Summary of the Press conference held on 20 July 2011

Sign Language and Deaf Studies

Bruno Druchen | Organising Committee President

 There are 200,000 children in South Africa without access to hearing aids or support. However, the economic situation here is vastly different to other parts of the world. Therefore it is often impossible for parents to afford hearing aids for their deaf children. As a result Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) has lobbied the government for this type of support to no avail, due to constrained funds. Thus I am happy that the Lions Club has provided these children with the access to this technology and the opportunities it provides. I would like to stress that the donation was accepted by DeafSA for all the deaf children in South Africa.

Markku Jokinen | WFD President

When planning this conference we embraced the theme Global Deaf Renaissance which for us refers to changing perspectives. This theme was highlighted in this morning’s plenary presentation by Dr. Joe Murray and Dr. Dirksen Bauman who discussed normalizing and stigmatizing views of deafness. Rather, seeing deaf people as full human beings with something to contribute to the world.

The WFD has conducted research on sign language in over 40 countries. Most would be aware of recent events in Italy concerning LIS and its formal recognition by the Italian authorities. Arguments have to be made that despite the use of Cochlear Implants, people still need sign language. The President of the Italian Association was unable to attend the congress because of this ongoing battle regarding LIS. Also relevant is the challenges presented to 24 Arab countries where certain groups have lobbied to formalize national sign languages into one regional sign language.

Bruno Druchen | Organizing Committee President

As you are all aware, South Africa has a recent history of Apartheid. Apartheid saw divisions between black, white, and Indian communities. This divided people according to colour but also through languages. This segregation of language meant that white languages English and Afrikaans in particular, were valued higher than languages used by the black communities. Deaf people were a part of this linguistic milieu.

This led to linguistic divisions between all deaf citizens of South Africa. As a result South Africa was filled with a multitude of separate deaf organizations reflecting these divisions. During the Apartheid years, the 9 provinces in South Africa had 9 different sign languages, which meant different pools of interpreters for each of these regions. Since the fall of Apartheid, we are endeavoring to unite these linguistic divisions into one language. we are able to bring together South African Sign Language. You can see here we have volunteers from all over South Africa and they are all communicating in one language; South African Sign Language. This is the official language we would like used in deaf schools. The legal recognition of SASL as an official language is still an ongoing battle for us. We have asked WFD for support and they will present us with a letter for parliament to aid us in our efforts. It is my aim to ensure that SASL is officially recognized by the South African government. It is only with the support of the WFD that we have been able to achieve what we have thus far.

Markku Jokinen | WFD President

Four years ago the WFD board began its work strengthening and expanding the capability of the WFD both in terms of funding and in staff. We have partially achieved the goal of expanding our efforts. We have been actively seeking donors whilst acknowledging that causes such as HIV, the environment and women are able to secure funding more easily than disability organizations. The new board will continue enhancing its financial resources to continue this expansion.