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Deaf community claim their space through silent walk

Since the proclamation of the sign language bill in July 2023 to make sign language the 12th official language in South Africa, there has been numerous platforms to raise awareness.

The deaf community have been marginalized and found it difficult for them to get equal treatment and privacy as stipulated in the constitution.

The deaf community used the 28th of September which is the deaf month to raise awareness in the province by marching silently from the SABC park in Polokwane to the Peter Mokaba stadium demanding that they be equally treated.

The march was joined by senior government officials, deaf representative members across the province and civil societies.

Amongst their demands was that the language must be improved by allowing more able people to learn and communicate using sign language, be included in sports participation especially that there is improved technology, and that government, municipalities and other government entities employ two sign language practitioners.

Speaking on behalf of the Premier, Councilor Makgato Mashaba said since September 1951 when the first World Congress of World Federation of Deaf took place, there has been slow implementation in recognizing and protecting the rights of deaf people but making it official language is a huge development by breaking the barrier of equality.

Mr Kwena Mamabolo who is also deaf says one of the greatest challenges is the right of privacy when seeking medical assistance.

“Whenever we have to consult in both private and public facilities, we encounter challenges from reception to consultation with the health profession because of language barrier. We always must get someone to translate and, in the process, we lose our right to privacy”.

Being accommodated in public transport and joining in conversation that affects them remains a challenge as most people are not equipped with sign language. The provincial government committed itself with employing qualified and trained interpreters by making extensive background check and not employ those that will take chances which will affect accurate dissemination of information to intended stakeholders.

There are currently different deaf structures in place that reports to DEAFSA nationally about activities and progress made in each sector. This allows the engagements and recognition by all stakeholders that the adoption of the sign language bill is not just a symbolic gesture but recognition of the death communities abilities to take South Africa forward in improving the language and promoting their rights.

By: Emmaculate Cindi

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