Hear it from the deaf

2016-09-14 06:00
MARCHERS of the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) hold a banner bearing their message – that Sign Language must be recognised as the 12th official language in South Africa. Photos: Teboho Setena

MARCHERS of the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) hold a banner bearing their message – that Sign Language must be recognised as the 12th official language in South Africa. Photos: Teboho Setena

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RECOGNITION of Sign Language as South Africa’s 12th official language will break the communication barrier to ensure that deaf people are included in the main stream.

Matu Jafta-Mohale, manager: services to people with disabilities in the Free State Social Development Department, said the lack of understanding and knowledge of Sign Language have created a communication barrier for deaf people.

She said this in support of the Deaf Federation South Africa’s (DeafSA) advocacy of Sign Language being recognised as the 12th official language in South Africa and that this be included in the Constitution.

DeafSA presented a memorandum containing their needs and requests to the Free State government.

“Deaf people cannot get educated without Sign Language. They cannot get job opportunities because of the language barrier. Many people who do not understand and know Sign Language, discriminate against deaf people.

“The department has joined hands with DeafSA to advocate the recognition of Sign Language. Everybody should understand and know Sign Language.

“For deaf people to interact with others in society, to be independent, to participate actively in society and in their homes, Sign Language must be recognised as the 12th official language,” said Jafta-Mohale.

She said deaf people also experience problems because of lack of knowledge and understanding in their own families.

“Therefore, it is critical that deaf people as citizens of this country should get recognition by making it the 12th official language,” she said.

According to Jafta-Mohale, South Africa has made strides in campaigning the cause for recognition of Sign Language.

This included South Africa signing the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which was ratified in 2007, and by developing a White Paper on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“The White Paper affirming the rights of people with disabilities in South Africa, was signed by the cabinet on 9 December 2015.

“By advocating for Sign Language as the official 12th language in South African we want to make sure everybody is conversant with it,” said Jafta-Mohale.

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