Sign language training could be mandatory

Business Insider writes that the South African government and other employers could by next week be obliged to provide at least some training in South African Sign Language to large swathe of staff – and some classes of employees could be required to spend more than a month in advanced-level sign language classes. On Friday the Pan South African Language Board, a constitutional body with broad powers to monitor how the state treats different languages, gazetted a draft South African Sign Language Charter. The document, it says, “applies to all segments of the South African society” and “creates obligations” to protect the linguistic rights of the deaf community. The document will become final if it receives no objections by Friday, 11 October, the Board said. The charter requires anyone planning a meeting, conference, or similar event to consult deaf persons “well in advance” to make sure an interpreter of their choice is available.

It also stipulates that all televisions programmes must come with both close captions or subtitles and South African Sign Language interpretation. Banks, hospitals, and public transport points will be required to make public announcements through either sign language or close captioning, and “front facing/and front-line employees at all entities” will have to receive ongoing training that includes sensitisation to the needs of deaf people. “[South African Sign Language] awareness and training should be mandatory to all staff members in the employ of government including municipalities, non-governmental organisations or in the private sector,” one clause reads. More advanced training in sign language will be required for staff “who provide essential and support services and deal more frequently with Deaf people, for example social workers, police officers”.

by Phillip De Wet


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