RC Deaf Missions Malaysia (RCDMM) has published a book, Sign-i-ficance, to enhance communication in Malaysian sign language (BIM).
The 136-page book contains BIM vocabulary used in education, legal, medical and environmental settings.
“The book contains simple sentence construction exercises, BIM parameters and visual gestural communication. English is used as the spoken language example (along with some examples in Bahasa Malaysia) and BIM,” said RCDMM director Agnes Peter in an email interview.
RCDMM was established by Agnes and her brother Mario in 2006. Over the years, the non-governmental organisation has explored various channels to empower the deaf, by arranging skill enhancement programmes for them and making sure they are heard through community awareness projects.
Sign-i-ficance, a title coined by RCDMM, stresses the importance of sign language for and within the deaf community.
The hyphenated “i” in Sign-i-ficance symbolises the ‘People of the Eye’. This term was coined by George Veditz, former president of the United States’ National Association of the Deaf, who described deaf people as ‘first, last and for all time, the people of the eye’.
In 2011, RCDMM published their first book, Let’s Sign, which contains 300 fundamental sign words for basic communication. Sign-i-ficance is their second book, has upgraded information in BIM communication.
Peters says sign language studies are ongoing, and deaf signers continue to create, update and adapt certain vocabulary over time.
“What we offer is based on our experiences and observations of how several deaf signers communicate.”
Their latest book also contains chapters on deafhood, deaf identity struggles, deaf advocacy and empowerment. The are stories written by members of the deaf community too.
Chapters like The Deaf Child’s Language Dilemma, Experiences Of A Deaf Mother, Discovering My Deaf Identity, Malaysian Deaf Community and Deaf Identity in Malaysia provide insights on issues such as language dilemma for deaf children and label confusion.
“It presents perspectives and experiences on deafhood, the identity struggles of the community, their language dilemma as well as identity crisis the deaf community sometimes experience. It is also about deaf advocacy and empowerment,” she says.
Agnes hopes the book will be a value-added contribution to literature on deaf related issues in the country.
“I believe people want more than just another book on BIM sign words. Many deaf individuals have shared their stories of discrimination and alienation, the language and communication barrier, their desire to be recognised as people first as well as their abilities. But, few of these stories have been documented. There is still much more to be done to raise awareness to our society about the deaf and their challenges. This book speaks of courage.”

Sign-i-ficance stress the importance of sign language for and within the deaf