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Indian Sign Bilinguals Network

Indian Sign Bilinguals Network

India is a big country with a large population, and many different languages with their own beautiful cultures and traditions. But what about people who cannot hear and speak? How do they communicate? Hearing people have tried to impose their own solutions for communication problems on deaf people but these have not worked. And they also haven’t realized that deaf people can communicate in their own language – Sign Language.

Did you know that in the developed countries, there are deaf lawyers, doctors, teachers, professors, administrators, engineers, dentists, etc.? But in India, one would not come across deaf lawyers or deaf doctors. The reason for this is the educational methodology used to teach deaf children. The first language of deaf people is sign language. Contrary to popular perception, sign languages are not just limited gestures. They are natural languages with grammar and vocabulary and with no limits to what one can express in them. Educators in the developed countries build on this natural resource that deaf children already have and use this language to teach them academic subjects. So the medium of instruction is sign language through which children are also taught to read and write the majority language. Since the instruction is in a language the children already know, they are able to understand the concepts and develop their academic knowledge. This method of instruction is called the Sign Bilingual method. The focus in on developing the child’s cognitive abilities and literacy skills through a language that the child knows. In mainstream schools, interpreters are provided who translate what the teacher is saying into sign language. Thus, deaf children are able to access the curriculum content, learn and grow and take up any profession they want.

But in India, the situation is very different. The focus in schools is on developing deaf children’s speech and listening abilities, often at the cost of other aspects of development. Also, not all children are successful at producing intelligible speech. Children with low levels of hearing loss do better at developing these skills but the majority who have higher levels of hearing loss fail to develop speech skills to a level where they could use them in their daily lives. Yet, classroom education is conducted in a spoken language which the children cannot hear, thus making the entire academic content inaccessible. So deaf children are unable to acquire any academic knowledge. A common refrain among deaf youngsters is that they wasted their school years learning nothing because sign language was not used. This frustration with the current education system and methods led us to form the Indian Sign Bilinguals Network to find solutions to this problem. Our aim therefore is to improve the education methods in deaf schools by:

  1. Creating awareness about Deaf culture, Indian Sign Language and sign bilingual education methods, thus encouraging schools to use sign language in their teaching
  2. Developing educational material that is sign bilingual
  3. Sharing ideas for sign bilingual strategies that make the teaching-learning process more interactive and participative

By spreading awareness about Deafness and sign language, we also aim to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing communities. And provide employment opportunities to deaf individuals through our various projects. Our hope for the future is that deaf children in India too are able to realize their dreams, with a strong educational foundation and without any communication barriers.

ISBNWorkshopAug2014

If you are interested in learning more about us or have any queries, please contact us at signbilingualnetwork@gmail.com. We are also looking for funds for our various projects. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  

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