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  • Mrunal Sayam

Language of the Deaf

Have you ever wondered how people with hearing disabilities, or people who are not able to speak, talk or communicate with any person? The remedy for this communication barrier is SIGN LANGUAGE. Sign language is a special language created for people to help them with this barrier of communication. In sign language, people use their hands to indicate different words and even phrases.

Since different countries, and regions have different languages, different places also have different sign languages. The reason for this is very simple. It is to suit the specific wordings, phrases, and expressions a language of a region/country has its own sign language or a variation of the same language. For example, ASL, North American Sign Language, and BSL, British sign language, are both set in the English language but are different varieties of the same. For India, it is known as Indian Sign Language (ISL) or Plains Sign Talk. There is also another variation to ISL known as Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, or IPSL, belonging to the countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and is used by 15 Million people in their day-to-day lives.

The difference in language wasn't the only thing that led to a separate sign, but also racial discrimination in American schools of Deaf which did not teach black deaf students and were not accepting them as students. Dr. Carolyn McCaskill was one of the first black students to attend a school for the deaf. She said, "When I was with white people, I would sign that way, and when I was with Black deaf people, I would communicate it differently". Black American Sign Language (BASL) or Black Sign Variation (BSV) was later found to be used by 50% of black deaf people in America.

In America, National ASL Day is celebrated on the 15th Of April. As for India, it is celebrated on September 23rd with the support of ISLRTC, also known as the Indian Sign Language Research And Training Centre. 23rd September is also celebrated as the International Day of Sign Languages.

Nowadays, more and more people are learning sign language besides being a part of the hearing population and this is a very good thing for the deaf community. This opens up new opportunities for them and helps them to advance in all fields. Most concerts, news channels, important speeches in media, restaurants, and coffee shops around have started hiring sign language interpreters. This creates a more inclusive and positive environment for the people of the deaf community, and things are made easier for them. We must all learn at least a few basic phrases in sign so that we can communicate with all kinds of people. Sign language is a living, breathing language, just like any other language from any region of the world. Let us give it the respect it deserves.

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