Purpose: The predominant mode of human communication is speech, and whenever it is hindered, humans resort to the tactile-kinaesthetic mode. Use of sign language by persons with speech-hearing impairments is a classic example of such adaptation. The Demonstration School at the Regional Institute of Education in Mysuru, South India, undertook training of typically-developing students in Indian Sign Language (ISL), so as to facilitate communication and instruction of students with hearing impairment who are in mainstream learning environments.
Method: Training in ISL was imparted to140 typically-developing students in higher primary classes. Twenty-four 40-minute sessions were conducted over a month. After theoretical orientation in logical bases of manual communication, practical training commenced with elementary manual alphabets, progressed through essential daily-life vocabulary necessary to construct simple sentences and carry out general conversations, and culminated in signing the Indian National Anthem.
Results: Typically-developing students gained primary benefits such as improved awareness about non-verbal communication modes, mastery of basic skills in ISL, and positive attitudes towards sign languages.
Conclusion: The UNCRPD 2006 authorises sign language as the linguistic identity of the Deaf, and encourages the use of sign language in learning environments. Future research should add to the findings on secondary benefits in the form of scholastic and sociometric advantages derived by students with hearing impairments who receive instructions in sign language in mainstream learning environments.