Office for Students with DisabilitiesWaseda University

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Nepali student learning Japanese sign language seeks equality

Gyan Bahadur Bhitakoti, a Nepali student with hearing impairment, visited the Disabled Student Services Office on May 13, 2016. Currently, Bhitakoti is studying Japanese sign language under the Duskin Leadership Training in Japan. This is a 10-month program which supports future leaders, mainly from Asian countries, in the area of social services for people with disabilities. Waseda students enjoyed his visit and engaged in a conversation about educational and social issues within Japan and Nepal for people with hearing impairment, as well as fun topics like hobbies. They were also surprised by how much of Japanese sign language Bhitakoti has mastered over the course of 3 months.

nepal_communication

Bhitakoti in the center with Waseda students and staff

Bhitakoti is from Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal, and goes to school for students with hearing impairment. An organization in England funds this school and fully covers tuition for the approximately 50 students enrolled, encouraging them to attend without financial burdens on their families. In addition, the Japan Federation for the Deaf donated a school bus for students living in distant, mountainous areas.

Despite such efforts by international organizations, Bhitakoti feels the need for more support from the Nepali government. For example, in the devastating earthquake which struck Nepal last year, 15 hearing impaired people were injured and 150 of them lost their homes. However, the Nepali government was unable to provide substantial assistance. In the future, Bhitakoti hopes to address these issues along with concerns such as discrimination against people with disabilities.

The Disabled Student Services Office appreciates Bhitakoti’s visit, whose unique background and empowering character were truly inspiring. Bhitakoti sent us the video message below after his visit to Waseda.

Translation of the video

Hello! My name is Gyan Bahadur Bhitakoti. My sign name is “G-y-a-n.” Nice to meet you.
I’m from Nepal. In sign language, Nepal is “N-e-p-a-l.” I learned a few things during my visit to Waseda University.

First of all, the situation in Nepal differs compared to Waseda. At Waseda University, students with hearing impairment and students with normal hearing mingled together. This was very interesting because in my university in Nepal, students with hearing impairment only interact with each other. Sign language clubs like the ones in Japan do not exist, so communicating with students with normal hearing is very hard. However, there are sign language clubs in Japan, and I thought it was great that students with hearing impairment could interact with students with normal hearing.

The second thing that amazed me was the technological assistance (known as PC captioning at Waseda). I felt people with hearing impairment were well supported in Japan. I was blown away when I saw text equivalent to what the professor was lecturing in class displayed on a screen. This way, deaf students can understand the flow of the lecture at ease without having to worry sign language translators being around in the classroom. Students with hearing impairment in Nepal do not have support to this extent because computers are not available. Instructors write notes on the blackboard as they speak, but this is challenging to comprehend without context for students with hearing impairment. We usually end up asking students sitting next to us if we could look at their notebooks.

Finally, the third point. I now know what I want to do after returning to Nepal. I learned so much during my stay in Japan, and taking this knowledge, I have decided to accomplish one thing. I want to fight against discrimination towards disabled people and find a way for everyone to be treated equally.

To the Waseda University students, I wish you all the best of luck.

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