Sign language is the voice of persons with deafness. It is a naturally evolved language involving visual manual signs to communicate their day-to-day requirements with family and peers. As per the 2001 census, more than 1 million people in India were suffering from deafness which is increasing every day and impacts their personal, educational, professional and social growth significantly. This makes sign language a basic requirement and a human right to find its true potential in all spheres of life.
The widespread use of the Indian sign language by making it an official language can serve the purpose of this community. It will make educational and vocational settings as well as commercial and public utility spaces accessible for all. The promotion of sign language at the policy level can involve the deaf community also in the country’s growth and tap their unidentified potential.
In this regard, in 2015, the Indian Government also set up the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) to meet the special needs of this huge community and develop focused educational and research material related to the development of Indian Sign Language (ISL). This will address their communication needs and reduce barriers to expressing themselves effectively.
Around the world, more than 70 million people are deaf, out of this around 80% of them belong to developing countries like India. Thus developing a visual way of expression through sign language and making its widespread use in educational, official and public places can help them to connect with the mainstream. As per the ISLRTC, there are less than 300 ISL-certified trainers to fulfill the communication demands of millions of people in need.
Thus, an urgent requirement to look at them as a linguistic minority and bridge this gap at the policy level is needed. Along with this spreading awareness among people involved to communicate with the deaf to be trained in sign language on an urgent basis. The government is already running a job search portal for the hearing-impaired community and working for the prevention and control of avoidable hearing losses to address the problem but a more focused approach at the implementation level can bring a revolutionary change in the lives of the deaf community across the country.