Fri. Sep 30th, 2022

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  In a major breakthrough towards preparing an inclusive risk reduction programme, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority and National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) have jointly developed a sign language-based vocabulary to help rescue persons with speech and hearing disabilities during disasters. Around 350 words have been included in the online course designed for first responders. KSDMA officials said it is the first time such a disabled inclusive initiative is being launched in the country.

The plan is to introduce the course in the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform.
“There are no accessible materials for the hearing impaired for use during a disaster. Such materials are available either in Malayalam or English. Those who are hearing impaired require such materials in sign language, as videos,” said Raji Jacob, head, Degree (HI), NISH.  NISH has already started designing the online course. “Around 50 per cent of the work is over. The course is being drawn up based on terminology related to disasters suggested by KSDMA,” said Raji.

‘Pandemic made us realise need for accessible info’

Raji Jacob said the need for accessible information was realised after the pandemic struck.
“The disabled community struggled a lot following Covid outbreak. They  didn’t know how or who to ask for help. We started a 24X7 helpline to assist them with information on Covid and assigned around 20 volunteers, including interpreters, to assist them. The experience prompted us to come up with such a proposal,” she said.

“If first responders are trained in sign language, they can help a person with disability who is in distress during a disaster,” Raji said.She said NISH is actively translating informational videos made by KSDMA. “Around 10 videos by KSDMA on monsoon and other disaster preparedness have been translated into sign language and uploaded on YouTube,” Raji said.

KSDMA and NISH will provide certification to those attending the online course. “We will conduct a test. Those who pass will get a certificate jointly issued by NISH and KSDMA,” said a KSDMA official. Civil defence volunteers, fire department officials and police from across the state are expected to attend the course.

1,05,366 persons with hearing disability in state, according to the Kerala Disability Census 2011