Demand for making sign language 'official' resurfaces

NEW DELHI: The launch of the second edition of the Indian sign language dictionary in New Delhi saw the demand, for making sign language "official", resurface as members from the deaf community sought the government's intervention on the matter. Pointing that there was no immediate plan to do so, minister for social justice and empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot said the matter was under "examination" as any such move must be backed by adequate resources in terms of adequate interpreters and trainers to make it a widely used medium of communication.

At the release of the 6,000 word dictionary, National Association of Deaf president AS Narayanan reiterated that the social justice ministry must work towards making sign language an official language. The demand has been raised by NAD repeatedly.

As per the census 2011, there are 50, 71,007 deaf people and 19, 98,535 with speech disability in India. However, data shows that as of now there are just about 325 Indian sign language interpreters listed with government's Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC). This directory of ISL interpreters has been compiled from lists of various organizations. The directory has been put out on the ISLRTC webiste for both deaf and hearing people who need interpreters. Of the 325 interpreters 263 are categorised as active interpreters, 47 as non-active interpreters - 47 and 15 as not certified interpreters.

Set-up in 2015, ISLRTC has been running courses to train interpreters since 2016. However, functionaries from ISLRTC point that the intake for the course allows for only 15 students per class as the training requires eye-to-eye contact between the trainer and student. In 2016-17, about 34 students took the final exam, the number was 28 in 2017-18 and in the ongoing session of 2018-19 it is 45 students. From this year, ISLRTC is starting a two-year Diploma in teaching Indian Sign Language to step-up work on building human resource trained in sign language.

The release of the second edition of the Indian sign language dictionary is also seen as a step to expand the reach of the language and its functional use. Developed by ISLRTC, the dictionary available in digital format comes with 3000 new words. The first edition released in March last year had 3000. The new words capture a more diverse range of usages across various categories ranging from everyday terms, legal, academic to medical and technical terms. The videos in the dictionary are subtitled.

Source: The Times of India February 27, 2019 edition