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Deaf Community in India UPSC NOTE

 Need of equity

  • India’s push for equity in education, health care, and rights cannot succeed without dismantling ableist barriers that exclude Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people.

  • Consider the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness, to prevent and treat hearing impairment and provide medical rehabilitation. 

  • While it is well-structured, it does not focus on the quality of life. 

  • It discusses theoretical aspects of screening procedures and hearing aid prescription, but does not mention the Indian Sign Language (ISL) which is an integral form of deaf communication. 

  • The Social Justice Ministry set up the ISL Research and Training Centre in 2015 officially, but ISL is still not recognised as an official language

  • Despite the National Education Policy 2020 recommending the standardised teaching of ISL across schools, its use in education systems remains sparse even in schools for the deaf.

Sign language versus oralism

  • The Indian education system still focuses on “oralism”, where deaf people are taught to use their voices and lip read, instead of using their hands to communicate.

  • Most educators in deaf schools are not trained in ISL

  • Instead of creating better access and remediating marginalisation, the current deaf education system focuses on “rehabilitation”, asking the deaf to adjust to their surroundings instead of removing social barriers. 

  • An exclusive focus on oralism has been criticised for creating an isolatory social structure for deaf people in an inherently ableist world. 

  • On the other hand, integrating sign language has been found to help deaf children in cognitive development and prevent linguistic deprivation; over 70 countries recognise national sign languages legally, which makes education and critical information truly accessible to deaf citizens.

  • Our ableism is reflected in how invisible the deaf are in India.

Deaf count

  • In the 2011 Census, there were five million hearing-impaired people in India

  • The National Association of the Deaf counts 18 million

  • The World Health Organization estimates nearly 63 million Indians to have significant hearing impairment

  • Only 5% of deaf children find themselves in school, and it often takes them much longer to graduate


  • Despite government initiatives to employ the deaf, they often struggle to secure employment. 

  • Protests erupted in 2020 due to recruitment favouring those with less than 40% hearing impairment

  • Multiple petitions to recognise ISL have been stonewalled, citing the adequacy of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, (RPDA) 2016 for preserving and advancing the language. 

  • This failure, despite several protests, is a covert yet overt act of marginalisation.

  • Public transport announcements, TV shows, directions within public structures, and even calling helplines are made insurmountable tasks due to a lack of accessibility. 

  • Although Doordarshan pioneered a weekly news segment in ISL in 1987, its precedent has not been taken up by private news channels. 

  • While films, Indian Premier League 2024 cricket matches and OTT shows have come up with accessible options, we have a lot of slack to pick up.

  • Opportunities for the deaf community remain limited to housekeeping jobs, wait staff, and data entry operators

  • The private sector has programmes in place for accessibility and inclusion with captioning and interpreter services. 

  • However, the government sector has made little progress. 

  • Several state- and national-level protests have been mounted by the deaf over the years. 

  • Their demands for accessible education and better employment have been met with lathi charge or lackadaisical promises

  • The deaf community faces challenges and additional discrimination with access to health care as most hospitals in India lack interpreters

  • Complications increase for mental health-care access to the deaf community due to a lack of training in language interpretation

  • The Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 promises mental health care for all, but it is not effectively implemented, with only 250 certified sign language interpreters and no clear data on ISL-trained mental health professionals.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Deaf Community in India UPSC NOTE
Deaf Community in India UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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