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Sign Language: A Fundamental right of the HI people

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Er. Prabhat Kishore
World is going to celebrate “International Day of Sign Language” on 23rdSeptember for the full realization of the hearing impaired people. Sign language is the means of communication through body movement, specially hand, finger, arm, head and facial expressions besides particular symbols developed. This practice is older than speech.
Since conventional speaking requires sense of hearing for people to speak, Sign Language helps hearing impaired people to communicate with others as well as among themselves. This helps in social inclusion of HI people and leads to a path of their all-round development with dignity.
The history of Signs is as old as civilization itself. When there was no formal language, signs were used for communication. Initially the baby and his/her family make connect with each other through signs. Over period of time Standard Sign languages such as American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), Indian Sign Language (ISL)etc. have been developed, which are playing an effective communication tool by HI personnel to survive in the world.
Sign language is used where speaking is not possible or difficult. It can be frustrating for HI people if they are not able to communicate properly with the people around them. Sign language bridges the language barriers between the Hearing Impaired and the speaking people.
Sign language is a naturally evolved language like other oral languages and is considered to be the mother-tongue of the HI people. Like other spoken languages, sign language is also used to convey feelings, thoughts and other information to the recipients. Sign language interprets to translate the oral language into visual-manual language to make HI people to understand the information.
According to Census 2011, there are more than 1.3 million HI people and more than ten million people having hard of hearing in India. As per the WHO report, by 2050 nearly 2.5 billion persons will have some degree of hearing loss and at least 700 million will have to be hearing rehabilitated.
Hence, there is need to promote Sign language in various areas for the betterment and upliftment of the HI persons. Once the hearing-able children learn the Sign language, it will make them to intermingle with their HI counterparts which will be useful in the mainstreaming and inclusive education of such students.
Access to information through sign language is a fundamental right of the HI people. It is also essential to provide educational, vocational, social and personal guidance in sign language to HI people. Such people have to face a lot in the form of social stigma and discrimination. The lack of facilities such as unavailability of signage at public places to challenge in schools and workplaces, makes their day-to-day life difficult.
The absence of sign language interpreters in schools is an important barrier in the schooling of HI persons, which ultimately results in either such people remain uneducated or they are forced to drop out. Under Samagra Shiksha, efforts have been made to provide proper hearing equipment to the HI children, so that they could cope up with the lessons taught and remain in the mainstream.
It is the need of the hour that Sign language be promoted effectively in every walk of life not only forHI people and persons working for them, but all those members of the society and family, where such persons are living.
The awareness and sensitization activities will pave the way to change the mindset of the society as well as families, which will prove to a milestone in the long run for mainstreaming the HI people and welfare of the country.
(The author is a technocrat and an academician. He holds Master in Engineering from M.N. Regional Engineering College, Allahabad/Prayagraj)



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