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Breaking Barriers: How Digvijay Singh is Expanding Scientific Vocabulary in Indian Sign Language

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Breaking Barriers: How Digvijay Singh is Expanding Scientific Vocabulary in Indian Sign Language

Breaking Barriers: How Digvijay Singh is Expanding Scientific Vocabulary in Indian Sign Language

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Imagine a world where your access to education, particularly in fields like science and technology, is hindered not by your intellect or curiosity, but by the very language you use to communicate. This is the reality for millions of deaf individuals in India, where the lack of a comprehensive scientific vocabulary in Indian Sign Language (ISL) has long been a barrier. But thanks to the pioneering efforts of Digvijay Singh, a deaf sign-language educator at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR IMTech) in Chandigarh, this barrier is beginning to crumble.

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From Challenge to Opportunity

Digvijay Singh's journey into the world of science was fraught with obstacles, primarily due to the absence of ISL fluency among his teachers and the scarcity of scientific terms in ISL. Despite these challenges, Singh's passion for science never waned. In 2022, he joined the Indian Sign Language Enabled Virtual Laboratory (ISLEVL), where he faced the daunting task of translating science outreach videos without an established vocabulary for many scientific concepts. This challenge, however, presented an opportunity. Singh and his team embarked on a mission to develop new signs for scientific terms, consulting other sign languages like American Sign Language (ASL) or inventing new ones based on the concept's shape and function. Their innovative approach led to the creation of signs for terms like 'bacteria' and 'atmospheric water generation,' which were then added to the national ISL dictionary after thorough validation.

Innovating for Inclusivity

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The process of creating new signs is meticulous and collaborative. Singh and his team work closely with ISL specialists, deaf friends, and hearing project assistants to ensure that the new signs are intuitive and accurately represent the scientific concepts they denote. This collaboration extends beyond the immediate team, with workshops conducted for teachers and students to promote STEM literacy using ISL. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, underscoring the importance of developing a scientific vocabulary in ISL not just for educational purposes but for fostering a more inclusive scientific community. Through these efforts, the ISLEVL project is not just expanding the ISL dictionary; it is bridging the gap between the deaf community and the world of science, making STEM fields more accessible to deaf individuals in India.

A Model for the Future

Digvijay Singh's work at ISLEVL is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and collaboration in the face of adversity. By addressing the linguistic barriers that have long excluded the deaf community from science education and careers, Singh and his team are not only enhancing STEM literacy among deaf individuals but are also paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable scientific community. This initiative serves as a model for other countries and languages, illustrating the crucial role of language in education and the empowerment of marginalized communities. As ISL's scientific vocabulary continues to grow, so too does the hope for a future where everyone, regardless of their hearing ability, has equal access to the wonders of science and technology.

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