Sign language gets nod to become SA’s 12th official language

South Africa has given the green light to having sign language as the country’s 12th official language, a decade after the suggestion was tabled.

The National Assembly adopted a bill on Tuesday that now makes sign language one of the official languages in terms of the constitution.

Brett Herron, an MP from GOOD, said it is a constitutional duty to build a nation that is inclusive.

“For too long special needs, differently abled or disabled South Africans have been relegated to navigate a state that is unprepared and underdeveloped,” said Herron.

“But we take only one small step for the human dignity and rights of all South Africans who are excluded or underserviced because of their disabilities.

“By recognising [sign language] as a 12th official language, we take one giant step for the rights of deaf South Africans.”

In 2007, the Deaf Federation of SA (DeafSA) approached the constitutional review committee to have sign language recognised.

DeafSA believes that by making the language official, the employment of sign language interpreters at universities and hospitals can be motivated and more people from this community can have access to these services. 

Out of 306 votes cast by the MPs, there was no one sitting on the fence and no one voted against the bill becoming law.

Bruno Druchen, national director at DeafSA, said the organisation is delighted after the MPs voted in favour of the bill.

“I feel so stoked. We feel so happy. This will put us on equal footing with hearing South Africans,” said Druchen.


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