Sunday, February 18, 2018
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" Nature knows no pause in progress and development, and attaches her curse on all inaction. "

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Deaf Awareness

deaf_awareness_webTHE SOUND OF SILENCE
Imagine not knowing what the sound of music is like. Imagine having never heard your child’s voice or the rev your favourite car makes. Picture yourself in a stadium surrounded by sixty-thousand spectators and not being able to hear the roar of the crowd when your team scores. This is a privilege a number of South Africans do not have.
By Shamin Chibba

Deaf communities around the world will unite in celebrating Deaf Awareness Week between August 30 and September 4. According to Xomba.com, the commemorative week began 69 years ago and was meant to “educate communities about the many issues the deaf population face during everyday life, as well as to honor the history and culture of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing”. According to Nomfundo Sikondo of the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DEAFSA), the deaf community has a unique culture that they wish able-hearing people can understand.

“We want people to understand us so we can communicate with them at home,” she said. “We also like to socialise with other hearing people.” Sikondo teaches learners sign language so that they can use it to communicate with deaf children in their communities.“The learners seemed to have grasped it well. They are interested in it. I want these children to interpret and wish they could learn more so they can teach another person. It’s our (deaf community) responsibility to make sure they understand.”

According to one of the learners, Sibulele Gungqisa from Border Post, learning sign language can help her connect with some of the deaf children in her community. “There’s a deaf girl who always stays at home. She might feel like an outcast but that’s why I’m here, to change my state of thinking.”

Another learner, Zintle Ntsundushe from Malindana, wants to be able to interact with another deaf child in her community.“There is a boy who sits and cries because he can’t interact with others,” she said. According to the Department of Social Responsibility’s Judy Silwana, learners should be taught the basics of the language to communicate about issues affecting their communities. “It is the first training of its kind and will be ongoing. I hope they will come to understand the basics and use it to talk about issues such as HIV and abuse,” said Silwana.

According to Boniswa Citwa, a supervisor at the PE Deaf Association in Port Elizabeth, Deaf Awareness Week is set aside to celebrate deaf culture and language around the world. “We celebrate as a community and make people aware of us,” she said. “Because it’s a disability, it’s not easy for people to know there’s a deaf person amongst us.” Citwa believes that one of the problems deaf people have is their inability to learn a language from infancy. Unlike most children who pick up a language while listening to others, the deaf only start learning a language when they go to school. However, there are parents who are helping their children develop language skills at an earlier age.

“The problem is that deaf children don’t hear or mimic. They don’t know the subtle sounds able-hearing people make. This makes it diffcult for hearing people to understand deaf people. At least, nowadays, they are beginning to go to school around three or four years old.” The only thing hearing people can understand about the deaf is their language and that we must not intervene on it. “It’s against their culture to have a hearing person teach sign language. They don’t want us to take the only thing they have.” Their culture, compared to many in South Africa, is unique. It is determined not just by their disability but by their language as well. It is the only unifying culture in the country that ignores racial lines and tribal differences.“Deaf culture is a way of thinking and doing things and their belief in their language,” said Citwa.

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