|09-15-2008, 11:17 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Plea for sign language to be recognised
News - South Africa: Plea for sign language to be recognised
Deaf people want sign language recognised as South Africa's 12th official language.
They handed a memorandum to this effect to the premier's office during a march in Durban's CBD last week. It aimed to highlight concerns of the deaf community.
Special adviser to the premier, Lucky Sifiso Gabela, received the memorandum on behalf of the premier. Addressing the crowd, he acknowledged the challenges faced by the deaf.
KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society chief executive officer Jace Nair said Gabela promised the memo would reach the premier and said a meeting would be arranged with a representative of the deaf community by the end of the month.
Apart from the recognition issue, the memorandum proposes the improvement of sign language and interpreter services and proposes that deaf children are taught by sign language at schools.
It also calls for access for the deaf to health, welfare, education, housing and other services provided by municipal and provincial government departments.
The International Week of Deaf Persons was held from September 1 to 7.
This year's theme was "Human rights through sign language".
The initiative originated from a 2005 conference in Durban to discuss the needs of the deaf.
"A number of resolutions were passed at this conference, one of which was getting sign language recognised as an official language," said Nair.
"Sign language is recognised only as a cultural language, which means that no resources are made available and, as deaf children are not taught in sign language in schools, they get a lower quality of education," Nair added.
The KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society helped lobby the Pan South African Language Board and others to support the plan.
"We corresponded with them and met a lot of people from the departments of health and education. They all acknowledged the issue was important, but nothing was being done," said Nair.
"In July we decided we needed to pursue the matter more vigorously," he said.
Nair said he had already seen positive results for the 200 000 deaf people in KwaZulu-Natal and many more across the country. The national campaign had been spearheaded in the province, he added.
"There has already been a request from the constitutional review committee of the language board to compile a report on the implications for government, fiscally and otherwise, of recognising sign language as an official language," he said.
Nair said there were plans for a government conference to draw up a road map to fulfil the initiative. "We are confident there will be good news on the matter in the near future."
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller