Eight things that deaf people want you to know


Sign Language Lesson

JOHANNESBURG - Friday is national Talk Sign Day. eNCA Mojo intern Busi Lethole spoke to  hearing-impaired people at the Breakthrough Deaf Dialogue event and Jabulane Blose, CEO of the South African National Deaf Association (SANDA), to find out what they wish hearing people would understand about their challenges.

1. Eye contact is important


When communicating with a deaf or hearing-impaired person, eye contact is key. This is because when deaf people use sign language, they use their eyes to communicate as well as their hands. They experience the world through their eyes.

2. Signing is our language, don’t mock it

SANDA CEO Blose says when people mock sign language, it is far from funny. It is, in fact, very demeaning.


3. Don’t treat a deaf person like a child

Blose says a conversation often becomes difficult when a hearing person realises that the person they&39;re talking to is deaf

"At that point the hearing person will cringe and start appearing &39;welfarist&39; in the sense that you are treated like a child in need of extreme care, and this effectively ends the conversation. This quite riles me.”

4. I am deaf, not dumb

“Some hearing people think deaf people are incapable of doing and leading a quality life; simple things like owning and driving a motor vehicle, having a stable job, being in charge of a project or position and having a successful relationship. This is insulting,” explains Blose.

5. Make our language official

SignLang director Lorato Rasebopye says she strongly believes that South African Sign Language (SASL) must become an official language and must be equal to other languages.

6. TV should accommodate us

Many deaf people agree that TV programmes and the news need interpreters, or at the very least subtitles, so that they can be enjoyed by all.



7. The deaf also want a tertiary degree

Rasebopye says there must be equal access to tertiary education for deaf students. Currently deaf students are often restricted by the choice of courses available to them at tertiary level, with some institutions not providing facilities for the hearing-impaired at all. 

8. Deaf-friendly motherhood

Giving birth can be a scary experience. Not being able to understand the medical staff can make it completely overwhelming. For this reason, Rasebopye says deaf women must have access to interpreters in maternity wards so they know what is going on when they are giving birth.


- Busisiwe Lethole