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13 Jun 2024, Edition - 3257, Thursday

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Sign language lexicon for hearing and speech impaired

Umaima Shafiq


The Indian Sign Language system got a shot in the arm with a 1000-word dictionary of sign language symbols, aimed at improving communication and inspiring everyone to learn a few words and create a more inclusive society.

Indian Sign Language (ISL) system, often at the receiving end for its patchy syllabus, has been systemised by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training (ISLRTC) Department set up under the Central Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2015. They have released a 1,000-word dictionary of sign language symbols since inception.

Coimbatore’s Ramakrishna Mission University has also contributed to ISL by collaborating with the Bangalore-based CBM and Hyderabad-based C-DAC companies to publish a 500-word dictionary of sign language symbols for English-Hindi and English-Tamil in 2017.

Darwin Moses, an employee of CBM tells The Covai Post, “This group has also launched a mobile app in ISL that can be downloaded from Google Play Store. Both the dictionaries and the app help in communication and actual studies. Even normal people can learn sign language with this. The World Sign Language Day on September 23 was celebrated at Bishop Appasami College. Some professors came from Sankara College of Arts and Science and explained about all the courses that are taught to hearing and speech impaired students with the help of sign language experts.”

Darwin added that laymen should learn ISL for easier communication with hearing impaired people. “Signs are the first thing we use as babies. We are striving to bring sign language facilities at railway station, airport and other public places for announcements and at reception and enquiry desks. Often speech and hearing aids are ineffective or unavailable in work places. I have been in this field since 2008 and development potential is increasing,” says Darwin.

K Murali, managing trustee of the NGO Deaf Leaders Foundation at Saibaba Colony, had started a school called Deaf Leaders Institute for the Deaf in RS Puram in 2015. He too is hearing impaired.

His daughter Sneha Murali says, “Appa was working in Ooty in a clerical job as he was just Class X pass. He felt discriminated at work and realised that it was due to impairment and education. He resigned and founded this school. Its main objective is empowering the deaf with education. It is a full-time school with activities like marathon, deaf expos, film festivals and awareness programmes of sign language. We give vocational training like website design and other job-related skills. Currently we have 48 students and five teachers.”

The Deaf Leaders Foundation has also urged schools and colleges in Coimbatore to take up sign language as an add-on course. Three colleges have added ISL to their curriculum – PSG College, Saiguru College and Bishop Appasamy College.

Sneha works in Bangalore but is a freelance ISL expert. “When difficult words come up, we usually spell it out if it cannot be expressed through signs. Later it may be added to the ISL dictionary. Also sign language helps different nationalities communicate. We hope more people will learn this for a more inclusive society. I think that hearing and speech aids are just a support system,” she concludes.

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