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‘Communication leaves out the deaf’

Limpho Sello


MASERU — Deaf people miss out on HIV and Aids and other important issues because the communication model used by society does not cater for them, the National Association of the Deaf Lesotho (NADL) programme officer Bongiwe Buzi has said.

Buzi was addressing journalists at the association’s half-day workshop on basic sign language skills at a local restaurant.

She said the deaf community are most affected by HIV and Aids and other diseases because of the communication obstacle between them and the able persons.

Buzi said deaf people do not have the privacy especially when they go to hospitals.

“When a deaf person goes to the clinic for an HIV test there is no privacy because councillors do not understand sign language so a third person who is an interpreter has to be there to interpret for a deaf person,” Buzi said.

She added that the deaf need interpreters especially on Lesotho Television (LTV) to make sure that they are not left behind on national issues, Buzi said,  adding that despite the fact that they are deaf they are also human beings and need to know things happening around them.

“Our one and only national television (LTV) does not have sign language interpreters during news broadcast and captioning on current affairs,” she said.

Buzi said  that most of the civil servants were not able to provide services due to lack of sign language skills or lack of sign language interpreting skills in their institutions.

She said deaf learners have an even bigger problem because there are few schools for deaf people.

She said this is a challenge as some schools feel they are not compelled by law to use sign language where it is necessary because even the National Constituency clearly stipulates that the official languages of Lesotho are Sesotho and English.

“Therefore this makes it difficult for deaf Basotho to achieve excellence academically and equally like their hearing counterparts.”

She said deaf learners fail, not because they are dumb, but because the sign language grammar is different from English and Sesotho language.

“There is signed English and signs are superimposed on these signs, for example when signing boys the “s’’ is not signed so it will be signed as boy while crying is signed as cry the “ing” is not signed.”

She said that is how sign language is and they cannot change it.

Buzi said because of the gap between them and the hearing counterparts they have a tendency of choosing to be with other deaf people because they believe they understand one another better.

Buzi said as the deaf community they wished they could be included in the budget because there is no annual budget allocation of different ministries for sign language interpretation services.

“And this makes it even harder for the deaf people who might have access to interpreters.”

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