Indian Sign Language (ISL) to be standardised across the country under National Education Policy 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that under the National Education Policy 2020 Indian Sign Language will be standardised across the country. This was announced when he formally launched the policy last evening.
“One language for deaf people around the country, that’s a good thing”.
This was Ruma Roka, Founder, Noida Deaf Society (NDS)‘s immediate reaction to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s announcement that Indian Sign Language (ISL) would be standardised across the country under the National Education policy 2020.
At the NDS, deaf students and youth from across India are given basic education as well as job skills training and the diversity in ISL, says Ruma, is a challenge. “We have many students from south India whose sign language has a lot of American Sign Language and it can be hard for others to understand them. A standardised ISL means a deaf person can go to any to any part of India and be understood”.
P Rajashekharan, Co-founder, v-shesh , the Chennai-based impact enterprise that works with deaf and hard of hearing youth, calls this a necessary step.
An announcement about ISL like this coming from the Prime Minister referring to ISL in the National Education Policy is in itself a great thing. To have a version of ISL that is acceptable to various communities os users is much needed. If this is done with the active participation and concurrence of the deaf community, nothing like it. – P Rajashekharan, Co-founder, v-shesh
Clearly the challenges of framing a standardised ISL in a multilingual country will be many but the fact this is being done on a policy level is to be welcomed, say experts. “I am sure this will have a ripple effect”, says Ruma. For implementation it will be important to bring in bodies like the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) for their inputs. This will take some time but it’s a matter of a couple of years”.
Rajashekharan believes that apart from empowering and enabling India’s deaf community, a standardised ISL will also help build greater awareness. “When people are learning Sanskrit and French, why not ISL? This will lead to more awareness about deaf people and communication barriers will be broken”.
Smitha Sadasivan, Disability Rights Alliance India (DRAI) likes the move towards a gradual standardisation.
“We had so much difficulty in working out sign language Interpretation for election materials due to the difference in sign language practiced in different states”, She cautions that this must be done in a spirit of participation. “The government needs to consult all the deaf groups to ask their preferences and only then decide or proceed with this decision along with their effective inclusion throughout the process”.
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