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Bilingualism is the best option for aurally challenged, says expert

Staff Reporter
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braving all odds:A.S. Narayanan, general secretary of the National Association of the Deaf conducting a session at a workshop organised by the National Institute of Speech and Hearing in the capital on Wednesday.
braving all odds:A.S. Narayanan, general secretary of the National Association of the Deaf conducting a session at a workshop organised by the National Institute of Speech and Hearing in the capital on Wednesday.

General secretary of the National Association of the Deaf A.S. Narayanan has called upon parents of aurally challenged children to focus more on teaching sign language and rearing the child in a bilingual environment rather than going in for medical procedures such as cochlear implants.

He was speaking at a three-day workshop organised by the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) on ‘Preparing the Deaf Student for Higher Education.’

He is a member of the Union Government’s Steering Committee on Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and Social Welfare Groups formed by the Planning Commission for the 12th Five Year Plan. Mr. Narayanan’s insights as an aurally challenged person by birth himself, proved a befitting start to the first of its kind seminar in the State dedicated for improving the educational system for the aurally challenged. He said the harsh realities that confront such persons could be changed with a few minor tweaks to reinforce the support system for them.

Mr. Narayanan presented the lecture smoothly in sign language along with a translator, testimony to the idea that he has been trying to convey — those challenged with this disability are not deprived of any faculties except hearing. All those blessed with this sensory need only accepted this. He was particularly insistent on not sidelining an aurally challenged child since most cognitive growth happened at a young age. Though he refrained from the debate about whether cochlear implants should be suggested for all cases, he was of the personal belief that a child should not be put to a trauma of stepping in and out of hospitals all their childhood.

Mr. Narayanan recalled how he struggled in school with teachers being largely dismissive and not putting in that extra effort to help him understand a lesson. But if every school had a sufficient number of translators or instructors proficient in sign language, that would encourage the child to learn by building a solid rapport. There was no quality education at the primary level and this was reflected later on when an aurally challenged person tried to get employed, he said.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities talks about sign language as the natural language of aurallu challenged people. Teaching them as they grow would break the walls of isolation and integrate them with the rest of the community, said Mr. Narayanan. He was also instrumental in setting up what was visualised as a turning point in realising the rights of the aurally challenged, the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre. This would slowly but surely change the situation across the country, where there were an estimated 18 million aurally challenged persons and only around 200 interpreters.

Director of Public Instruction A. Shahjahan inaugurated the workshop. He expressed interest to meet the faculty attending the workshop again on Thursday to review what the State government could do to help improve the educational system to become more differently abled-friendly.

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