Mr. Abhishek is a certified sign language interpreter. Founder of Tree of Interpreters, he aims to works for the development of sign language & interpreter's community in India. FairGaze got an opportunity to interact with him. Read the excerpt of the interview below to know more about Abhishek
When did you realize your capability to be a sign language interpreter?
When I was studying in class 6th, one day while going to school by bus I saw two persons communicating in sign language & I got attracted to it. At that time only the interest for learning this art got embedded in my soul & all I knew that I had to do it.
Why did you choose this field?
Meeting new people & learning new things has always been one of my favorite hobbies. By learning sign language I had the opportunity to open gates for exploring deaf community & knowing their psychology. I loved the thought of being a bridge between two worlds Deaf & Hearing community.
What difficulties you faced when you decided to choose this career or during your college days?
I had problems in finding the institute to pursue this course. This area is least popular in society. Most people don’t even know what sign language is. Even career counselors are not aware about it. It took time to get the information for the right place & person to talk about it.
After joining the course of sign language interpretation I saw that the batch strength was only 7 due to which the phenomena of learning through peer interaction was less. There were almost no study materials, videos, networking & exposure to deaf people available outside of the classroom. In spite of all the difficulties I bloomed which happened because of the zeal of accomplishment & now I thank those circumstances for evoking me to bring change in the present scenario for the benefit of the latter aspirants of sign language interpreters.
What changes you notice in yourself after a deep knowledge of sign language?
After the completion of course it was a beautiful & lovely feeling to live with this art. I saw that I had an enhanced level of contextual interconnectivity of thoughts. Since sign language is a non verbal & visual language so living with it increased the observation & catching power. I sensed that it made me able to see the things happening behind the curtain.
Pretty Interesting! It’s an exotic stream of expression for sure. Science also says that bilingualism boosts brain. Now I was ready to enter in deaf world & be the part of their community & culture. It also came to my understanding that we “the hearing community” uses sign language in our daily life unknowingly with or without spoken language. For example- communicating with children, pets & even among ourselves with hand signals, expressions, body language, gesture & pantomime.
As a sign language interpreter what differences you advocate in the society?
Being an interpreter is being bilingual & bicultural. This new identity has roles & responsibilities. I am a “communication (language) bridge” to narrow the distance between both communities. I sensitize the hearing people for the issues of deaf community like their employability, education, laws & accessibility. I make hearing people aware about the norms of deaf community & vice-versa. I keep sharing the knowledge of sign language & its importance. All these things make this society inclusive in nature.
Do you think sign language communication is an essential tool to reduce social differences?
Social differences like literacy, poverty, employment, participation etc occurs in society because of the exclusion of a particular group of people from the mainstream based on their traits. Exclusion does happen because of a number of reasons like the absence of infrastructure, attitude of un-acceptance, lack of knowledge & communication barrier where sign language plays a vital role to bridge the gap between hearing & deaf community. So it’s very necessary to be knowledgeable in sign language to reduce the social differences.
Is it important for everyone to get an idea of sign language or finger talks?
That’s a good question. In India at present deaf people are facing linguistic genocide to a certain degree & audism in daily life. We see sign language deprivation in most of the places, even in families & schools which is contributing negatively to their employability, literacy rate, economic conditions & overall growth. These things are happening because of the lack of knowledge & absence of infrastructure. It’s highly unfortunate when we are having the largest deaf population in world. A nation cannot develop without fulfilling the humane needs of its citizens. In countries like USA & UK sign language is the part of the basic curriculum of school. This is the knowledge which breaks barriers & makes us united irrespective of our hearing ability. So, if we want a happy place to live in then definitely everyone should have the knowledge of sign language.
Other than that it’s an exotic & interesting art too to learn. It’s a silent form of communication, it saves energy & also everyone can talk without disturbing each other in a room. It can be communicated even in the presence of a glass window between the sender & receiver, underwater & while skydiving too. Babies express themselves using sign language. It was the foremost tool of communication for human beings. It’s called the mother tongue of all the languages in the history of civilization of humans. Signs are everywhere! It’s an awesome world.
How sign language connect the special needs children with the world?
