Sign language is a medium of communication for and with people who are deaf. Visual cues like hand gestures, signals, facial expressions and body movement are used for sign language, throughout the world. There are over 300 different sign languages, with each being unique with some symbols.
September 23 is observed as the International Day of Sign Languages each year. The date was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2017 during its 72nd session to celebrate the establishment of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) on September 23, 1951. Below, we take a look at the Indian sign language and discuss why we should learn it.
HISTORY OF THE INDIAN SIGN LANGUAGE
Indian Sign Language (ISL) has developed over the past century and taught since 2001. As per BBC, about 700 Indian schools teach sign language. ISL has its unique grammar and gestures, but there are some regional differences.
It was Sibaji Panda, a deaf teacher, who created and introduced the first-ever formal training course in ISL at the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities (AYJNISHD), in 2001. Panda is the founding member of the Indian Sign Language Teacher’s Association (ISLTA) and the Indian Sign language Interpreter’s Association (ISLIA).
In 2011, the Indian Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment helped set up the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). This centre, however, was shut down and re-established in 2015 as a Society under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s (MSJE) Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
WHY YOU SHOULD LEARN ISL?
There is a general lack of awareness in India about sign languages, even among members of the deaf community. Many parents do not know how to communicate with their deaf children. Often, deaf people are ridiculed or ignored by others who can hear.
Learning ISL will bridge these gaps and create sensitivity towards the deaf community and their culture. At present, there are less than 300 ISL certified interpreters, and more are urgently needed. ISL visual dictionaries are also available to help us learn the language better.
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