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What Does Standardisation Of Sign Language Mean For People With Hearing Disabilities?

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The New Education Policy is being termed as transformative and aims to restructure the entire process to ensure India’s progress in a more comprehensive manner. Inclusion of diverse sectors of the country is one of the integral ingredients that have been adopted by the current Government. Adoption of a uniform sign language is set to bring quality access to those who are Deaf.

Standardization and mainstreaming of the sign language had been a major demand of the various stakeholders working for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

An important aspect of the NEP is its identification and support for students with learning disabilities. These may go unnoticed and can cause the students’ education to suffer. With the new policies introduced, more awareness is created and allows the support to be provided to the students as early as possible, allowing them to progress much better.

Two girls in a crowd talking to each other using sign language.
Sign Language Institutes should also act as facilitation centres for people who have hearing difficulties and who do not have access to learning sign language due to a range of barriers. Representative image. Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

The NEP also seeks to allow students with benchmark disabilities (having at least 40% disability of 21 types of disabilities identified by the RPWD Act, 2016) to have the choice of seeking either regular or special schooling. Students with severe or multiple disabilities will be aided by special educators to provide high-quality homeschooling. This specific move not only seeks to make education for students with disabilities more accessible, but also more developed and uniform.

Till now, different forms of sign languages were running parallel to each other in the country, posing a set of complications, mainly for integration in the classroom activities, access to the co-curricular and vocational programmes which were inclusive in nature, and availing the benefits of essential services due to non-availability of the interpreters and differences in formats of languages.

Data suggests that there are 250 sign-language interpreters in the country. Taking into account the deaf population, which, according to a census in 2011 is estimated at 1.8 million, while the National Association of the Deaf India (NAD) puts it at a more realistic estimate of 18 million people, this ratio seems to fit nowhere. This move made by the government would definitely normalize the learning of sign language and contribute to the path to integration.

It is also expected that the adoption of the standards of the sign language would be set only after consultation from the deaf groups across the country so that no one is left behind. The need of the hour is to establish sign language learning institutes by the various state governments which would develop new professionals. This would lead to the post creation of sign language interpreters at various departments.

Sign Language Institutes should also act as facilitation centres for people who have hearing difficulties and who do not have access to learning sign language due to a range of barriers. Online courses providing the training in sign language should also be encouraged by both disability organizations and the government so that the targeted audience can be increased to a large extent.

I feel that sign language needs to evolve as the 23rd official language of the country and be treated in the same light as other languages taught at colleges and universities.

The implementation of standardisation will open new doors of communication with those people with whom we were unable to communicate because of non-availability of a universal and a standard medium.

Pictures of Tapas, Sumit & Vipin commenting about standardization of ISL
If an institution fails to provide all its students with full access to their education, they fail to create a fully integrated society.

Sumit Singh a young deaf student activist said, “Just like institutes have entire departments dedicated to teaching foreign languages like French, Spanish or Mandarin, I would love it if institutes around India would adopt ISL and have a dedicated department for teaching it.”

Vipin, another deaf student activist said, “I understand that many regions have their own dialects and languages, but if standardisation of sign language throughout India could help more people become interpreters, I would love to see this change happening.”

If an institution fails to provide all its students with full access to their education, they fail to create a fully integrated society. Adoption of sign language as a part of mainstream education is essential for accessibility of all students with hearing disabilities.

This article is written by Tapas Bharadwaj who is a Disability Rights Activist and Advocate, volunteering with JAF. You can reach the Convenor of JAF Shameer Rishad on Twitter.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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