If language is the mode of expression of thoughts and feelings, then there are those who struggle to express themselves for want of a unifying language.

On Sunday at the Marina Beach, about 500 men, women and children with speech and hearing impairment participated in a ‘peace rally' to emphasise the need for sign language which would help them communicate among themselves and get understood by others.

The rally was organised by Deaf Enabled Foundation to mark the 54th International Day of the Deaf, which is observed annually on the last Sunday of September. Members from the foundation's centres in Thanjavur, Puducherry, Kancheepuram and Chengalpet and children from special schools participated.

“We have several issues, like being given government jobs but this rally's focus is to emphasise the need for sign language,” gestured Feroz, a person with speech and hearing impairment.

Chief executive of the foundation T.K.M. Sandeep said in a release that the plan to set up a centre for research and training in sign language mentioned in the 11th Plan document had not yet materialised. The proposal to set up residential special schools up to 12th grade was not taken up either.

On the beach, the participants gesticulated animatedly among themselves oblivious of others around them. “They develop signs for each name so that they can converse. Each speech and hearing impaired person has a unique way of communicating. Though in special schools they learn a single sign language, those coming from other parts of the State or country are misunderstood as there is no unifying language,” said N. Vinoth a special educator at Presidency College.“If you have the interest you can learn sign language in two months,” he added. They often have a poor social life but networking sites such as Facebook have come to their rescue.

“They search for deaf persons and add them to their list of friends. They have friends across the continents,” Mr. Vinoth added. The participants took photos which would be uploaded on to Facebook, explained Feroz.