Sachin Singh doesn’t know the word ‘hearing and speech impaired’. He says that he is deaf and he has it’s own language and from where he stands, those who cannot understand his language suffer from an impairment. He put these words into gestures and Khushboo Soni, his interpreter spells it out verbally.
Sachin and Khushboo are a part of a team that is currently working on a project of Central Government to document the first Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary. It is expected to be released in March.
This project has been entrusted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The team has compiled 6,000 English and Hindi words of the everyday usage including medical, legal, academic and technical terms in sign language specific to the Indian context.
Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) team has framed graphical representation of widely used country-specific signs and many with regional variations.
In 1980 Madan Vasishta, an author, established that the Indian sign language was a language in its own right. He also compiled a book ‘An Introduction to Indian Sign Languages’ containing some sign languages used in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
After two decades, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University collated signs from across 42 places in the country and released a sign dictionary containing 1,600 words.
India is a diverse country, and the sign language varies as per region, like in Alipur and Naga Hills in Karnataka, with a history of congenital deafness, they have their own rural sign languages.
The ISLRTC will frame a glossary of 6,000 words by borrowing some from the existing scholarship and some from its own research. The team has also identified 44 hand-shapes used in our country.
This dictionary will help serve lakhs of deaf and mute people.
Dr Abhishek Shrivastav who is a part of the ISLRTC who works on the signs of legal words says that like very language, sign language also has its own morphology, phonology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics. This dictionary will bridge the gap between the hearing and the deaf.
After the compilation, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment plans will call for a national conference where experts from the fields will further improve it.
The ISL Dictionary is also an outcome to the Ministry’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016. Sections 16 and 17 require the government to ensure an inclusive education for all children with disabilities.
In one of the surveys by the Ministry, it was found that there were merely 300 sign language interpreters. This is one main reason why the literacy rate is the lowest when it comes to those who cannot hear, as reported by The Indian Express.
This dictionary will be widely circulated in all the schools, also be put up online with videos and eventually will be in all regional languages.