‘Access to sign language critical for human rights of the disabled’

Pakistan Press Foundation

After the United Nations proclaimed this September 23 to be the first International Day of Sign Languages, an event on Sunday stressed that access to sign language, including in education and public services, is critical for the human rights of the disabled.

Marking the first International Day of Sign Languages, the Interpreters Association of Pakistan (IAP), in collaboration with The Second Floor (T2F), organised a film screening as well as a talk with disabled people and their families at T2F’s Faraar Gallery.

Firstly, ‘Aik Puraani Kahaani’, which was written by prominent writer Saadat Hasan Manto, was screened in the Pakistani sign language. It was followed with a discussion with the participants, most of whom were deaf, to highlight the communication challenges faced by them during their everyday life.

Mehrunnisa Khan Jadoon of the IAP said that the main aim of organising the event was to honour the global day and to raise awareness about sign language in the country. “We have invited a large number of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to be part of this celebration,” she told The News. “The day is a symbolic victory for deaf communities worldwide.”

This year the international day is titled ‘With Sign Language, Everyone is Included’. Raza Ali, a participant of the event, said he attended the programme to understand sign languages because one of his children is deaf.

“In Pakistan the main concern for the deaf is sign language and interpretation. It restricts their access to communication and information,” Ali told The News. He asked the electronic media to start “sign language programmes” to facilitate special children.

Because of lack of professional guidance, parents of hearing-impaired children face a dilemma in making choices for various communication options, such as oral, auditory-verbal, cued speech, sign language and Total Communication, said the IAP members. The IAP is a nonprofit aiming to provide free interpretation services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing people in Pakistan.

“Our goal is to make every kind of information, entertainment and the academia accessible to the deaf,” said Mehrunnisa. She said the dearth of information in sign languages marginalises the deaf and stops their access to basic services.

The proposal for the international day to the UN had come from the World Federation of the Deaf, an alliance of 135 national associations of the deaf representing human rights of approximately 70 million deaf people worldwide.

The News