Hearing-impaired to protest non-start of centre

New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) A disabled rights group Friday said it would protest the non-start of the country’s first sign language training and research centre for the hearing-impaired even two years after it was launched.

The group warned that it would protest outside Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Kumari Selja’s residence here.

“We have no other option but to gherao (lay siege to) Social Welfare Minister Kumari Selja’s residence if the minister does not take immediate action to implement the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC), which exists only on paper for the past two years. The centre was inaugurated October 2011 by then Social Welfare Minister Mukul Wasnik and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal,” Javed Abidi, convener, Disabled Right group (DRG), said.

Abidi added: “IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), which had to provide five acres of land for the centre, besides teaching and training people in sign language, has not laid even a brick for the past two years.”

“The university has not even appointed a director for the centre. We want the ministry to interfere immediately and make it independent centre of excellence not an autonomous body of IGNOU,” Abidi said.

The social justice and welfare ministry had allotted Rs.44 crore for ISLRTC.

“Rs.4-5 crores have been spent on advertisements on the inauguration of centre but nothing concrete has happened,” Abidi added.

According to National Association of the Deaf (NAD), India is home to 70 million people with disabilities. Of this, 18 million are hearing impaired, of whom four million are children.

“Hearing impaired children have the potential to study. We don’t have professional sign language interpreters. Hearing impaired children who pass Class 10 are not trained properly as we lack sign language teachers,” said Zorin Singha, president, NAD.

“If it is oral education, children do not understand what is being taught, so 90 percent of them remain illiterate or have a low level of literacy. We hoped that ISLRTC would help them these children, but lack of political will and IGNOU’s lame excuses have pushed our dream into the darkness,” Singha added.

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