UAE Portrait of a Nation: Graphic designer with hearing impairment lets her work do the talking
Graphic designer Farhana Hakim has never let her hearing impairment restrict her. Instead, she has embraced the challenges of the working world and inspired others to learn sign language to communicate with her.
SHARJAH // When she moved to a mainstream college from a sheltered classroom of students with hearing impairments, Farhana Hakim admits she was intimidated.
But the graphic designer faced her new environment head-on and encouraged her new university friends to learn sign language to communicate with her.
“I think people felt I had come from a different planet. It is a big challenge for people to deal with someone who cannot hear. But they soon realised that I’m a normal human being,” signs the graphic designer who works for the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services.
“I had to break barriers and become part of the university community. It was a big challenge for the person inside me to go from a class of four to five students in school to 70 students in college. So I decided to teach some students my language. It was not perfect, but at least we started basic dialogue with each other.”
While studying for a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at the University of Sharjah, Ms Hakim took an elective Arabic literature class. It was there four years ago that she struck up a friendship with Majd Al Bloushi, a former UAE national tennis champion and an architectural engineering student.
“She is really inspiring because she is a hard worker and has taught herself a lot of things like learning to spell words and understand meanings,” says Ms Al Bloushi.
“It’s not very difficult to understand her because she can talk but slowly and she reads my lips. Studying and education is for everyone and understanding disability is also an education. If you see Farhana’s work you can see her unique, creative mind.”
When designing a logo, stationery, T-shirts or book covers, Ms Hakim attempts to capture her thoughts on paper.
Her work includes designs featuring a child with Down syndrome embraced within a heart and a group of children encircled by the world’s continents to emphasise acceptance of people with special needs.
“I have always been passionate about drawing,” says Ms Hakim.
“When I think I get an image in my head and then it comes on paper. Maybe because I can’t hear I see things differently. If I don’t understand a word or meaning I search and search, ask people so I can understand its meaning and how to express it.”
Her habit of constantly asking questions to grasp a word or concept is well known at her work.
“She always asks why, always asks questions,” says colleague Mohammad Alnabelsi, a marketing officer. “At first there was a barrier between us because we could not communicate, but Farhana taught me not just how to talk to the deaf but also how to respect and understand them. It’s because of her I’m learning sign language.”
Ms Hakim, a Pakistani national, was born and educated in Sharjah. Studying at the Al Amal School for Deaf Students helped her gain confidence to reach university.
Her older brothers are also hearing impaired and work for the Sharjah government and municipality.
Their supportive parents taught them to embrace education and not let their disability restrict them.
Ms Hakim has big ambitions and wants her work to define her. “I want my work to be my message,” she says.
“It should talk for me, my work should speak to people. I want to be a role model in design. I want to be a brand in graphic design, a brand like Apple, so when people look at my work they recognise it as ‘Farhana’s work’.
Published: September 1, 2016 04:00 AM