my understanding of myself as a person and my Deaf identity, and it allowed me to learn the skills that I need. It made communication clear and gave me full access. It helped me build a network with other Deaf/HH people.
What is your all-time favorite sign? Why?
I like the sign for California. It reminds me of gold, brilliance and brightness.
How has being Deaf/HH helped you?
It has allowed me to make an impact on my community, it's helped me connect with the Deaf community and motivated me to succeed. Being Deaf gave me the opportunity to inspire others and find common ground with those who face similar challenges.
How do you think technology is helping Deaf kids learn today?
Technology is helping to close the learning gap, especially when you consider language deprivation. When I was young, we didn't have such advanced technology so it would take longer to catch up and learn. Technology reduces the impact of language deprivation, because you can learn from anywhere and access ASL through phones, iPads and computers. Technology has made it easier than ever for the Deaf to communicate with each other using video chatting, and other capabilities. Due to technology, more people are becoming aware of the need for accessibility. It is so important, because kids should not have to rely on being physically present in school all the time. They need to know how to learn online, as well.
What is some advice you have for young Deaf children?
I want Deaf kids to know they should always have faith, remain patient and try expose themselves to as many experiences and as much language as they can. They should socialize with people, even when it's difficult. Also, they need to look to Deaf adults - and adults need to empower young Deaf children. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children should be proud of who they are and their their identity, so they can leverage their unique skills and make an impact on the world.