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‘Sign language interpreters make a huge difference among the hearing impaired’

International Day of Sign Languages is celebrated annually on September 23 along with International Week of the Deaf. On this special occasion, we find out how the city’s sign language interpreters are providing a conducive environment for the deaf to grow.

‘Sign language interpreters make a huge difference among the hearing impaired’
Chitra (in saree) conversing with hearing impaired students during a convocation ceremony


Sign language interpreter Chitra Devi Muthu has been instrumental in setting up Chennai’s first restaurant that’s completely run by deaf individuals in July last year. “In the past year, many youngsters, especially, social workers, volunteers and those who work with deaf students, are showing interest to learn sign languages. A few learn the basics of sign languages and some take advanced level courses. This is a welcoming change. In my opinion, everyone should learn sign language,” Chitra tells DT Next.

Currently, she is hosting storytelling sessions in sign language for hearing impaired children. “We have a lot of storytelling events — online and physical — for children and adults. Hearing-impaired children often feel left out in such events. That’s the reason why I am conducting storytelling sessions for such children along with another storyteller. They enjoy our sessions and I am happy to put a smile on their faces. Along with Nam Veedu, Nam Oor, Nam Kadhai, I have been doing sign language heritage walks for three years. It is one of its first kind in the city,” she smiles.

Chitra also shares happy news with us. “The six hearing-impaired friends who started the hotel have completed a hotel management course and are learning how to manage the finances, how to market the hotel and so on. Many help us in various ways — without their support and encouragement, we couldn’t have done anything. This week, I will be launching YouTube tutorials where I talk about higher education and job opportunities for deaf,” she adds.

Photographer and founder of Madras Photo Bloggers Srivatsan Sankaran has been organising photography classes for hearing impaired students. “Chennai has a long way to go when it comes to accessibilities. I feel awareness is more important than inclusivity at the moment since it creates the ripple and shows the importance of inclusivity. Many programmes conducted in Chennai are not entirely inclusive at the moment,” shares Srivatsan.

When asked how important the role of a sign interpreter is in today’s world, he answers, “People don’t have any idea about the importance of sign language interpreters. They are helpful for communication for decision-making in every aspect and education and knowledge sharing. The public needs to learn sign language, so things will be easier for the deaf,” he adds.

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