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Hearing impaired demand official recognition to Indian Sign Language
Recently, in Delhi, the second edition of the dictionary of the 'Indian Sign Language' (ISL) with 6000 words was released. Indian hearing impaired people under auspices of the National Association the Deaf (NAD), took the opportunity to press for the demand that ISL to be recognized as an official language. The government's response was that the 'matter is under consideration'.

"Thaawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment launched the '2nd Edition of Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary' brought out by 'Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC)' under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), M/o Social Justice & Empowerment at a function here today. The first edition of the dictionary with 3000 words was launched on 23rd March 2018. With the second edition, dictionary includes total 6000 words under the categories of academic, legal, medical, technical and everyday terms," stated an official release.

Indian sign Language now has been standardized and has come of age. It is being commonly used as language among Deaf people in the country. Moreover, the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) have started offering 6-week online course on the ISL. Some noteworthy work has also been done by Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center (ISLRTC) for R&D in sign language including the ISL dictionary.

It has been reported that as per 2011 census, there were around 51L deaf people in the country and around 20L with speech difficulties. Among the deaf and speech-impaired children, the universal early learning could be up to a few percent due to lack of inclusive education.  The dropout rate of deaf children is high since even in the deaf schools attempt early intervention with hearing aids which are unaffordable to most deaf population.

There is a need to popularize ISL and recognize it as an official language as well as medium of instruction in special schools so as bring most deaf children to the fold of elementary education.

Since ISL has not been officially recognized as a language, the Census of India does not list sign languages as the mother of the hearing impaired. Earlier, the ISL was in rudimentary stage of its development. But, now even after its standardization and a dictionary becoming available, NAD and All India Federation of Deaf (AIFD) are still struggling for ISL to gain even the status of a minority language.

The ISL has not been taken seriously by the special schools even after the National Curricular Framework (NCF-2005) gave importance to sign language education and had recommended it an optional third language choice for hearing students to create healthy attitudes towards the differently abled children. But, unfortunately there were no takers

Not enough sign language interpreters are unavailable despite the efforts of the associations like Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) and Indian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ISLIA).  Only a few hundred active sign language interpreters are available in such a vast country.

Jaipur-based NGO Disha, at its research unit under Dr Lalit Kishore and Dr Alka Awasthi, have developed some mini-poems to be rendered with gestures of sign language and a functional vocabulary course which require trialing for validation and fine-tuning to become the part of education therapy for children with specific learning needs.

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