Sign language should be taught in schools, say the deaf

Health

‘It will help us communicate with eveybody’

Hearing-impaired people and their trainers suggest schools introduce sign language in the curriculum to help disabled people lead a better life.

“Schools could have sign language training. It would be of best help to people with hearing impairment. It is difficult for any person with hearing impairment to mingle in society. They are often forced to have interpreters who help in conversing with people via sign language,” Sunil Kumar R, a trainer in Samarthanam Trust, an NGO for the disabled, informed The Observer.

According to a report by National Sample Survey Organisation, 5.3% of Karnataka’s population suffers from hearing impairment. Hearing impairment is often accompanied by speech impairment. There is a huge communication barrier for disabled people.

“Hearing impairment has become a common problem. All schools should introduce a sign language course. This would create a better environment for people with hearing and speech impairments. The can interact with others rather shy away. With upcoming noise pollution, anybody can be affected with hearing problems. We shouldn’t ignore the problems of these people,” Niharika D, a research student in the department audiology and speech pathology at Dr SR Chandrasekhar Institute of Speech and Hearing, said.

There are two types of sign language: American Sign Language (ASL) and Indian Sign Language (ISL). Trainers suggest ISL be taught in schools as it would break all language barriers faced by the disabled.

“ISL is most easy to learn. It take a maximum of one month to converse efficiently in sign language if one practises regularly,” Kumar added.

Sangeetha Gudardhar, a volunteer at FingerChats, a community initiative to address problems of the disabled, said: “It might be best if our government implements sign language as part of curriculum. People with speech and hearing disabilities find it uncomfortable to go out. From my experience, I have seen hearing impaired people find difficulty to involve in a conversation while in a group. Their lives would take a positive turn if everyone knows sign language.”

Jonila Antony, a person with hearing and speech disability, was happy to learn about the idea. “I learnt sign language at special school. I converse only with my trainers and friends who can speak in sign language. I will be very happy if I can speak to everyone,” she said.

Deepak Kapur, a trainer with hearing and speech disability, said: “I lost hearing ability when I was 2. I learnt lip reading and sign language at special school in Mysore. We could live a normal life if others can communicate with us without language barriers. We usually write and show to others. It is difficult to go even grocery shopping. This move will have a positive impact on our lives”.

According to website of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness, hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit. As per WHO estimates, in India, there are approximately 63 million people, who have significant auditory impairment; this places the estimated prevalence at 6.3% in the Indian population.

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