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UPSC EDITORIAL ANALYSIS :Still no sign of the language of equity and inclusion

 

Source: The Hindu

Prelims: Current events of national importance(Different social service Schemes, abala, sabala, All India Women’s Conference, NFHS, Rights of persons with disabilities act.,2016, digital India, census 2011 etc )

Mains GS Paper II & III: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services etc.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) made the announcement for the election in March with the absence of sign language interpreters.
    • The everyday life in India excludes Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) citizens.

population

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Disability:

  • It is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.
  • An impairment is a problem in body function or structure;
  • An activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action
  • A participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

 

Constitutional Frameworks for Disabled in India

  • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that State shall make effective provision for securing right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
  • The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.

 

National Program for Prevention and Control of Deafness:

  • It was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India to tackle the high incidence of deafness in the country, in view of the preventable nature of this disability.

Objectives of the Programme

  1. To prevent the avoidable hearing loss on account of disease or injury.
  2. Early identification, diagnosis and treatment of ear problems responsible for hearing loss and deafness
  3. To medically rehabilitate persons of all age groups, suffering with deafness.
  4. To strengthen the existing inter-sectoral linkages for continuity of the rehabilitation Program, for persons with deafness
  5. To develop institutional capacity for ear care services by providing support for equipment and material and training personnel.

 

Issues:

  • It does not focus on the quality of life.
  • It discusses theoretical aspects of screening procedures and hearing aid prescription.
    • It does not mention the Indian Sign Language (ISL) which is an integral form of deaf communication.
  • The Social Justice Ministry set up the ISL Research and Training Centre in 2015 officially, but ISL is still not recognised as an official language.
  • Despite the National Education Policy 2020 recommending the standardized teaching of ISL across schools.
    • Its use in education systems remains sparse even in schools for the deaf.

●       Deaf people are taught to use their voices and lip reading, instead of using their hands to communicate.

●       Most educators in deaf schools are not trained in ISL.

●       The current deaf education system focuses on “rehabilitation”, asking the deaf to adjust to their surroundings instead of removing social barriers.

  • Despite government initiatives to employ the deaf, they often struggle to secure employment.
  • Public transport announcements, TV shows, directions within public structures, and even calling helplines are made insurmountable tasks due to a lack of accessibility.
  • Minuscule everyday things taken for granted by others become wars won after years of litigation and advocacy.
  • Although Doordarshan pioneered a weekly news segment in ISL in 1987, its precedent has not been taken up by private news channels.
    • Films, Indian Premier League 2024 cricket matches and OTT shows have come up with accessible options.
  • Opportunities for the deaf community remain limited to housekeeping jobs, wait staff, and data entry operators.
  • The deaf community faces challenges and additional discrimination with access to health care as most hospitals in India lack interpreters.
  • Complications increase for mental health-care access to the deaf community due to a lack of training in language interpretation.
  • The Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 is not effectively implemented, with only 250 certified sign language interpreters and no clear data on ISL-trained mental health professionals.

Sign language:

●       Integrating sign language has been found to help deaf children in cognitive development and prevent linguistic deprivation.

●       Over 70 countries recognise national sign languages legally, which makes education and critical information truly accessible to deaf citizens.

 

Hearing Impaired population:

  • In the 2011 Census, there were 5 million hearing-impaired people in India.
  • The National Association of the Deaf counts 18 million.
  • The World Health Organization estimates nearly 63 million Indians to have significant hearing impairment.
  • Only 5% of deaf children find themselves in school, and it often takes them much longer to graduate, thanks to an oralist course structure.

 

Way Forward

  • Diverging from ableism towards accessibility: ISL should be recognised as a language officially, and its use must be naturalized in schools and colleges, for hearing and DHH students alike.
    • It should be taught by DHH individuals, further buffeting their employment opportunities.
  • The hearing population should be able to practice ISL in everyday situations to achieve fluency in the language.
  • Health-care systems must be updated so that the deaf population has easy and accessible communication at all levels.
    • DHH patients benefit from receiving care from language-concordant physicians.
    • However, the regulatory medical, dental, and nursing commissions impose significant barriers on DHH individuals aspiring to health-care professions.
    • Inclusivity will make the health-care workforce more diverse and inclusive and will mainstream ISL interpreters.
  • Deaf programming should be par for the course across media channels.
    • Channels with English language programming often have accessible subtitles.
    • Hindi and other regional languages do not have ISL interpretation or subtitles.
  • Government event announcements should have live ISL interpreters, a common feature in several countries.

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

  1. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 remains only a legal document without intense sensitisation of government functionaries and citizens regarding disability. Comment.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

 

Editorial Analysis – 29 May 2024