Special children such as deaf & mute have a threshold for hearing. They cannot speak or hear. They are not familiar with the world of sound, but signs. They cannot use verbal language, but visual. Their only way of communication is sign language. As George Veditz said “sign language is the noblest gift God has given to deaf people”. Sign language is the most effective, healthy & natural way to communicate with a deaf. Even those persons who are deaf & blind uses cued speech; an advanced form of sign language. Those who are deaf & physically handicapped with hands uses sign language with their legs.
Method of oralism, hearing aids & co-chlear implantation is only successful in certain conditions like in the case of early intervention for those who have a partial hearing loss. These are not applicable everywhere & other than that it’s the matter of choice as well that in which language they wish to communicate.
Do you think sign language interpretation can be a career option for students?
Sign language interpreting is growing as a profession in India. As I stated that India has the largest deaf population of 20 millions (approx) in world but the irony is along with that we have only 300 certified interpreters which makes 1 interpreter for every 66,666 deaf persons. So, that definitely makes a huge demand for interpreters. Recently with the autonomy of ISLRTC (Indian Sign Language, Research & Training Center) & passing of RPWD (Rights of Persons with Disability) bill, the situations for this profession has became even better.
Do you think there should be more facilities for ‘children with special requirements’ in our education system?
At the present time oralism is followed in the education system for deaf & mute children. Audiological methods are not applicable and unnatural in reality in many cases; it is being enforced which is against Human Rights and obviously wrong and immoral. Knowledge of sign language is not compulsory for special educators according to their curriculum. Only in few schools its usage is supported. In most schools it is discouraged & students are restricted from using this language in classroom. It is believed that using sign language will lessen the chances of speech development of deaf. Such an education system is based on the incorrect assumption that using speech is superior to using signs. Even it’s medically proven to be a false concept. So, there must be interpreters in schools for deaf or it should be mandatory for special educators to have the full knowledge of sign language so that they can use it fluently to communicate effectively with deaf children. In this way deaf children can have the right accessibility to education.
How the Indian education system can create awareness about sing language?
The role of Indian education system is of utmost importance in creating the awareness about sign language in nation. Sign language should be included as one of the subjects in syllabus of students. Teachers of sign language should be recruited for it. There should be workshops conducted for sign language sensitization. In this way those students after learning this art will act as an agent for spreading its knowledge further on in their families & friends. By adopting this method there won’t be a hindrance in communicating with a deaf & hence it will increase inclusiveness in schools, work area & everywhere. The communication gap will be covered up which will result into a positive development of society.
How are you planning to spread the knowledge and awareness on sign language among students?
For this cause, an organization “Tree of Interpreters” is founded by me & few other interpreters to spread the knowledge and awareness on sign language. We provide sign language classes online & offline in classrooms. We conduct workshops in schools for sensitizing purpose. We provide mentorship program to the students who are desired to make a career in this field till the completion of course & further on as well or just to learn it to communicate in which guidance, study materials, information of local deaf clubs & all the necessary elements to mingle them with the deaf community & develop themselves in the field of sign language. There is a major role of our strong networking team in this domain. We keep updating the members about important news of deaf community, events /programs & announcements of jobs & other stuff.
What are your future Plans?
After entering in deaf community & getting sensitized to its burning issues, witnessing the pathetic conditions I have decided to bring fruitful change in the present scenario by working in the form of an organization “Tree of Interpreters” which has already been founded for the holistic development of sign language, interpreters & deaf community in multiple ways. We provide sign language interpreting services for successful communication with deaf. Meetings for Interpreters are conducted to churn on the pressing issues & relieve themselves. Making of interpreter clubs to increase the interconnectivity is in progress where each can share their experiences & expertise. Our aim is to build a healthy & strong Interpreters community.
Sign language is still not an officially recognized language by the government. There are no instructions given through sign language in deaf schools and no deaf college or a university for deaf people. This can be changed by creating a pressure on government on a large scale by general mass which is possible by the awareness of the importance of sign language & deaf culture. So, we are buckling our belt for the same.
I have plans to boost up our activities in Tree of Interpreters organization & extend our services to every hearing & deaf. My dream is to make India a nation where every citizen knows sign language & people are not judged by the basis of their communication but by the content of their heart.