THE National Association of the Deaf Lesotho (NADL) has called on the government to provide early access to sign language in Lesotho schools as it is critical in the full realisation of human rights for deaf people.
The appeal was made this week at a joint press conference by the NADL and the Lesotho Vodacom Foundation on the upcoming International Deaf Week scheduled for next month.
The commemorations have been penned in for 13 September 2018 at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru.
NADL also appealed to lawmakers and service providers to ensure inclusion of the deaf community.
NADL deputy chairperson ‘Matṧepiso Mokhoromeng said they intend to raise awareness on the need for the early access to sign language in the same manner as other spoken languages.
Ms Mokhoromeng said early access to sign language and provision of services in sign language, including quality education, is vital to the growth and development of the deaf individual and critical for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.
She said sign language is a natural language like any other spoken language hence the need for it to be availed to society and be included in the school curriculum from as early as preparatory school.
“Sign language is a fully-fledged natural language structurally distinct from spoken languages but they coexist,” Ms Mokhoromeng said.
“It is therefore, crucial that we reflect on the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in its recognition of sign languages as equal to spoken languages.
“The reason for which we appeal to the government to include it as a subject in the curriculum in all schools around the country is so that children can grow up appreciating the language. It will again increase the number of people who know the language in our population since it will be provided to everyone including those who can hear and speak.”
She said provision of sign language at an early age will break the communication barrier that often hinders the deaf community from feeling equal with those that hear.
Ms Mokhoromeng said the early provision of sign language will also enable the deaf community interact and access public services easily.
“When children are taught sign language at an early age they do not struggle at all. So, we need to take note of such.”
For his part, Lesotho Vodacom Foundation Head of legal regulatory and external affairs Molemo Motseki said they have partnered with the NADL to ensure that the International Deaf Week commemoration are a success.
“We partner with minority groups in the country to fulfill our commitment to accelerate diversity and inclusiveness for the betterment of their lives,” Mr Motseki said.
“We will continue working with the NADL to help ensure that sign language is appreciated and recognised in the country. We have committed M110 000 which will go towards the provision of food for the participants on the day of the commemorations.”
Mr Motseki said they are already working on branding Vodacom T-Shirts with sign language to ensure that deaf members of the community are included.
He said they will soon embark on a training programme to capacitate their front-line employees to communicate with deaf customers.
He said they are committed to the achievement of full inclusion of the members of the deaf community in all their services including bringing in new mobile phones that have enhanced technology for the deaf although it was still a long journey to head on.