Every year on the 23rd of September, the world marks the International Day of Sign Languages. This year in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, the Official Languages Commission (OLC) and the Department of Official Languages (DOL) in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf, the Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) and the Coordinating Centre for Students with Disabilities (CCSD) of the University of Kelaniya, and the Centre for Disability Research, Education, and Practice (CEDREP), University of Colombo, organised a webinar on the 24th of September to mark International Sign Languages Day.
The Webinar, titled ‘Sign Languages: Challenges and Difficulties to Equal Participation and Access’, was conducted by resource persons communicating in sign language, with translations being provided to the audience in the Official Languages of Sinhala and Tamil as well as the link language of English. The modality of the webinar in itself became a demonstration on how some of the challenges and difficulties posed to persons communicating in Sign Language could be bridged with the assistance and availability of resource persons able to translate sign language into Sinhala, Tamil or English. Another important aspect of the programme was the segment devoted to exploring the unique challenges faced by deaf women. By playing a role in facilitating such programmes and dialogues, NLEAP supports the Official Languages Commissions and the Department of Official Languages to further explore the role that each can play in ensuring that the general public is able to avail the services in the required language – be it even sign language.
The Topics of the webinar included;
- Development and Significance of Sign Language in Sri Lanka – Mr. Brayan Kodithuwakku (President- Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf)
- Everyday Problems in Sign Language Communication – Mr. Anil Jayawardena (Secretary- Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf)
- Sign Language communication issues in the university education – Mr. Brayan Kodithuwakku with Mr. Nipun Prabodhana Fernando and Ms. Sandani Nayanjali 3rd-year student from university of Kelaniya
- Sign Language Communication Issues Faced by Deaf Women Ms. Nanda Kumarihami, President- Sri Lanka Central Federation for Deaf Women
- Issues in using Sign Language in Tamil S. Selvakumar, Secretary- Vadamarachchi Deaf Association
- Unfortunately due to technical issues the webinar ended midway. And plans are in motion to organise a follow up discourse in the near future.