To ensure inclusion and equality, the theme of this year’s International Day of People with disabilities, the Wangsel institute for the Deaf in Paro is trying to bring all the deaf people in the country through a common sign language.
To break down the communication barriers, the institute is conducting researches on Bhutanese sign language (BSL) and classes for people without hearing difficulties with an objective to lead in improving the literacy skills of the Deaf and to create more opportunities and reduce discrimination in communities.
Dechen Tshering, the principal of Wangsel Institute said that to ensure inclusion and quality, they need to break down the communication barriers since it is the biggest obstacle. “More people should learn the sign language to break the barrier,” he said. The Principal said that Breaking down the communication barrier the institute is trying to work for one common BSL. “This can bring all together under one BSL,” he said. “In other country, there are different sign languages but we want to have only one BSL.” He also added that they have been conducting BSL classes for the students of various schools such as Royal Academy and Drukgyel Central School, students’ family and gewog staffs of Tsento in Paro.
Sonam Choki, a 21-yearold student of Wangsel said communication is the biggest challenge in her life while interacting with other people. “I feel neglected sometimes and dominated by other people because they make us work for them and ignore us.” Sonam is planning to work as a tailor to help her parents.
17 years old Tshering Dorji from Samdrup Jongkhar lost his hearing due to his illness at age 3 and couldn’t talk after that. “I faced a lot of difficulties in understanding the sign language when I first came to Wangsel institute in 2009 as the sign language is different in school than in village,” he said. Dechen Pem from Zhemgang said, “due to the communication barriers, she feel isolated and harassed as people used to tease her”. “I think in future I can help my parents as I have learned lots of different co-curricular activities and gained lots of knowledge,” said Dechen.
Dechen, a teacher of Wangsel Institute said that they cannot understand the sign language of students when they first join the school because sign language is interpreted different in villages and school. “We cannot understand what they are talking about and sometimes students really get frustrated,” she said. “We cannot convey them what is right and wrong through sign language during their first learning but slowly they understand our sign language and learn good practices and improve their character,” added Dechen. “Sometimes they get into drugs and when we ask them not to do, they said they are not given equal freedom as other and we face lots of difficulty in making them understand to ignore bad habit. The principal said they are hoping to get at least 4 to 5 trained interpreters.
Wangsel Institute was established in 2003 with 2 teachers and 3 students with the vision to produce holistically educated Deaf students.
By Phurpa Wangmo