Have you ever banged your fist on door or table angrily? Can a newborn speak anything but cry out in discomfort when it is taken out of the womb? Didn’t our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam went speechless and had to communicate for 30 years? Have you ever visualized of being dumb? Or thought of failing to speak due to sore throat or hoarseness of voice? Most probably you stopped using spoken language for a couple of days. You had to attend the class, communicate with your friends and relations though you were forbidden to. Or can you claim that you know all vocabularies of your mother tongue? Probably the answer is ‘No’ as most of the common people will ascertain that they don’t know all words of his or her mother tongue let alone others. If anyone can, s/he will be exceptional. And, as the exception is no rule so we can claim that even the greatest talker sometimes stammers and resorts to body language, failing to find suitable word or words while talking. Your banging on door, a newborn’s crying or the National Poet’s communication during his prolonged illness are nothing but natural sign language. For emphasis and clarification sometimes you need your hand to speak and fingers to spell. You may need limbs language and you can’t do without it because it is inbuilt in you. More or less you, be a doctor, imam, teacher, shopkeeper or a commoner, need to know hand signs. We can’t overlook the deaf population who are on the rise and communication with them. So a human being needs sign language from cradle to grave.
What is fingerspelling or handspeaking: The terms may not be new to deaf experts but common people might have liked these terms to be explored. According to Wikipaedia fingerspelling (or dactylology) is the representation of the letters of a writing system, and sometimes numeral systems, using only the hands. These manual alphabets (also known as finger alphabets or hand alphabets), have often been used in deaf education, and have subsequently been adopted as a distinct part of a number of sign languages around the world. Historically, manual alphabets have had a number of additional applications — including use as ciphers, as mnemonics, and in silent religious settings. Fingerspelling is used in different sign languages and registers for different purposes. It may be used to represent words from a spoken language which have no sign equivalent, or for emphasis, clarification, or when teaching or learning a sign language.
Bangladeshi sign language: A Financial Express report says: ‘In 12th century Bengal under Muslim rule, deaf-mute people had legal rights in the areas of bequests, marriage, divorce and financial transactions. They used to communicate habitually with intelligible signs. In 1914, during the British rule, the first Dhaka deaf-mute school was established under the name Lalbagh Deaf-Mute School. In 1931 and 1939, Rajshahi and Bogra Deaf-Mute School were established. In 1940, the Dhaka Deaf-Mute Club was established by the students of Lalbagh Deaf-Mute School. Later, both Lalbagh Deaf-Mute School and Deaf-Mute Club were abolished. In 1940 and 1943, Sylhet and Brahmanbaria Deaf-Mute Schools were set up. The then East Pakistan Federation of the Deaf-Mute, established in the house of a deaf member in Rajshahi in 1950, was short-lived. In 1951, the late Lion M. R. Khan of Dhaka was anxious about his eldest son Harunar Rashid Khan who became deaf. At that time, Dhaka had no deaf education. Lion M. R. Khan sent Harun to Calcutta to get admitted to Deaf-Mute School there. From 1953 to 1961, Lion M. R. Khan was a committee member of Calcutta Deaf-Mute School. In 1954, a teacher organised Deaf Mute School at Begum Bazar in old Dhaka.
In 1957, the East Pakistan Federation of the Deaf-Mute was revived in the house of Bijoy Kumar Saha who was a deaf resident of Dhaka. Both Manzur Ahmed, a former student of Calcutta Deaf-Mute School and resident of Dhaka and Harunar Rashid Khan gave donations as the revived organisation was run with contributions from its deaf mute members. But it was not registered.
In 1959, Mymensingh Deaf-Mute School was founded. Later, Deaf-Mute Schools were established in other districts of the then East Pakistan. In 1961, the Social Welfare Directorate of the then East Pakistan opened Deaf-Mute School in a rented house at Central Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka. In1963, the then East Pakistan Deaf Mute Association was formed and registered with the Social Welfare Directorate. Lion Mohiuddin Ahmad , a police officer, though not a deaf himself, was elected its first president, Lion M.R. Khan also not a deaf was the first vice president and treasurer, Manzur Ahmed, a deaf, was the founding general secretary, Harunar Rashid Khan, also deaf, was the founding assistant secretary and Bijoy Kumar Saha, also a deaf was the founding treasurer.
The office of the association was housed in a room of the Ramkrishna Mission Road residence of Lion MR Khan.
In 1964, the Deaf-Mute School at Central Road Dhanmondi was taken over by the government and remained Government Deaf-Mute School and was shifted to Asad Gate, Dhaka. In 1969, the government allotted a plot of land at 62 Bijoynagar, Dhaka to the association for establishing its office and first Deaf High School and other institutions.
In 1970, HICARE School for the hearing impaired was established at West Dhanmondi, Dhaka. In 1971, after independence, the association was renamed Bangladesh Jatiya Muk-o-Badhir Sangsha. In 1975, the World Federation of the Deaf honored Lion M. R. Khan and Manzur Ahmed with its International Solidarity Merit Awards. In 1976, Bangladesh Jatiya Muk-o-Badhir Sangstha was re-named Bangladesh Jatiya Badhir Sangstha or Bangladesh National Federation of the Deaf (BNFD).
In 1992, the Deaf-Mute School at Asad Gate, Dhaka was shifted to Mirpur (Section 14), Dhaka and renamed, School for the Hearing Impaired under the National Center of Special Education (NCSE), with assistance from Norway.’
Welfare of the disabled: Now let us inform you what Vision 2021 says about the disabled people in the country. ‘The Disabled Welfare Act passed by Awami League in 2000 will be updated and implemented. Special steps will be taken to facilitate education, employment, movement and communication of the disabled and to enhance their social dignity.’ The govt is yet to deliver on its promises but the people with disabilities particularly the deaf population is looking forward to government to deliver on its promises.
