Sign language as a formal language: A welcome development
The Cabinet has said it has approved the proposal to draft a bill designating sign language as a formal means of communication in Sri Lanka in order to empower hearing-impaired persons. Sign language is to be a recognised language in Sri Lanka for the benefit of the large hearing-impaired community in the country.
This move will grant access for educational needs, legal matters, healthcare facilities, and various government and private sector services.
Speaking to Dr. Reijntjes School for the Deaf Director Mudithe de Silva about his thoughts on the bill, he explained that they are very happy with this decision, but noted that the problem is that most Sri Lankans are not used to sign language. “When people who are hard of hearing need to communicate or make a complaint, it’s better that there is a person who understands sign language.”
He also observed that due to the prevalent situation in the country in terms of the pandemic, there might be some ups and downs to be faced, adding that this move, however, will create a future for the deaf community.
“If you take countries like the Netherlands, sign language is not compulsory, but most citizens know how to communicate using sign language,” he stated, highlighting the importance of learning sign language as a society in order to help the deaf community feel more recognised and accepted, also adding that this is the level Sri Lanka needs to be on.
Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind Principal Rosana Kulendra added that the bill is a very good idea and that she is very pleased that the Government has approved the proposal to draft such a bill. “Right now, our students study up to their O/Ls (Ordinary Level) and thereafter, if they do qualify, they have the opportunity of entering a university.”
She said that once they’ve completed their education and choose to enter society, they are trained in their respective field of interest and undergo vocational training as well. Thereon, the school helps them to attempt to get a job. She highlighted communication as the biggest problem these students have to face once they enter society.
“When they get into the work field, they are unable to communicate with their colleagues and superiors. There is this thinking that when a child is deaf, they are not able to perform and work as well as the general public,” she added.
She said she sincerely hopes that once this bill takes effect and citizens are encouraged to learn sign language, it will greatly help and empower their children in their careers. “If there’s at least one person in government organisations who can understand sign language, that will be a tremendous help for our children.”
This is indeed a step in the right direction for the deaf community in terms of accessibility and their rights being met. We can only hope that this move will bring about empowerment and create a stable future for the deaf community in Sri Lanka.””