Panaji: As society progresses towards a more inclusive and diverse future, Goa is leading the way by promoting the learning of sign language among the general public. This initiative aims to break down barriers that have hindered the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community from participating fully in everyday life. By increasing understanding and awareness of sign language, Goa is working towards a world where everyone can feel included and valued.
The recent Purple Fest held in January 2023 highlighted the need for creating an inclusive society and brought attention to issues affecting Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).
The State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Guruprasad Pawaskar, commends the event for promoting a better understanding of disabilities and bridging the communication gap between the deaf and hard of hearing community. “It is time to foster better communication and understanding among PwDs and others, it’s important to promote the learning of sign language,” he said. He added that the Government’s commitment to promoting sign language is a testament to the belief in the inherent worth of every individual. “Together, we will create a Goa where everyone can communicate, connect and contribute.”
Monica Punjabi Verma, Professional ISL interpreter, President Indian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ISLIA), Director Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy, suggests introducing ISL as an optional language subject at schools and conducting small training programs for offices and companies that interact with deaf individuals. “Incorporating sign language into the school curriculum can instil empathy and understanding among students and promote inclusivity,” she adds.
Goa’s Department of Social Welfare and the Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities are leading in creating awareness on sign language courses by way of sensitisation workshops and co-ordinating sign language interpreters for their programs. By eliminating the communication barrier, the Deaf community can feel more included and experience greater opportunities. For every programme organised, there is always a sign language interpreter. Teaching sign language would have many benefits. The message is clear: inclusion is not a distant dream but an achievable reality.
Indian Sign Language Interpreter, Special Educator, Muskan Shaikh expressing optimism says: “By learning sign language, we can facilitate the Deaf community’s ability to express, while also fostering better comprehension and inclusivity among others. Unfortunately, the Deaf community faces numerous barriers that hinder their progress in various aspects of life. However, by eliminating the most significant barrier, which is communication, they can feel more included. Sign Language is an interesting language to learn, similar to our endeavours to learn languages,” Shaikh explains.
Incorporating sign language into the school curriculum is another crucial step in Goa’s journey towards inclusivity. Indian Sign language Interpreter, Josefina Fernandes explains that anybody can learn and use Sign Language. “Everyone learning sign language will help in bridging the gap in communication with the deaf and hearing individuals. This will give more opportunities and avenues to deaf and hearing to socialise, express themselves, accept each other, bond with each other, understand the cultural difference and develop respect.”
Recently, in a move to make courtrooms disabled-friendly, Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud announced the appointment of a sign-language interpreter by the Supreme Court to help hearing-impaired lawyers and litigants comprehend judicial proceedings. This, after a bench headed by the CJI heard hearing-impaired lawyer Sarah Sunny through sign-language interpreter Saurav Roy Chowdhury in a case related to the rights of persons with disabilities (PwD).
The ongoing pursuit of a more inclusive society is exemplified by Goa’s leadership, serving as a strong reminder that even small gestures, such as acquiring knowledge in sign language, hold the potential to significantly dismantle barriers and nurture understanding within diverse communities.