Indian Sign Language needs recognition: Joshi

Bharati Pawaskar | SEPTEMBER 05, 2023, 12:58 AM IST
Indian Sign Language needs recognition: Joshi

Prasad Joshi with his wife Anagha and son Arnav.

Have we ever imagined the suffering of those who cannot hear a single word and for that matter cannot express their feelings verbally? Yes, we have so many around us who are unable to hear any sound, and because they have never heard anything, they cannot speak in words or sentences. But that doesn’t mean they cannot express themselves. 

Prasad Joshi from Valpoi is a good example of individuals who did not let their disability define who they are. He is the founder and general secretary of the Goa Association of the Deaf (GAD) – the only association in the State working for upliftment of the deaf. Currently, Prasad is working as a LDC at the Goa University.  

He is also the Vice President of Goa Sports Council of the Deaf and Vice President of All India Deaf Arts and Cultural Society, Delhi. As a member of the social welfare department for State Fund for Persons with Disabilities, Prasad goes to different institutions and departments to create awareness about sign language and deaf accessibility in collaboration with Goa State Commission for Persons with Disabilities. He was declared a ‘Role Model for Deaf’ by ‘Hear A Million and Enable India’. He was also selected as the Best Employee from Government Service in Disability Category in 2019.  

“I am profound deaf. But my parents would use gestures and speech and compel me to use speech. That’s why I can lip read few commonly used words and phrases and also utter certain speech sounds to communicate with my family,” says 36-year-old Prasad who is married to Anagha who also has the same disability. He has a son, Arnav, who is a ‘hearing’ child.   

He insists that awareness about the deaf and sign language is important. Prasad adds, apart from the hearing aids that the deaf use, a new technology called Cochlear implant which is a surgical procedure to improve the hearing is available.  

Prasad says with hearing aids there are lot of quality issues and there are also variations (e.g. pocket device, behind the ear and in the ear). Sometimes they give feedback sound which becomes irritable for the ear.

“Here’s where Sign Language comes handy,” says Prasad.

A topper in Lokvishwas School at Ponda, he did his schooling from a local regular school in Valpoi where he scored 61% in SSC. He answered the 12th standard exam through the National Institute of Open Schooling and scored 62%.

Goa has five schools for the deaf, but to pursue higher education further is difficult, according to Prasad who had to take a pause in his academic pursuit. There is no separate arrangement of graduation for children with special needs, especially deaf persons and they have to study in regular colleges.  

However, he has plans to complete BCom and take admission for Diploma in Indian Sign Language training institute. “Goa currently is short of interpreters, and it becomes difficult for deaf persons to express their thoughts to others without the help of an  interpreter,” explains Prasad.  

‘The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995’ came into enforcement on February, 7, 1996. An amendment in the Act was done in 2016, as rights of persons with disabilities Act (RPWD Act) was implemented in Goa in 2017. Following this, more opportunities were created in jobs and also the level of awareness increased. In 2019, there was a spike in jobs for the deaf. 

“Due to PWD Act 1995 reservation of 3% in jobs was kept for persons with disabilities which has now been raised to 4% after implementation of RPWD Act, 2016. But more preference was given to persons with less IQ over deaf persons,” added Prasad.  

“Hearing impaired persons were not considered to be fit for jobs, as they could not communicate with common people and needed interpreters to convey their thoughts. After the amendment, this segregation was made and 10-11 deaf persons got jobs. Goa has reservation for quota for deaf, but no survey has been officially done,” informs Prasad, whose association GAD is fighting for the rights of the deaf.  

Founded by Prasad in 2009, GAD has 175 members aged 18 and above and the eldest member is around 56. GAD is affiliated with All India Deaf Art and Cultural Society (AIDACS), Delhi. AIDACS appreciated his contribution for the deaf in Goa which was seen especially during the Purple Fest 2023 held in the State for the first time.

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