Deaf Briton's jail isolation
From the newsroom of the British Broadcasting Company, Thursday, June 28, 2001 ....

Disabled British man Ian Stillman, who was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison in India for possessing cannabis, has spoken for the first time about the difficulties he is facing.

Mr Stillman is profoundly deaf and has an artificial leg, and for more than 25 years has been living in India working to help the deaf community.

As well as protesting his innocence, he is also highlighting the difficulties he has faced in the legal system as a deaf person.

Mr Stillman faces the daunting prospect of spending the next 10 years behind bars, in Kanda Jail in Shimla.

The prison has no facilities for the disabled - so Mr Stillman is spending 20 hours a day in his small concrete cell, sleeping, reading and writing letters.

He says his biggest problem is the isolation caused by his deafness.

"There's no one I can really communicate with so I'm limited to using pen and paper at the moment," he said.

"I'm very limited in my movement. I have asked for a wheelchair so I can be more mobile so I'm waiting for a reply from the authorities."

He was arrested by police last August and accused of possessing 20 kg of cannabis, which he said was not his. The arrest took place at night.

In the darkness, he says, he could not lip read. He says he was also refused a sign interpreter at his trial and found his deafness a major obstacle in the proceedings.

"Because of the lack of communication, I was not able to express what I wanted to say. Even with my advocates I had difficulty in communicating with them," he said.

Mr Stillman is English but has made his life in India, working for the deaf. He founded a charity which for the last 23 years has provided training, employment and education for the deaf community.

His main concern, he says, is the lack of support for the deaf here, especially in public life.

"It's the lack of sign language and interpreters separate for deaf people in India. This has been a big concern for deaf people for a long time but nothing seems to be happening seriously about it."

Kanda is described as one of India's model prisons, opened just a few years ago - but in the relentless monsoon rain, it is still a gloomy, colourless place.

Mr Stillman's lawyers are now taking his case to appeal.

In the meantime, the publicity surrounding his case has also highlighted the difficulties faced by many deaf and disabled people struggling to cope in a world still catering exclusively for the able-bodied.

Source : By the BBC's Jill McGivering
Date : 31-Jul-01

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