Launching of "ABC of Buddhism" in Sign Language

The Buddhist Channel, Nov 8, 2009

Reaching out to the Hearing Impaired community

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The Dharma for the Deaf Society is pleased to launch the first ever Dhamma VCD for the hearing impaired community with the support of the Buddhist Maha Vihara Brickfields.

Launched by Ven K Sri Dhammaratana Nayaka Maha Thera during the Society’s 10th Anniversary Dinner, the VCD contains a brief introduction of the ABC alphabets, common Buddhist terms, question and answers on Buddhism, the Vihara and a simple Buddhist Chanting – ALL in SIGN LANGUAGE supported with a voice over.

The Society conducts classes on Buddhism and moral education every fortnight at the Vihara in sign language, and is the only known Dhamma class for the Deaf in Malaysia. There is an estimated 100,000 people who are Deaf in Malaysia of which about 20,000 are Buddhists.

Although handicapped by their hearing, the Society members conduct their activities and meetings independently using sign language. They conduct two Charity programs yearly in conjunction with the Chinese New Year and Deepavalli, giving cash and donations in kind to hardcore poor people. They raise funds for these charity events through collection of donations among themselves and also through sale of recycled items.

Among the future projects of the Society include starting a Dhamma class for Deaf children, producing more VCDs on Buddhism in sign language and training normal children of Deaf parents to become sign language interpreters. In 2001, the Society with the support of the Buddhist Maha Vihara successfully lobbied the Ministry of Telecommunications and Multimedia to encourage telecommunication companies to exempt the Deaf community from mobile phone access fees, as they only benefit from text messaging given their impairment.

In the future, they plan to pursue lobbying for a discount for the Deaf community on the usage of the MMS service which truly benefits the deaf as this allows for the first time, live sign language communication between Deaf people over the phone in Malaysia. Normal people who do not have hearing impairment have been enjoying voice communications on their fixed line and mobile phones for decades. Technology has truly helped to bridge the communication network among the Deaf.