Learning to sign

2015-05-05 06:00

About 20 members of the Athlone police station attended a sign language workshop last week to help them understand and communicate with the deaf community.

The interactive session was presented by Winston Walker, a sign language instructor from the Al-Waagah Islamic Institute for the Deaf.

During the two-hour session, which was attended by policing staff, Walker among other, taught them the alphabet in sign language.

He also acted out a scene with a volunteer where a victim or witness tries to explain and describe to the police a (criminal) incident or suspect.

According to constable Zita Norman, Athlone police spokesperson, the police have in the past had minor problems communicating and assisting the deaf community.

She says the main aim of learning sign language is to provide a much-needed service to the hearing impaired, who in turn could help the police identify suspects and report criminal activities and incidents.

“We’ve always turned to the police head office for assistance, but if we all can learn at least the basics to help and understand and communicate with the deaf, we can improve service delivery to the community,” says Norman.

She says the deaf are sometimes witness to crimes, but they can’t phone the police. “Sometimes people are also under the misconception that a deaf person is drunk, because they cant communicate clearly and cannot read lips,” says Norman.

Although everyone seemingly enjoyed the session, some found it very difficult to form the words correctly with their hands, to the amusement of others.

Mushfieka Vannoie, a jobshadow and volunteer at the Athlone police station, says learning sign language is a great idea. “One feels really guilty when you cannot understand a person with a hearing disability. This (workshop) will help a great deal to help us assist the deaf,” says Vannoie.

Norman says the Lincoln Estate Neighbourhood Watch is also starting an awareness campaign to assist the deaf community.

“This (sign language workshop) is definitely a first of many for us and we would like to eventually roll it out and involve other police stations,” says Norman

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