Bengaluru: Lack of effective support systems and sign language educators in the state for higher education has deprived educational opportunities for many students with hearing and speech impairment. As it is an invisible disability, there have been little or no efforts made to cater to the educational needs of such students.
Mr V.S. Basavaraju, state Commissioner for Persons with Disability, termed it a fundamental violation of rights for people with hearing disability and said that he has initiated enquiries with the education department.
“During my official tours across the state, I came across children with hearing disability deprived of higher education. Because of lack of institutions and sign language interpreters, most of the children drop out after class 10 and engage in menial jobs for their survival. Depriving these children of opportunities is a violation of the Rights of People with Disability,” he said.
He has raised the issue with the Secretary to the Secondary Education Board and they have agreed to hold a meeting in two weeks. Mr Basavaraju insists that the Pre-University Board, which bridges the gap between school and college education, too should be involved in the process. PU Board sources confessed that there are no government colleges or government-appointed sign interpreters to help such children. While most of the children end up being electricians, carpenters, tailors etc., only a few students from privileged backgrounds seek admission in mainstream colleges. The PU Board had initiated efforts to set up an exclusive college for hearing and speech impaired children, but due to untimely transfers, they had to be dropped. But officials are looking forward to initiate talks again. A senior PU Board official, who wished not to be identified, said, “A government college for the hearing and speech impaired students was proposed. It was to be a residential college with both teaching and non-teaching staff trained in sign language. The policy can be effective and helpful only when each district has one such college. With a residential college, these students can be given a special attention and help them go mainstream. Education should be free of cost. If Karnataka takes up this initiative, it will be a trendsetter in the country.”
Sign interpreters are necessary in a college, said Ms Jessy Samuel, Principal of Sheila Kothvala Institute for the Deaf. “SRN Adarsh College is the only one that has appointed sign interpreters. Children in the college have a sense of confidence and are looking forward to becoming graduates and entering the mainstream workforce. When one college can brought about such a change, no child with hearing disability will be deprived of higher education if resource persons with the knowledge of sign language are appointed in all educational institutions. Mainstream teachers too should be trained in sign language and only then true inclusion can happen.”
Ms Sridevi Reddy, a sign interpreter at SRN Adarsh College, said, “I’ve seen children showing interest in learning the sign language to support their classmates. This is a progressive move as we are also training the next generation to respond to the needs of this community.”