PSL: Giving Voice To The Deaf People In Pakistan

Be it anywhere in the world, deaf people have always struggled to find ways to communicate with others for survival. The lack of awareness, educational resources and the opportunities to learn sign language has caused their lives to be at a standstill. Every country has its own sign language just like every country has a different spoken language. It may be surprising to many, that a lot of countries still do not have sign language developed for their deaf community.

Communication: A Survival Struggle For The Deaf

Pakistan, like many other developing countries, has little resources to develop their sign language. In these countries, a major problem arises even after there is some development. This is because the deaf community is mostly from poor backgrounds and has little or completely no access to education, awareness programs or sign language classes for the deaf. This causes an extreme delay in development of spoken language among deaf people. If people are born deaf and haven’t been given the opportunity to learn sign language they begin to isolate from social interactions. Without a way to communicate with the hearing people, these deaf people struggle to succeed and move forward in life. Be it their families, friends or employers, the deaf have no one who truly understand their needs and wants. Communication has therefore become their struggle to survive in this world.

Pakistan Sign Language (PSL):

Family Education Services Foundation (FESF) has developed digital Pakistan Sign Language resources with the help of its sponsor, ILM Ideas. These resources are expected to bridge the current gap in educational materials for the Deaf. They have a 5,000 word visual lexicon in PSL, Urdu and English. PSL is available on DVD, as a Phone App and on a searchable Web portal. Since Pakistan has four regional languages that need to be translated to from PSL there is a book, 1000 Basic Signs that fulfills exactly this need.

Parents, families, employers and those working in Deaf education have been greatly affected by the availability of these open access PSL resources around the country. Deaf Reach Schools, a project of FESF have adopted these educational resources in their daily teaching methodology and make great use of it in their curriculum. This step towards gaining literacy skills for the deaf has increased their opportunities for education and employment. Pakistan Sign Language has also enabled the deaf to be more socially inclusive now which has minimized feelings of isolation, frustration and loneliness in them.

FESF worked alongside the education and social welfare ministries to develop policies for spreading the resources throughout Pakistan.