The month of September has been declared as Deaf Awareness Month to raise awareness about South African Sign Language (SASL).
The recognition of SASL as the 12th official language is an important step towards the realisation of the rights of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and towards amplifying inclusive education in South African schools.This milestone builds on the strides administrations have made since 1994 to entrench and protect language rights.
In 1996, the South African Schools Act of 1996 (SASA) officialised SASL in education for learning at a public school and the DBE is committed to ensuring that all deaf children should have access to quality early childhood development, care and education in SASL.
Deaf Awareness Month will be commemorated under the theme, “Celebrating the officialization of South African Sign Language for an inclusive and linguistically diverse nation”. The commemoration is an opportunity to support and protect the linguistic rights and cultural diversity of the deaf community.
President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the South African Sign Language Bill during a ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 19 July 2023. The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) developed a South African Language Charter with nine key pledges, that take into consideration the interrelatedness of the deaf community; highlights the need for cross-sectoral policies and programmes pertaining to the needs of the deaf community in a holistic manner; improve access; and ensure the effective protection of their linguistic rights.
PanSALB will therefore be presenting basic SASL training and deaf culture training workshops during the month.South African Sign Language is an indigenous language that constitutes an important element of South African linguistic and cultural heritage. It has its own distinct grammatical structures and lexicon and is independent of any other language.
The new legislation seeks to advance the cultural acceptance of SASL; ensure the realisation of the rights of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing; and promote inclusive and substantive equality and prevent or eliminate unfair discrimination on the grounds of disability, as guaranteed by Section 9 of the Constitution.