Govt urged to recognise sign language

Members of the organisation say the move would ensure equal opportunity to and also include the hearing-impaired into mainstream society. It would enhance their level day-to-day living too.

“Sign language is the most natural way for deaf persons to communicate amongst themselves and also with able-bodied persons,” said Renuka Rameshan, Executive Member of the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI), which held its two-day annual conference in Bangalore from Saturday.

“Recognising the language as a minority language would also ensure accessibility to services such as getting pronouncements in courts interpreted for the hearing-impaired," she added.

Experts who attended the conference made presentations on forming the corpus (the pool of words) and other parameters to establish signing as a language, said Renuka, expressing hope that the Government would look into it as a primary need for the community, she told Deccan Herald.

Swamy Anuraganandha, Director, International Human Resource Development Centre (IHRDC) and the Disability department of Ramakrishna University, Coimbatore, said the mainstream system actively discouraged the practice and teaching-learning of sign language for a long time.

"Despite sign language being the most natural way a deaf person can communicate, families and educational institutions wanted them to communicate through other means such as lip reading – which is the most unnatural method of communication,” he said.

Ramakrishna University - which has created the first sign language dictionary - has been working along with the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore, on the corpus and pilot study of sign language amongst various sections of the deaf community to evolve the essential facets of a working language in order for it to gain the minority language status.

They hope the process would be complete in three to five years. Arun C Rao, President of ASLI, has been making representations to the government to lure its attention towards the issue, but has been unsuccessful so far.

“Having signed and ratified the United Nation Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD), the Indian government has committed itself to making sign language widely available. Recognition of sign language as a minority language would be a step in that direction,” he said.

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