First National Seminar on Billingualism in Deaf Education: Deaf Reach hosted the first ever National Seminar on Bilingualism in Deaf Education in March of 2001. This seminar is an historic one in that for the first time a seminar was conducted on Indian Sign Language(ISL) and its role in deaf education. This seminar was sponsored by the Rehabilitation Council Of India (R.C.I.). For a long time Sign Language was suppressed in India thus denying the Deaf in India access to education in their native tongue. This seminar paved the way for official recognition of ISL. The seminar was conducted by eminent Deaf Educator Dr. Madan Vashishta, former Superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf and currently teaching at Gallaudet University, Washington D.C. and Dr. Ulrike Zeshan, a linguist from Germany who has done pioneer research on ISL. Several othe academics presented papers. Around 120 people participated including principals of Teacher Training Centre, teacher, professionals, p arents and deaf people. The two day seminar was inaugurated by Mrs. Mani Kumari Minister for Disabled Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh on 24th March.
The Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. C. Rangarajan and the First Lady Mrs. Rangarajan hosted a tea at the Governor's Residence for all the participants as well as 100 deaf children form various schools. We took this opportunity to give awards to all those individuals who worked hard to research, promote and disseminate Indian Sign Language, the first time such awards were given in recognition of those working on Sign Language. These awards, named the DEAF REACH awards, were given to 10 individuals from India and abroad. The Governor sweetly consented to sign these plaques, another first! (Just to mention the Governor doesn't sign awards or certificates, except those of two Universities of which he is the Chancellor!) We also gave scrolls of honor to our friends who have supported us in our work these many years. Several National TV channels broadcasted the event in their news bulletins an all the newspapers national and regional covered this event.
India's first National Orientation Course for Sign Language Interpreters: FCF Project Manager, J.S.K.Rao, was asked by the Rehabilitation Council of India to conduct India's first National Orientation Course for Sign Language Interpreters. The 12-day workshop was held in Chennai (Madras). The goal of the workshop was to train teachers, social workers and others working with the Deaf in India in Sign Language Interpreting. This is the first in a series of three workshops to train potential interpreters. This workshop is a historic event in that Sign Language is being finally recognized by the Indian Government and a long standing demand for making communication accessible to the Deaf in India will finally become a reality.
International Week of the Deaf Celebrations: Deaf Reach organized the 44th International Week of the Deaf Celebrations starting from September 30th, which is the International Day of the Deaf. This year our theme was “Deaf Indian in the 21st Century”. The week-long celebrations was inaugurated on September 30th by the Governor of the State of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. C. Rangarajan and the First Lady of the State, Dr. Mrs. Haripriya Rangarajan. The Governor commended our efforts which he termed truly innovative and pioneer efforts in the field of Deaf education in India. Later The First Lady inaugurated the website of the Indian Sign Language Online Dictionary. This website was designed and created by deaf staff and students of Deaf Reach. Our dance troupe of 25 deaf boys and girls performed to the song” Diye Jalte Hain” from the CD “Flame”. Later this troupe traveled to four cities and performed everywhere to rave reviews. The Governor later gave away the Deaf Indian 2001 awards to 7 Deaf Achievers.
Exhibition: Deaf Reach organized an exhibition on deaf history and famous deaf achievers.
Seminar: We had a one day seminar on the theme “Deaf Indian in the 21st Century--Challenges Ahead”. Various people spoke on education, Information Technology, Health education and employment. Almost the entire deaf community of the city turned up for this. Resolutions were made and these were forwarded to the Government both State and Central.
Quiz Contest: Deaf Reach organized the first ever quiz contest for deaf children and youth in our state. We gave away encyclopedias as prizes and the hall was packed with 400 deaf children and youth. This event has motivated deaf children and youth to attend our weekly general knowledge classes every Sunday.
Simultaneously we had a quiz for parents and teachers of the deaf and formed a Parents Association. Many parents volunteered their time and services for our future programs. This event was a milestone as for years we've been trying to have a Parent's Association setup. Future programs were chalked out and now we have decided to meet on the second Saturday of every month. This event also brought about greater networking with other organizations, the Government, schools for the deaf and Deaf Reach.
Deaf Reach expands into more cities: We had a three-day event beginning in the city of Warangal, and in the city of Guntur, and culminating in the city of Vijayawada. We conducted another Deaf Week event in the city of Nashik in the state of Maharashtra.The Government officials in all these cities including the Mayors attended our programs and have promised to help us setup offices and adult education and computer centres in these cities. The ladies wing of the Rotary Club in Nashik has agreed to donate four computers and the Mayor has offered us land. The event was covered by ten newspapers National and regional and five TV stations in five cities.
Relationships and Health Workshop: We were asked by “ Voice to the Deaf Foundation” in Chennai to conduct a four day Relationships and Health Workshop for their staff and members. The Relationships and Health Workshop is an interactive four-day workshop aimed at educating Deaf Indian about sexuality and health leading up to HIV/AIDS awareness. This is currently the only program available to educate the Deaf on HIV/AIDS. This four day workshop was attended by 13 deaf participants from Chennai and Coimbatore. We have also been approached by the Lions Club in Chennai to conduct these workshops in deaf schools in Chennai.