World Sign Language Day - A call for recognition

Good to note that there is an International Day of Sign Languages! Sign languages are vital for the large deaf communities in the country and need recognition. Even last week I was in a meeting where I again heard about tens of thousands of deaf children who grow up without language as nobody teaches them how to sign. Recognition of this problem is very much needed and so is literacy for the deaf.

On World Sign Language day on the 23th of September, Hindustan Times reported that disability rights activists and members of the Deaf Association in Pune spoke about the fact that students who are hearing impaired often have limited study options. This meeting focused particularly on the opportunities for higher studies as many universities do not offer courses in sign language.  However, as shown in his beautiful Oscar-winning short film, The Silent Child: many deaf children around the globe, even at the primary level, are excluded from education.


There are many misconceptions about sign languages. Many think that they are related to main languages such as Hindi and Kannada, but that is not necessarily the case. “Sign languages are used by persons who are hearing impaired or mute and involve the use of hands to make signs, as well as facial and body expressions to communicate. Like any language, sign language has its own grammar and alphabet.”

Higher Education

Disability-rights supporters demand that the state should initiate special colleges for giving higher education to hearing-impaired students after completing schooling and also start teaching courses in sign language. The Hindustan Times article quotes Prof. Swati Prakash Sadakale-Patole, who has a PhD in teaching techniques for the hearing impaired. The professor speaks about provisions in the Disability Act, 1995 for the inclusion of sign language as well as the priority to be given to the mother tongue (sign language for the hearing impaired) in the NEP 2020. 

Data and recognition

Let us look at the figures and understand just how many of us are living with disabilities. There are 2,228,560 persons in India living with mental and physical disabilities and of them 472,279 are hearing impaired (2011 Census data). Prof Kedar Madre is quoted in the article as calling for sign language to be given regional language status, for the progress and development of the minority group of the hearing impaired people of India.

If nothing else, I would highly recommend watching the short beautiful movie linked above. Even though it is based in England, I am sure the issues pictured are also true in India.


Karsten codrafted with Upasana Lepcha




Picture Reference: