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DeafSA. Presentation to the Joint Constitutional Review Committee. Introduction. DeafSA represents about one (1) million Deaf people in South Africa Recognised internationally by inter alia the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Founded in 1929

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Presentation to the

Joint Constitutional Review Committee


  • DeafSA represents about one (1) million Deaf people in South Africa

  • Recognised internationally by inter alia the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD)

  • Founded in 1929

  • Provides services to the Deaf community on a national level

  • Registered in terms of the Non Profit Organisations Act

  • 1994 DeafSA transformed:

    • constitutional change

    • Deaf majority members serving on all the organisation’s management structures

    • self-representation enabled DeafSA to be accepted as an ordinary member of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD)

Deafsa s mission
DeafSA’s Mission

“To promote the interests of the Deaf and hard of hearing effectively on a national level in Southern Africa.”

Purpose of presentation
Purpose of Presentation

To give effect to one of DeafSA’s objectives as listed in our constitution, which is:

To pro-actively facilitate and successfully lobby for the acceptance, recognition, development, utilisation of resources/interpreter service of South African Sign Language, as a medium of communication with Deaf persons, as the 12th official language.

DeafSA regards this objective as a key towards effectively promoting all other interests of Deaf people


DeafSA has thus far contributed towards the following legislation and codes of good practice:

  • Recognition of SASL as Deaf people’s primary mode of communication in terms of the South African Constitution Act No 108 of 1996.

  • Recognition of SASL as a medium of instruction for the purpose of educating Deaf Children – SA Schools Act.

  • Education White Paper 6 (DoE 2001).

  • Codes of Good Practice for People with Disabilities – Telecommunications and Broadcasting Industries (ICASA March 2006).

  • White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy, whereby the disability in general is premised on the social model away from the previous medical model (Office of the Deputy President 1997).

  • Codes of Good Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities (DoL 2002).

Developing and promoting south african sign language e
Developing and Promoting South African Sign Languagee

  • Comprehensive business plan detailing the process of developing and promoting SASL with the ultimate purpose of having SASL recognised as the12th official language.

  • National Deaf March during which a memorandum was handed to the Minister of Education to demand that SASL be used as a medium of instruction at all schools for the Deaf in line with the SA Schools Act - Educational Task Team (ETT) was established.

  • Successfully registered the unit standard for SASL as an additional language with SAQA.

  • Position Paper for SASL and SASL Interpreter Services.

  • Training of SASL interpreters:

    • Registered course with SAQA (NQF Level 5)

  • Accreditation of SASL Interpreters according to International Practices.

What is sasl
What is SASL?

  • Visual language.

  • SASL was developed naturally and Deaf people have used SASL to communicate for centuries in spite of its history of oppression by the wider society. SASL will continue to exist for many more centuries to come, in line with the saying:-

    “As long as there are Deaf people, there will be Sign Language.”

  • SASL is a fully-fledged natural language, which developed through use by a community of users namely Deaf people.

  • It has its own grammatical rules (syntax).

  • SASL is a true language

  • SASL can express the entire range of human experience.

  • Sign Language is not universal

Status of sign languages around the world
Status Of Sign Languages Around The World

  • WFD encourages the national federations of the Deaf (including DeafSA) to work towards official recognition of Sign Languages for the purpose of communication accessibility for Deaf people.

  • The countries in which Sign Languages have been accepted, recognised and/or protected are listed below:

Why recognizing sasl as a 12th official language
Why Recognizing SASL as a 12th official language?

“Often individuals and groups are treated unjustly and suppressed by means of language. People who are deprived of linguistic human rights may thereby be prevented from enjoying other human rights, including fair political representation, a fair trial, access to education, access to information and freedom of speech, and maintenance of their cultural heritage”. Overcoming Linguistic Discrimination, ed. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson (Berlin 1995).

  • Bill of Rights.

  • Responsibility to ensure that Deaf people are not deprived of their human rights on the basis of their disability.

  • SASL holds the key to a Deaf person’s enjoyment of virtually all his/her human rights.

  • While Deaf people are considered a minority group, at the count of one (1) million they are a much larger group than some of the users of the currently official languages.

  • South Africa, as a caring society, can no longer continues to ignore such a large group.

Constitution of south africa
Constitution of South Africa

  • Not only committed to correcting the past marginalisation, but also to listen to the people’s outcry and compete as strongly as possible with the rest of the world.

  • A quote of four (4) pertinent points from the preamble to the constitution is listed below:

    • “...Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

    • Lay the foundation for a democratic and open society in which the government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by the law;

    • Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and

    • Build a united and democratic South Africa to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.”


  • A Task Team composed of representatives from of DeafSA and Department of Arts and Culture should be established with immediate effect for the purpose of monitoring the process of promoting and maintaining SASL, which includes implementation of various projects.

  • Parliament should effect constitutional amendments so that SASL becomes a 12th official language with immediate effect or within a period of six (6) months calculated from October 2006.

  • The Department of Arts and Culture should provide funds for the development of SASL training materials, which include visual SASL dictionaries. This process should start by not later than March 2007.

  • The Department of Arts and Culture should provide the necessary funds for the development of curriculum for the training of SASL instructors so that SASL instruction becomes a recognised profession. This process is to start by March 2007.

  • The Department of Education should liaise with the tertiary education institutions for the purpose of revising the curricula for public service professionals such as Doctors, Social Workers, Paramedics, Police, etc., to include inter alia SASL and Deaf Culture. These curricula should become effective from 2008.

Recommendations continue
Recommendations (Continue)

  • A comprehensive inter-departmental training programme for all the public service personnel on SASL and Deaf culture should be carried out with funding from each government department, with effect from January 2007.

  • As a short-term solution relevant to point f) above, SASL interpreters should be made available at as many public service institutions, as possible, with immediate effect so that Deaf consumers can receive services in SASL. Funding for SASL interpreter should come from each public service institution.

  • The Department of Arts and Culture, in partnership with DeafSA and private sectors should run a mass awareness campaign to sensitise the public at large on SASL and Deaf culture starting in January 2007.

  • The Department of Arts and Culture should liaise with DeafSA on how to implement recommendation 7A of the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy, particularly the continuous development of SASL interpretation as a profession.

  • The Department of Education should liaise with DeafSA with immediate effect to discuss ways of implementing recommendation 9B of the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy, for the betterment of Deaf education.

“Sign Language is a real language, equivalent in status to any other language. Deaf persons can sign about any topic, concrete or abstract as economically, as effectively, as rapidly and as grammatically as hearing people can. Sign Language is influenced by entirely equivalent historical social and psychological factors as spoken language - there are rules for attention-getting, turn-taking, story telling, there are jokes, puns and taboo signs, there are generational effects observed in Sign Language, metaphors and ‘slips of the hand’ ” (Penn, 1993, p.12).

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