Express press service

COIMBATORE: For all the ‘changes’ that life constantly throws at you, there’s a famous adage that shows you the way: “When the whole world is running, run through it”. With the pandemic having turned our lives upside down over the past two years, we have all tried to chart our own paths and adapt our lives to weather the crisis. But, have you ever thought about people who couldn’t catch up? Those who were still stuck in the past, with “change” throwing a pitch black hole in their lives? Deaf-mute children like R Vikash, a class 6 student, are among them.

With learning completely shifting to online mode, kids like him had no choice but to fight a real struggle to learn something new. Vikash, through an interpreter, told TNIE that it has been difficult for him since the pandemic even to read a book and understand the lessons. The main reason for this was that the new learning method did not include the use of sign languages ​​and they had no alternative in front of them.

A breakthrough came in the form of a group of teachers in Coimbatore. With the unavailability of resources such as Braille books, the group endeavored to convert the books in its program into videos with the concepts explained in sign language. The initiative focuses on adolescents from economically disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of society, who study in public schools. Murali Kuppusamy, who taught at a special school in RS Puram for deaf children, pioneered the work through his Deaf Leaders Foundation.

Murali’s daughter, Sneha M, who acts as a performer in the project, explains the group’s work. “With courses going online, deaf students have been impacted. It was not possible to provide them with online sign language services. The situation for public school students was even worse. This made us start the initiative for those who have great difficulty in getting proper advice for online courses. We hope the video lessons will meet their needs,” Sneha said.

According to Murali, even before the pandemic, these students struggled to understand lessons because many of their teachers did not know sign language properly. “Taking sign language lessons will be very beneficial for these students. Our efforts are there for that,” he said.

However, the challenges were many for the group. It was impossible to get all students to take online courses at the same time. The solution was therefore to record the videos of the sign language classes and post them on their website: “There was hope that students could watch these video lessons and learn them at any time,” Sneha said. The team started by filming the Fifth Standard curriculum and is now working on videos for the other classes, including SSLC, Sneha added.

The lessons, which are explained in sign and audible (Tamil) language by trained teachers, are recorded and supplemented with videos and images related to the subject. They are then uploaded to the website with English subtitles. A team of seven teachers, including two with disabilities, are behind and in front of the screens to produce the videos.