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SC issues notice on plea seeking sign language interpreters in official press briefings

Supreme Court of India New Delhi
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The Supreme Court has issued a notice in a plea by a disability rights activist seeking directions to the government to provide sign language interpreters in all official press briefings conducted by the government.

A bench of Justices Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath asked the governments to file their responses on the PIL. PIL filed seeking directions to have a Sign language interpreter in all the official press briefings conducted by the government, under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

The PIL, filed by disability rights activist and advocate M Karpagam, is herself a blind woman advocate practicing at the High Court of Madras, stated that all the press briefings held in India are neither inclusive nor accessible. It argued that irrespective of the fact that these press briefings serve to be an important way to create awareness and education for the general public about various developments in the country.

The plea stated, “Access to sign language is the fundamental human right of people who are deaf or hard of hearing and is also the key to breaking down communication barriers and participating in society just like anyone else.”

Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister, Health Minister, and the Health Secretary had a daily presence on the television, said the plea, adding that all these news briefings did not provide sign language interpreters even during the peak of the pandemic where information was essential.

Karpagam said she interacted with many people with hearing disabilities, and they have expressed difficulty understanding the news briefings conducted by the Centre and various state governments.

In such situations, the absence of sign language interpreters impedes the access of people with hearing disabilities to a government program or benefit, thereby rendering them treated in an “inequitable” manner and establishing their lack of meaningful access to such programs and benefits, said the petition.

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