Talking Hands is an initiative by the Aga Khan Education Board and Aga Khan Social Welfare Board in the UK that introduces viewers to British Sign Language (BSL). The eight-episode series will air weekly on The Ismaili TV, with different topics covered in each lesson. Viewers will build up their sign vocabulary and be able to have basic everyday conversations in BSL.

In the UK alone, one in six people are affected by hearing loss; this series, created by Farah Bhanvadiya and Zahra Lalani, raises deaf awareness through sharing inclusive tips.

Talking Hands began as a learning programme which was launched last month and had an overwhelmingly positive response, leading to an upscaling of the programme in order to meet the demand.

The programme is facilitated by Farah and Zarah, along with another young member of the UK Jamat, Nabih Kassam, each with their own inspirational story.

Farah Bhanvadiya

“I’m the only Deaf person in my family. Sign language is my first language that I have used all my life. For me, it’s a better way to communicate with deaf and hearing people and helps identify who I am as a Deaf person. I’m a teacher by profession and work with children aged 11-14 to support their communication skills. Deaf people will use all clues available to understand conversation so in addition to the hearing technology, lip reading, expressions and gestures are all important. Talking Hands is an opportunity to teach members of our Ismaili community sign language and I am really enjoying it. The more individuals that follow this programme, the less isolated Deaf people will feel in everyday Jamatkhana situations. This is why I am so motivated to be involved, as I want to encourage inclusive communication.’’

Zahra Lalani:

“I was born profoundly deaf, was diagnosed at nine months old, and received my first cochlear implant when I was 20 months old. This miraculous technology has allowed me to grow up in the ‘hearing world,’ communicate orally and solely attend mainstream schools. From living abroad for most of my childhood, I had never really met any deaf people. When I moved back to the UK three years ago, I became curious about interacting with the Deaf community and discovering more about my own identity. Through exploring BSL, I developed a passion for this unique language. I hope that my love and commitment to learning BSL will help melt communication boundaries. I feel so grateful to have the chance to connect both the Deaf and hearing worlds through Talking Hands.’’

Nabih Kassam

“My parents found out that I was profoundly deaf at six weeks old. I have always spoken and lip-read rather than rely only on sign language. I went to a specialist boarding school for the deaf and I started learning sign language through my Deaf friends. You will find that deaf people will always sign when they are speaking, I think it is a way for us to reinforce what we are saying. Sign language is a beautiful language, emotion is conveyed through the force at which you are signing as well as facial expression and body language. The Deaf community faces many challenges and barriers (and I include myself as part of this community), particularly around communication. Deaf awareness is an important issue and initiatives such as this go a long way to build these bridges and help us grow into a more understanding, companionate, and equal community.”

Tune in to Talking Hands on The Ismaili TV every Monday, starting today, 19 October. For the schedule in your local timezone, visit