Sparrow, biodiversity or climate change, to name a few, are words and concepts that are collected in oral and written language and those who use one or the other are ideally at hand. But, who expresses and communicates through sign language, and how do they say these words?
There was a problem. Because sign languages often lack specific signs to name a lot of birds, Three Kingdoms species, many commonly used scientific terms, etc. Their language now contains 310 signs to name as many animals, plants, minerals and other concepts of nature, science, research and museums as possible.
Two projects have been responsible for this progress: one from the conservation organization specializing in birds, SEO/BirdLife, and one from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN). Both have a common goal: to facilitate the participation of deaf people in their visits to nature or museums, as well as their access to scientific knowledge and culture without barriers and under equal conditions.
Signs for five languages
An initiative of five ornithological organizations from France, Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain, which worked with deaf associations in their countries to create the names of 60 birds in sign language. It’s a Banoffee project, which SEO/BirdLife from Spain co-sponsored. Cristina Sanchez, the NGO delegate in Catalonia and the project coordinator in Spain, narrates the origin of the project: “We spoke with people from both associations and we learned that deaf people do not have a mark for every bird, which makes it difficult. In order for them to enjoy nature, when they go to the field next, they cannot tell with a sign what they have seen, be it birds, plants, or other things. To name them they have to spell the whole word. But this was just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ Indeed, it is a sign of a wider difficulty of access. For, as they see and walk, they are the greatest forgotten in this aspect. It is a handicap that goes unnoticed.
The result of the work of all these teams, collected in the European Erasmus project, was “60 signs of the largest number of birds that we have selected among the most common and which, in addition, were common to the five countries participating in the project, all from the Mediterranean “”.
In addition to signage, the project includes creating a guide to improve accessibility to information centers and nature reserves, “so that they have tools and forms that facilitate information assistance for deaf people.” In addition to developing a guide to nature guides and interpreters “so that nature tourism professionals are better
They have been trained and can better meet the needs of these people when they are involved in roads etc.”
However, the work was not finished: «There is a continuation related to seabirds and other life forms in the sea. And a second project with the creation of banners for plants.
For its part, MNCN handled the creation of 250 signs to be added to the Dictionary of Spanish Sign Language (DILSE), with the Custom Science Project, implemented in cooperation with the CNSE Foundation of the State Deaf Federation.
This initiative is a result of the work done by the Museum in the field of accessibility. Marta Fernandez, curator for this area of the museum, comments, “We regularly work with the Foundation to develop materials, such as multimedia guides about our exhibitions, that facilitate visits for deaf people. We are discovering the need to create references related to the natural sciences and also to facilitate the work of interpreters and educators who carry out activities with School children in the museum.
In order to compile 250 terms, the number of terms we will “decide that there should be 250 terms because it coincides with the anniversary of the museum’s creation. Later, we asked the staff who work here to contribute words related to the disciplines and pieces in the museum, with research , education, etc. In addition to terms such as climate, ecosystem, biodiversity or carbon cycle, which are currently very important and necessary for a better scientific culture.”
Thus, among the new words, there are the names of birds, mammals, rocks, minerals, etc., which now have their own new sign to express them. With all of them a dictionary was created, both in print and in digital. In addition to signs, definitions and meanings of scientific words and terms have also been developed.
With both projects, to which Banofffee and Ciencia are appointed, we hope that the wish expressed by Roberto Suárez, President of CNSE, “We don’t just want to visit nature and museums. We also want to enjoy and understand it, will be fulfilled.”
Sparrow, kestrel, pyrite, biodiversity or climate change already have their own signs
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