Pioneer compilers of sign dictionary: For the welfare of the deaf people a couple of philanthropists have come forward to compile sign dictionaries. “The Perigee Visual Dictionary of Signing” by Rod R. Butterworth and Mickey Flodin, says: It was in the sixteenth century that Geronimo Cardano, a physician of Padua, in northern Italy, proclaimed that deaf people could be taught to understand written combinations of symbols by associating them with the thing they represented. The first book on teaching sign language to deaf people that contained the manual alphabet was published in 1620 by Juan Pablo de Bonet. In 1755 Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee of Paris founded the first free school for deaf people. He taught that deaf people could develop communication with themselves and the hearing world through a system of conventional gestures, hand signs, and fingerspelling. He created and demonstrated a language of signs whereby each would be a symbol that suggested the concept desired. Another prominent deaf educator of the same period (1778) was Samuel Heinicke of Leipzig, Germany. Heinicke did not use the manual method of communication but taught speech and speechreading. He established the first public school for deaf people that achieved government recognition. These two methods (manual and oral) were the forerunners of today’s concept of total communication. Total communication espouses the use of all means of available communication, such as sign language, gesturing, fingerspelling, speechreading, speech, hearing aids, reading, writing, and pictures. America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, an energetic Congregational minister who became interested in helping his neighbor’s young deaf daughter, Alice Cogswell. He traveled to Europe in 1815. In 1817 Gallaudet founded the nation’s first school for deaf people, in Hartford, Connecticut, and Clerc became the United States’ first deaf sign language teacher.
How easy the learning process is? : If anyone consults the web dictionary of sign language, s/he can easily pick up the language. And it is very interesting to look up a word in the sign dictionary and knowledge of signs of certain word could give strong footing to the knowledge of the spoken language users. Even researchers have found it easy and even they applied it on a 10 month old female chimpanzee in June, 1966. All humans who had contact with chimpanzee had to communicate solely with sign language. They also had to use American Sign Language when communicating with each other while in chimpanzee’s presence. They did this because they wanted to keep diversions at a minimum and also wanted to have chimpanzee see humans communicating with each other using ASL. The researchers involved with this project did not teach the chimpanzees signs, they taught them to associate signs with objects or activities. It was thought at the beginning that the chimpanzees would associate an ASL sign with a specific object, but this was not the case. They identified objects in real life with the learned sign and could also identify the same object in books.
While chimpanzee was with the researchers, she learned approximately 132 signs. Now it is very important to stress how each of these words were counted as a “learned” sign. First the words being taught were put on a list. Each time chimpanzee signed one of the words, it was recorded. To be recorded, it had to be formed correctly and used appropriately. The new “learned” word had to be used every day for 15 consecutive days for it to be counted at a “learned” word.
Popularity: Due to creation of sign books, other study materials and grooming of a good number of teachers people are growing interest in the sign languages. All the countries on the planet have their own share of deaf population and. Beyond the borders spoken language is a great barrier for people to people, nation to nation and country to country. Interest continues to grow in sign language, and it is now the fourth most used language in the United States. Many sign language classes are offered in communities, churches, and colleges. According to the National Association of the Deaf “by 2006, virtually all new broadcast programming will be captioned” benefiting some 28 million deaf Americans and an additional 28 million U.S. non-English speaking Americans. Although South African Sign Language is not one of South Africa’s 11 Official languages, the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa recognizes the role and importance of sign language in general by encouraging further developments and the promotion of “sign language” in South Africa.
What do the deaf need: An employee can often communicate with individuals who are deaf through written materials and exchange of written notes. The other auxiliary aids or equipment, that help those who are hard of hearing, are qualified interpreters, note takers, computer-aided transcription services, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening systems, telephones compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, telecommunications devices for deaf persons and videotext displays. The type of auxiliary aid or service necessary to ensure effective communication will vary in accordance with the length and complexity of the communication involved.
Doctor, imam, teacher and even political need to know sign language: Can visualize yourself as a patient and went to a doctor but all in vain because the doctor doesn’t under your language and ailment. Whereas you have money to pay for the treatment but groaning in pain out of your sickness and you have nothing to do. What a pathetic and tremendous paradox. It happens to a deaf person visits a doctor who has no knowledge of the signing has to face hazardous situation. And the patient has to face dangerous threat to his life in spite of visiting a doctor. But if had minimum orientation with signing he could have got more patients. Professionals need to know hand signs. The situation in the mosque or church or temple, where deaf people attend, is equally paradoxical and also ludicrous. The condition of Imams and other spiritual leaders is not better than most of the physicians. I am sure there are around 2.5 lakh mosques in Bangladesh and none of the imams of these mosques are trained in sign language by the government as part of welfare of the deaf people. We can guess what happens to the audience of the speaker who is speaking aloud with religious fervor but his audience and spectator don’t understand. In the same way teacher and political and above all everyone should learn to communicate with those are deaf and dumb.
As the children and adults with all types of disability experience abuse at rates far exceeding those of the population who do not have disabilities. Although research is not extensive, what we have learned about abuse of children and adults with disabilities is alarming. In addition, there are many situations in which children and adults acquire disabilities as a direct result of abuse. With a view to putting an end to the abuse of the people with disabilities everyone can contribute from his/her position. Today’s language of the few may be transformed into tomorrow’s international language. Sign language has that potential. What the international communities need is political will, investment, incorporation in their academic syllabus and awareness campaign to make it everyone’s languages in countries across the planet.