As this is the first blog of 2010, I’d like to wish you all a happy new year!
I returned last week from my holiday to Goa to the sub zero temperatures and snow in the UK. Quite a shock to the system. However more shocking than that was my experience with Sign Language in India.
I was not expecting to see many people signing, as a huge portion of the population are illiterate and do not attend school, especially not children with disabilities.
However, I first encountered sign language on the plane from Heathrow to Mumbai. My friend and I flew with Air India, who conducted the safety briefing in the normal fashion, and then played a signed film, subtitled in both English and Hindi explaining the safety procedures.
I can’t be sure which Sign Language they were using, I can only assume Indian Sign Language, as it looked similar to neither ASL or BSL.
I was really impressed with seeing so many people catered for on the plane, and I asked a flight attendant if there was someone on board who could sign. She replied that there was someone there who could sign BSL and ISL, but they don’t always have people on board, just specific flights.
I asked if they advertised this as a service to their customers, but she didn’t know. I think this is exactly the kind of information that should be advertised by airlines, if they run for example one or two flights a week with attendants who can sign, it would be great for the Deaf community to have this information.
I can only imagine what flying would be like if you were faced with the fact that you may not be able to communicate with the staff on board.
I was also pleased to see that at Mumbai airport, there were signs on the walls that showed they had a hearing loop and a sign interpreter available at the Airport Information desk.
I have to say that I didn’t see anyone actually using sign language when I was away, but it was great to see that it was advertised.
I had a fantastic time in Goa over Christmas and New Year and I hope you all had a great festive season too.