Xtra-special: Advocating for Indian Sign Language, Rahul walks his path

Bharati Pawaskar | SEPTEMBER 26, 2023, 12:41 AM IST
Xtra-special: Advocating for Indian Sign Language, Rahul walks his path

Rahul Kunkolienkar has a joyful, fun-loving and positive personality. No wonder he is a role model for the deaf students in Goa. A true inspiration for parents, he encourages and supports deaf children in pursuing higher studies. With a high educational qualification, Rahul is the first deaf in Goa who is RCI certified Indian Sign Language (ISL) teacher. Currently a LDC at RTO office in Ponda, he has paved way for many deaf students to venture into teaching field and encouraged them to take it up as career.

“With proper government schemes and policies to include ISL in school, many deaf will nurture a dream to be a teacher,” feels Rahul, a deaf since birth.

Son of Rakshaya and Rajaram Kunkolienkar, he encountered many challenges, but good at learning new things, he soon overcame hurdles. He recalls, “The challenges I faced as a child was communication with hearing people. It was a big challenge because full information about the surrounding or any news or incidents happening around was never accessible. This is still a challenge, especially at public places and government departments where there is no accessibility to information for the deaf.”

Lokvishwas Pratishthan School in Ponda played an important role in making him blossom. Teachers motivated him to take up higher studies. His family acted as a big support. Their acceptance and confidence in him propelled him to dream big. He moved out of Goa to pursue higher studies. All he wants now is to see that opportunities are created for deaf to pursue higher studies in Goa itself so that education would empower them.

Rahul did his Class 12 from Virani Isani High School. He did diploma in teaching Indian Sign Language (ISL) from Mook Badhir Sangathan, Indore. Completing BA from Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy through IGNOU, he is currently pursuing BEd in Special Education from Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy and Bhoj University. Sky is the limit when one aspires big. A focused person, Rahul has a mission – to teach ISL to deaf kids. He was given an opportunity to practice his teaching skills to deaf students at Lokvishwas.

Rahul feels that ISL should be made a compulsory subject in schools. “Let’s make public places deaf friendly and accessible. Let’s increase skill training programme and conduct workshops for the deaf so that they could be provided with job opportunities,” says an enthusiastic Rahul who enjoys get-togethers, picnics, fun-moments with family and friends.

His playful side shines through when he plays cricket, badminton, and chess, and when he travels and explores the world.

As a member of Goa Association of the Deaf (GAD), Rahul advocates for the deaf rights and creates awareness on ISL. He is a resource person to conduct ISL training and awareness workshops across Goa.

“Yes, we need more interpreters. And we want acceptance of ISL in the society. Although ISL is included in NEP 2020, it is yet to be implemented in Goa and other parts of India. The need of the hour is that ISL gets recognition as one of the official languages of India. Many deaf leaders and other stakeholders have been advocating for this for long. Petitions are made to the government to recognize Indian Sign Language as the 23rd official language of India. This will bring a big transformation in the life of the deaf in India,” says Rahul who dreams to become a sign language teacher.

Advanced gadgets and devices help people with disabilities to function better, making life easy for them. Today social media plays an important role as a connecting tool for the deaf to share ideas, have discussions through sign videos, with the help of deaf and hearing interpreters. NGOs are already working to give online accessibility to the deaf. Online portals like ISH News, MBM and ISLRTC offer ISL related videos and content.

Rahul’s only appeal is, “I want accessibility in the information and broadcast, and also entertainment sectors.”

He points out that recently ISH News team in Mumbai translated Bollywood movie 83 in ISL and it was screened all over India, including Goa.

Pouring his heart out Rahul expresses, “The world may look at us with pity and as if we are helpless... But you know what, we actually are not so. We might be different. But if people make a tiny effort to understand us they will discover a lot of interesting things about us. Given the right opportunities and support, each one of us can do wonders. The world is full of wonderful things and I want experience them all. Each new day brings new opportunities to learn. And I am eager to remain a student.”

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