THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘Unit 7: Numbers’. As the class starts, Babloo Kumar, an Indian Sign Language (ISL) teacher, asks, in sign language, if any of the students feel sleepy. The students chuckle and affirm they aren’t. The class starts with Babloo asking how one can say 1,000 in sign language. As the students come up with myriad gestures, Babloo turns on a video that has a person communicating the same in sign language.
For the past eight days, 15 faculty members of three government polytechnic colleges (five each) in the state --Thiruvananthapuram, Kalamassery and Kozhikode -- are undergoing training in ISL, to take classes in sign language for the deaf students in their colleges. At present, the intake of students in the deaf category in polytechnic colleges is 10 in Thiruvananthapuram and 15 each in Kozhikode and Kalamassery.The training programme is being organised jointly by the Directorate of Technical Education and the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH).
‘Call us deaf, not impaired’
“Please do not use the term hearing-impaired. It labels our community as an impaired lot. Call us deaf. We have a language,” Babloo explains, through an interpreter.The faculty members say the struggles they undergo are mostly because of the lack of a good grasp of the sign language which hinders their understanding of the deaf community.Placement is one issue plaguing the students. Although they are highly qualified, they aren’t getting into positions befitting their education.
“Most companies are not aware of the students too,” says Sreetha C K, computer science lecturer, Government Polytechnic, Kozhikode. “The lack of sufficient interpreters is also an issue. Such training for the faculty help us in communicating better with the students and in teaching them the concepts better,” she says.
“Although we teach with an interpreter, having a fair knowledge of the sign language helps us understand the community and their culture better. These sessions help us get awareness and now it will be easier to reach out to them and the classes will be more effective. Understanding their feedback is also easier now,” says Antony K A who teaches civil engineering at Government Polytechnic, Kalamassery.
Start with schools
Babloo says the main focus should be on teaching ISL in schools.
“The lack of awareness among people is the main challenge. This programme focuses on imparting the basic concepts of sign language to the faculty so they can communicate better. But only a long-term programme can help in addressing the challenges faced by the community. Accessibility needs to be addressed and the basis of everything is inculcating knowledge in sign language in schools,” he says through ISL interpreter Livin C L.
The faculty training programme was director of technical education K P Indira Devi’s idea.“Training the faculty in sign language is of utmost importance as they get to communicate better to the deaf students. There is also no communication loss. In fact, sign language needs to be taught in schools, and only through that can the deaf also be brought into the mainstream. They have a language, which all of us need to be proficient in,” says Deepa P Gopinath, training officer, Directorate of Technical Education.
Aswani Raj N P who was part of the training programme earlier now teaches computer engineering without the help of an interpreter. “Knowing the sign language helps me explain complex concepts in simple terms. This is significant especially for a subject like engineering. There are still technical terms which do not have appropriate sign language,” she says.
For better grasp over ISL
The programme focused on imparting the basic concepts of sign language to the faculty so they can communicate better. Training helps in communicating better with the students and in teaching them the concepts better
Faculty from three cities
● The training programme is being organised jointly by the Directorate of Technical Education and the National Institute of Speech and Hearing
● Fifteen faculty members in T’Puram, Kochi and Kozhikode attended the classes