With the introduction of the New Education Policy, a new hope towards the Indian education system has risen, as it will ensure that students possess practical knowledge before joining universities and thus, further sharpening their skills. One underrated and less talked aspect of education is the Indian Sign Language getting standardized across the country. National and State curriculum materials will be developed for use by students with hearing impairment. This has brought delight to the 5 million people benefiting from sign language across the nation.
Under the COVID 19 pandemic, the lockdown resulted in the closing of schools and universities. Everyone was affected in some of the other ways but very little has been talked about the deaf people. Most of the orders and notices along with online classes were not accessible to them and eventually they had to suffer. For years, the needs of this community have been ignored which has prevented them from getting a proper sign language education or taking up jobs. Even the family members of these people have no proper training regarding this.
In recent years, notable steps have been taken, such as the introduction of sign language news broadcasting on government news channels. Private news houses should also take inspiration from this and follow a similar methodology so that every guideline given by the government reaches to deaf people too. Also recently Actor Ranveer Singh has released a sign language song on his music label IncInk and has spoken for signing a petition for making ISL the 23rd Official Language in Constitution. One more pertinent suggestion given by citizens is that the ISL should be made a compulsory subject in the Indian Education Curriculum at the primary level so that every citizen of the country can establish smooth communication with deaf people.
We all speak various languages in our day to day life, English in schools, colleges, and offices, mother tongue at home, local language at shops, etc. We use different languages for effective communication and better understanding. Being physically abled we face no problems with indifference, but some people do face these, the reason being deafness and dumbness. This is where the sign language comes into play as by using this they can convey their thoughts skillfully.
These languages use visual ways to convey meaning and are full-fledged languages having proper grammar and vocabulary. Sign Languages have a history dating back to the 5th century BC in ancient Greece. Pedro Ponce De Leon is regarded as ‘The First Teacher for the Deaf’ as he developed the first manual alphabet of sign language in the 16th century. Today each country generally has its own native sign language eg. USA – American Sign Language, UK – British Sign Language. India follows the Indian Sign Language which is predominant in South Asian countries. It is still unclear how many sign languages are present in the world today, but the 2013 publication of Ethnologue lists 137 Sign Languages.
In the 2000s, the Indian Deaf Community advocated for an institute based on ISL teaching and research. Hence, in the Union Budget Speech of 2010-2011, the setting up of ISLRTC (Indian Sign Language Teaching and Research) was announced, on 4th October 2011. Being a government institute that falls under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
ISLRTC has laid down the various courses for everyone to learn ISL. It takes years to learn a single SL properly, but for basic communication, it requires 60-90 hours of training. India has 5 million citizens using these sign languages, but only 700 schools cater to them which are seriously understaffed.
Hence, the onus not only lies on the government for making the conditions better for deaf people but also on us by not preventing or depriving these people of life just like all of us.