The Groundbreaking Activity of NLF Partner Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf
The work of NLF Partner Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf is truly a source of inspiration. From the inception of the partnership what struck the NLF Team was the unique lens with which SLCFD approached the Official Languages Policy. Partnering NLF to promote Language Rights and the learning of the Official Languages was viewed as the perfect opportunity to help society view deafness as an identity and not an obstacle. And viewed in this light promoting the Official Language Policy was seen as a solution to the problems of the deaf community in Sri Lanka.
SLCFD identified the importance of creating a Sign Language suitable for use in the Official Languages Sinhala and Tamil, as well as the link language English. Compiling a glossary of words to make accessible a Sign Language Dictionary in both printed and electronic format is well on the way. SLCDF is also working to promote the use of Official Languages by the Deaf Community through Sign Languages. One such activity is the production of Videos translating Grade 1 and 2 Sinhala Textbooks into Sign Language. Tamil Translations are included for all the videos. SLCFD has also been actively building awareness by conducting workshops in Sign Language about the Official Language Policy amongst the Deaf Community. Yet another critical feature has been the efforts to sensitize government agencies on the language rights of the deaf. A workshop conducted recently to make public officials aware of the problems faced by the deaf community in the use of official languages resulted in the said officials requesting to be trained in the capacity to communicate in Sign Language. And the Sign Language Assistance Unit incorporated by SLCFD has supported over 500 deaf persons to overcome or resolve their language related challenges and issues.
In working with SLCFD we are reminded of the critical role language plays in the achievement of one of our most basic rights – the right to express ourselves. Their unique approach to the Official Languages Policy has also reminded us how fundamental the right to language is. Every Language, including Sign Language.