Sign language is a method of communication using hand, body and lip movements to convey information. It helps the hearing or speech impaired to communicate and show self-expression.
However, how many of us in the general population actually understand sign language, and is the language only specifically for people with different abilities?
There may still be some who believe that sign language is only meant to be learnt by individuals with different abilities of hearing or speech impairment, and this would often result in the individuals feeling alienated or marginalised from social activities because not many can “talk” with them.
In this regard, as part of an effort to open the minds and spirit of the public’s involvement towards the importance of knowing sign language to be closer to this special group, the National Association for the Hearing-Impaired (OKP) in collaboration with Jari-Jari Ku Group is organising basic sign language classes under the Jari-Jari Ku Support OKP 2022 Programme. The classes began in September 2022, and is concluded at the OKP headquarters in Kampong Anggerek Desa.
In conjunction with the celebration of International Sign Language Day, which takes place every September 23, the class is open to the public at a reasonable fee each day for the duration of a week, which is also an annual filler activity for International Deaf Awareness Week.
This was shared by OKP Advisor Dr Hajah Norbayah binti Haji Shahmina, who guided the class.
It is implemented as a vehicle to create awareness and exposure about the basic use of sign language to all levels of society to create the best communication practices with high values of unity with the privileged group.
In an interview with the Borneo Bulletin, Abdul Aziz bin Haji Hamdan, who is a recipient of the Young Youth Leaders Award 2022, shared that his involvement in the sign language class for the first level was a dream come true because he had been entertaining the intention of learning sign language for a long time.
Abdul Aziz added that learning the basics of sign language has been so valuable in his life because it is a learnt skill for coming days so that he can communicate with special individuals without hesitation.
“When first approaching these groups of individuals, I didn’t know how to communicate with them. Maybe some would feel that they are not part of the community because of their limitations in communicating, isolating them from the world, but I don’t want this kind of attitude to exist in our community,” he said.
He believes that if every member of the community knows and can speak sign language, at least those with hearing or speech impairments will have a place to seek help when they are in trouble or when they want to share their happiness, letting them feel that they are a part of the community.
According to Abdul Aziz, the importance of learning sign language is not only limited to certain groups, but preferably for those of all ages, as people from children to veterans need to learn it, at least at the basic level such as knowing how to form letters, numbers and words often used on a daily basis.
This, he said, is so important not only to facilitate interaction, but is also useful if it is used to communicate with individuals suffering from physical disabilities such as a stroke that makes it difficult for them to speak clearly.
“What we also need to know is that when we talk to those who have severe hearing problems, we are forbidden to use sign language with a high tone of voice such as shouting,” highlighted Abdul Aziz.
“In addition, we need to use eye contact with each other along with facial expressions and clear gestures and hands. All this needs to be practiced so that they feel valued and able to understand what is being conveyed.”