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Sign language helps children with hearing disabilities join Independence Day festivities in Delhi

At least 120 persons with speech and hearing impairment were invited by the Delhi-based Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute For Persons with Physical Disabilities to attend the Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort.

delhi Updated: Aug 16, 2018 04:18 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Independence Day,Delhi,Red Fort
A view of illuminated India Gate in tricolour to commemorate the 72nd Independence Day, in New Delhi on Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018.(PTI Photo)

All eyes were glued to the ramparts of the Red Fort from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing the nation on the 72nd Independence Day. A large group of people, including schoolchildren, were, however, more interested in watching the woman who was vigorously gesticulating after every statement the PM made.

On some occasions, the children responded by waving in the air. This, it turned out, was to applaud the PM.

At least 120 persons with speech and hearing impairment were invited by the Delhi-based Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute For Persons with Physical Disabilities to attend the Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort. The woman, Sanskriti Bhatia, was the sign language interpreter who helped take the PM’s speech to the silent world of these
children.

The eyes of Kartick, a student of class 10, who is suffering from hearing impairment, gleamed with joy when Modi mentioned the rights of the disabled and a common sign language dictionary prepared for them by the government. He raised both his hands and waved them along with a few others of his like as a mark of happiness.

“When the PM mentioned the rights of the disabled, these students could directly associate with it. They were very happy and cheered,” said Bhatia, who has been translating word to word for these special guests.

Twenty-two years old Sanskriti is the daughter of Meera Bhatia, who have been anchoring the Doordarshan news for people suffering from speech and hearing impairment over the past 23 years. Sanskriti works in the NGO Sai Swayam Society, which her mother had started in 2006.

“My maternal grandfather and grandmother both had impairment. So my mother had to pick up the sign language as a kid. It was her first language she had to rely upon to communicate with her parents,” said Sanskriti.

Throughout the PM’s address, the instructors stood facing the disabled people in an enclosure marked for them. They ensured Modi’s message reached them in a language they understood comfortably. The instructors were there under the government’s ‘Sugamya Bharat’ initiative, which aims to serve the differently-abled community.

“Even though we don’t speak in sign languages at home, but when my maternal grandfather visits us both my mother and me need to speak bilingually — using words and gestures. He has the same impairment and that’s why my mother’s first language was the sign language. Else, she would have been unable to communicate with both her parents as they were suffering from impairment,” said Sanskriti.

Even if their eyes look tired for being out of sleep at 4 am, the energy levels seemed far from sapped.

Be it the time when the PM’s cavalcade entered the Red Fort premises, him receiving the guard of honour or the hundreds of tricoloured balloons being released, the children jumped from their seats an applauded by shaking their hands up in the air.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 04:12 IST