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Research to Reinforce Sign Language System Mooted

Thiruvananthapuram: Research needs to be strengthened in the area of sign language so that we can effectively standardize the Indian Sign Language (ISL) system in such a way that it suits our linguistic and cultural diversity, said Governor Shri Justice (Retd.) P Sathasivam, expressing his wish that all universities offer courses in sign language, at least as an add-on subject.

“Only by popularizing this language among the people we can achieve the goal of Full Inclusion through Sign Language, which is the motto of this year’s Deaf Week observance,” the governor pointed out.

His call came during the inauguration of the observance of the International Week of the Deaf at the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH), Akkulam, here on Monday.

While the United Nations declared September 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages in 2017, for the last 60 years the last week of September has been observed as the International Week of the Deaf by the World Federation of the Deaf.

Noting that almost 5.3 per cent of the world’s population or roughly 360 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss, the Governor said in India, we have over 63 million people suffering from auditory loss.

“The prevalence of both hearing loss and communication disorders in India is found to be higher in comparison to that of developed countries, including New Zealand, the UK and the US. This reality must compel us to devote more attention and concerted efforts to the handling of such disabilities,”  the Governor said.

Sathasivam lauded the efforts of institutions like NISH which offer early intervention, academics, and clinical services in preventing this disability.

“Our youth who suffer from communication disorders should also get more avenues for employment. Already, the IT policy of Kerala envisages empowerment of the differently-abled youth through employment opportunities. I hope this dream will soon become a reality for more people with disabilities,” he said.

“As a former Judge of the Supreme Court, I had given the verdict on providing 3 per cent reservation and various directions for the benefit of our disabled friends. It has recently been increased to 4 per cent by Parliament. I feel that the present avenues are not enough and that we have a legal obligation to expand such opportunities,” the Governor pointed out.

On the occasion, Sathasivam unveiled the VCD of the national anthem in sign language created by the students of NISH.

Presiding over the function, Biju Prabhakar, Secretary (Social Justice, Government of Kerala), noted the absence of a common sign language in the deaf schools for teaching subjects and languages was a lacuna, which needs to be addressed.

“The VHSE sections in our schools even don’t have any trained teachers to teach the deaf students. The government now thinks that all the deaf schools should have a common sign language for the students, the ISL.”

In his welcome address, Dr. KG Satheesh Kumar, Executive Director, NISH said there is a dire need of ISL interpreters in good numbers to fulfil the plans of the institution. “Currently we are able to train only a limited number of sign language interpreters and we need to enhance this capacity to meet the rising needs.”

NISH has planned a range of activities, literary competitions and classes in Indian Sign Language as part of the Deaf Week, to be concluded on September 26 in the presence of Minister for Cooperation, Tourism, and Devaswoms, Kadakampally Surendran.

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