Born without the ability to hear, 36-year old Shinya Kawabata is the first person in Japan to complete his master’s degree thesis in sign language instead of English or Japanese. As the Japanese language and Japanese sign language differ greatly in terms of vocabulary and grammar, many deaf-mute people face challenges when writing in Japanese.

Kawabata, though literate in Japanese, felt like he did not possess the proficiency necessary to complete his thesis in Japanese and, with the help of his linguistic professor Prof. Saito, decided to instead write it in means of sign language. The two believe that deaf-mute people are greatly disadvantaged when it comes to traditional examination and papers, since they might be extremely proficient in sign language, but not as good at expressing themselves in written Japanese.

Prof. Saito was who came up with the idea earlier this year. His proposal led college authorities to change the rules and agree to accept a thesis in sign-language. Kawabata recorded his entire sign-language thesis as a video with a duration of two hours and finished it in the middle of September this year. It will also be accompanied by a Japanese translation, completed with the help of a sign language interpreter.

Identifying himself as a gay person, Kawabata decided to focus his master’s thesis on the problems of gay people in the deaf community and titled it “Support for the deaf LGBT by means of sign language”. He and his professor aim to put the sign language theses on the same level as written ones, while raising awareness of LGBT and deaf people at the same time.

Source: The Japan News


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