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India’s deaf community – 2018’s big stories

Many major news developments relating to the deaf community emerged in 2018. So many that it was hard for the Newz Hook team to choose from. Here is our take of what makes it to the Top 5 list

  • Indian Sign Language came in for some major attention, starting off with the Election Commission of India (ECI). Ahead of Assembly elections in some states, a training session in ISL was held for election officials in New Delhi. This was in partnership with the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC).
  • The move was much welcomed by disability experts because as Rati Misra, Advisor, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) said "People with speech and hearing disabilities are so often left out of the accessibility discourse! Also so many people will have a basic understanding of, and exposure to, sign language as a result of this, and they will realise that there really is no stigma attached to its use".

  • And talking of elections, the man of the moment was Sudeep Shukla, the first deaf candidate to contest Assembly elections in India. Shukla's disability was just one of his hallmarks. He quit a well-paying job at Infosys and moved cities to follow his heart. Shukla also fought the campaign with his own funds and public donations. No wonder, his rallies and slogans were such a hit with the youth.
  • Shukla lost the elections but in standing he has raised the flag for deaf leaders in other states. Pradeep More, a deaf leader from Maharashtra, called him an "inspiration", adding, "This will inspire deaf people to participate in the politics of our country".

  • Early screening is critical to detect and treat hearing loss in a timely fashion, something that health authorities in India are waking up too. The Rajasthan government launched Sohum, a battery-operated, non-invasive device developed by the Union Ministry of Science and Technology. This is now available at primary health centres and will be invaluable when it comes to screening in remote areas where access to advanced health care is limited.
  • A significant initiative said Tina Saighal, Founder, Sanket Foundation as the "delay in identification of deafness means delay in language development…and affects social, emotional and cognitive development".

  • The news that GnoSys is being developed for India was welcomed. This is an app that promises to offer affordable and high quality way to translate sign language into text and speech. Even better, it promises to do so in real time. Developed by a Netherlands-based start-up, Evalk, it is currently in talks with the National Deaf Association (NAD) in India to gather sign language data for India.
  • And finally, the move towards inclusion in education acquired momentum with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announcing that it plans to introduce Indian Sign Language (ISL) as a subject in the school curriculum. A move welcomed by parents and educators.
  • "This new scheme will benefit them a lot. Implementing this will be the biggest change to education system. Communication has always been hard for deaf students", said Ruma Roka, Founder Noida Deaf Society.

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