September is Deaf Awareness Month in South Africa.
According to the Buffalo Deaf Association (BDA), the deaf community continues to face social barriers on a daily basis and these have been highlighted, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the challenges include a lack of communication, access to information, services and job opportunities.
BDA founder Nomvuzo Luwaca, says interpreting COVID-19 messaging has proven to be an uphill battle for deaf people.
“Deaf people have a lot of challenges that some people are not aware of. Communication is the problem, including education and unemployment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was even more difficult for deaf people to communicate. Because deaf people look at you and can at least try and read your lips, so if you are wearing a mask it’s more complicated for them to see what you are saying”, says Lucawa.
Calls for sign language to be recognised as official language
The South African deaf community has called on government to officially recognise sign language as the 12th official language in the country.
The call was made at the launch of the South African Sign Language Charter in Pretoria earlier this month.
The charter addresses issues that relate to access to information and social justice for the deaf community, as outlined in the video below:
Deaf community in Europe demands transparent masks for lip reading
The deaf community in Belgium in Europe called for transparent masks to allow them to communicate with others.
Belgium, like many other countries across the world, obliged people to wear face masks in public in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
However, those with hearing impediments who rely on lip-reading to complement sign language struggle with very basic communication.
According to the World Health Organisation, 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – has disabling hearing loss.
-Additional reporting by Reuters