WHO starts ISL course in COVID-19 thanks to this Kerala ISL interpreter’s initiative
The deaf community around the world is affected especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to authentic sources of information is limited. Recognising this Vinaychandran B S, a sign language interpreter from Kerala approached the World Health Organisation to launch an Indian Sign Language course on COVID-19.
How does the coronavirus spread? How did it start? What are the ways to stay safe?
Critical questions the hearing-impaired community in India has been struggling to find answers to in the absence of accessible sources of information. Now, they can find it on one platform.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has uploaded a course called Introduction to Covid-19 in Indian Sign Language (ISL) that offers authentic information on all matters related to the pandemic. There are three videos, one of which is already available online. Two others will follow over the next few days.
Few COVID awareness videos for the Deaf
The course is available on OpenWHO, the Massive Open Online Course platform of WHO. The brainchild behind this much needed initiative is Vinayachandran B S, an ISL interpreter from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
As a sign language interpreter, I am putting in my best to give accessible information to the Deaf community through Sign Language. In a pandemic, information saves lives and it is critical for Indians to have access to essential government communication so they understand how their actions will affect themselves and others. This is especially important in India which has a Deaf population of 1.8 million and uses ISL as a medium of communication. – Vinaychandran B S, ISL Interpreter
The WHO Health Emergencies Programme team responded to Vinaychandran’s request immediately. Three awareness videos have been conceptualised by Vinaychandran with the support of the All Kerala Association of the Deaf, Kochi.
The COVID-19 videos in sign language have a Hindi voiceover as well, making them accessible to all. They can also be understood by people who are blind and low vision. The Rehabilitation Council of India has included it in the list of recommended modules for rehabilitation professionals to enhance their knowledge and skills.
Awareness videos promoted by Indian government
Until now, over 47,000 people have enrolled, a response that has delighted Vinaychandran.
“The deaf population is completely isolated during this pandemic and I am confident this will help address that”, he says. “We wanted the entire info relating to COVID-19 to be available in one place in an accessible format for deaf people. There’s a lot of misinformation about the pandemic like eating garlic paste as prevention etc that need to be addressed because hearing impaired people face maximum risk”.
Vinaychandran, who is the official ISL interpreter for the All Kerala Association of the Deaf has also been preparing the COVID-19 news bulletin for the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) in Thiruvananthapuram since the pandemic broke out. This was to ensure that the deaf community was up to date with credible news. The same team is working on the WHO videos as well.
Click here to watch the video.
Watch in Sign Language
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