This September marks 62 years of the celebration of the International Month for the Deaf, as declared by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). As part of commemorating this historic milestone, The Pan South African Sign Language (PanSALB) Board has launched the South African Sign Language Charter (SASL Charter).
The Charter aims to remove barriers to enable deaf people to equal opportunities for information and services. It was conceptualized to address issues that relate to communication, access to information, facilities, and social justice for the deaf community, including the type of service provided by SASL interpreters in general.
The charter has considered the following aspects for instance:
Recognition of South African Sign Language as the 12th official language, deaf awareness activities for the South African public, promotion of deaf culture, access to all services and facilities by deaf people, the inclusion of South African Sign Language into the curriculum of all educational level and professionalization of South African Sign Language.
Close captioning, sub-titles and South African Sign Language go hand in hand and the same applies to lip reading, relay interpretation and non-academic hand signs that are most prevalent in the township and rural areas.
“These services are necessary to teach young deaf children and to promote literacy of South African Sign Language to the deaf community in South Africa. My department is currently negotiating with the SABC to ensure that South African Sign Language is provided for on television,” said Deputy Minister in the Presidency Department of Women Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize.
She attended the launch in Pretoria and announced that parliament was considering amending Section 30 of the Constitution and the National Official Languages.
“I want to emphasize that South African Sign Language is a right and not a privilege, and is a language of the first line of commutation for deaf people. The strengthening of inter-sectoral collaboration between the government and the deaf community will make South Africa one of the countries that provide for deaf people’s communication mode in their own local language,” said the deputy minister.
The SASL Charter Launch will kickstart various activities that will be undertaken by PanSALB across the country to raise awareness about South African Sign Language and the charter. The charter will also ensure essential service staff such as social workers and police officers will receive advanced level training in South African Sign Language.
PanSALB Board Chairperson, Dr David Maahlamela, said the SASL Charter is premised on the ‘nothing about us without us’ disability movement. “It is a product of years of extensive consultation with the deaf community that has culminated to this call to action for our government and civil society to rally together and pledge their commitment to the principles of multilingualism and social cohesion that underpin the provisions of this charter,” he said.