Malayalam gets its first sign language alphabet; unveiling coincides with International Week of the Deaf

The unveiling of the first sign language alphabet in Malayalam coincides with the International Week of the Deaf, which is observed during the last week of September.

Thiruvananthapuram: The last week of September is observed as the International Week of the Deaf. Coinciding with this, the Malayalam language, the mother tongue of Kerala, received a gift that is unique in all respects. The first-ever uniform sign language alphabet in Malayalam was unveiled in the state on Wednesday.

Developed by the Thiruvananthapuram-based National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) in collaboration with All Kerala Association of the Deaf, the new sign language uniform alphabet is expected to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of the hearing-impaired.

The new alphabet was unveiled by Dr R. Bindu, Kerala’s Minister for Social Justice and Higher Education, who promised that its use in special schools will be deliberated upon.

Sign language alphabet to be incorporated in special schools

According to the Minister, “discussions will be initiated with the General Education Department regarding the use of Malayalam alphabet in sign language in special schools across the state”.

Pointing out that the new sign language alphabet in Malayalam is a great achievement of the Social Justice Department and NISH, Dr Bindu said that the innovation is the result of the dedicated effort of NISH, taking into account the difficulties of the hearing-impaired, who communicate by making gestures with their hands in the air.

Currently, English and Hindi have alphabets in the sign language. With the newly developed alphabet finding its way into the Malayalam sign language, it is expected to throw open immense possibilities for the hearing impaired in the state.

The government has been taking up measures to make use of all possibilities of technology to ensure physical and mental support to the hearing impaired to enable them to lead a normal life. It is foreseen that NISH would transform itself into a global institution with government support.

According to M Anjana, Executive Director, NISH, said, “the development of the sign language in Malayalam is a significant achievement that addresses a long-felt void. The hard work and dedication of deaf teachers and alumni of NISH and experts in this field have played a vital part in the initiative.”

Sign language alphabet to aid hearing-impaired to read and write Malayalam

Akin to other global languages, sign language is an independent language. The arrival of the new Malayalam alphabet in sign language is expected to aid the hearing-impaired will be able to read and write Malayalam, opined Dr K.G. Satheesh Kumar, Director, Centre for Assistive Technology and Innovation Director, NISH.

The Malayalam sign language alphabet, consisting of vowels and consonants, is finger-spelt in sign language. Its primary phase has been designed exclusively for deaf schools across Kerala. The new sign language alphabet in Malayalam will eliminate the challenge of teachers in conveying messages through lip movement.

NISH is also planning to incorporate the uniform fingerspelling into the curriculum for the hearing-impaired with the support of the State Council of Educational Research and Training.

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