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Approval of sign language lauded

By Libuseng Nyaka

QWAQWA – The Free State leader of persons living with disability, Teboho Monkwe, has hailed the approval of an amendment of Section 6 of the Constitution to include South African Sign Language (SASL) as an official language.

The amendment by the national assembly, which is aimed at promoting the rights of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing, has been described as a victory for them.
The amendment primarily seeks to advance the cultural acceptance of SASL, the deaf culture; ensure the realization of the rights of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing to equal protection and benefits of the law and human dignity; promote inclusive and substantive equality; and prevent or eliminate unfair discrimination on the grounds of disability, as guaranteed by Section 9 of the Constitution.

The amendment was adopted without opposition in the National Assembly on May 2 ,2023.
The adoption of this constitutional amendment on May 2 will bring to 12 the number of official languages in South Africa once the President signs the Bill into law, Parliament said in a statement last week.

“I was over moon with the news that sign language is finally going to be an official language. DPSA has been at the forefront alongside other disabled organisations like DEAFSA in calling for this historic moment. This is indeed a great victory and hopefully more socioeconomic opportunities will come the way of the deaf community as we all know that poverty is more pronounced within the disabled persons.”

Monkwe, who is blind and works at the Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli regional hospital’s switchboard, said this in an interview with this publication.
Looking back on the journey travelled towards this historic moment, Monkwe said one of his visits to the department of health nearly dampened his spirit when he discovered that the department had a deaf employee but no interpreter.

“Fortunately, my visit led to the establishment of a reasonable accommodation committee whose mandate will be to provide employed disabled workers with assistive devices and sign languages interpreters and personal assistants for blind employees like myself.”
Monkwe expressed appreciation at the progress that has been made in the advocacy for blind and deaf employees.

“I am pleased with the work we have done with the department of health and I believe soon all employees with hearing loss will be afforded interpreters .We have also proposed a reasonable accommodation committee advisory panel to ensure that all departments follow the example set by the department of health.”

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development on the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill received 58 written submissions from individuals and organisations as public comments. A majority of the submissions were in support of the Bill.