The Indian government has embarked upon one such kind — and first-of-its-kind — project. A 12-member team put together by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is coming out with an Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary, the Indian Express reports.
Over 6,000 English and Hindi words — of everyday usage, legal, medical, technical and academic terms — have already been compiled for the dictionary slated to release in March. Researchers have identified 44 hand-shapes used in India under which each of the 6,000 words would be classified.
The team from the government-backed Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) is working on graphic representations of the most-used signs that vary from region to region given India’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity.
ISLRTC was set up in 2015 to “help the five million deaf community of the country [and to] provide for increased accessibility for the hearing impaired in education, in the workplace and in all activities of public life.”
This dictionary would serve as a record of the common parlance of the 5 million deaf and 2 million mute people (Census 2011) across the country, the report added. Unlike American Sign Language (ASL) and sign languages of European countries, ISL is yet to gain minority language status in the country.
However, the government is taking steps “for achieving empowerment and inclusion of persons with disabilities” as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 9th World Assembly of the Disabled People’s International in New Delhi last year.
Presently, there exists a sign language portal, Talking Hands, that combines Indian, international and local sign languages to “maintain communicative environment between hearing and hearing-disabled people across the globe.”
It is also available as an Android app and had 5,000 downloads on Google Play store.