In 2007, the Deaf Federation of South Africa initially addressed Parliament, but 15 years later the South African Sign Language will soon (finally) be added as a 12th official language.
It’s been a long road that started with Parliament being addressed by the Deaf Federation of South Africa in 2007. In 2017 the Constitutional Review Committee recommended that the constitution be amended to include SASL as one of the official languages.
This year, President Ramaphosa approved the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill and on 20 July 2022, the Government Gazette issued a notice that calls for public comment on the amendment that will make SASL an official language.
According to National Institute for the Deaf’s Andries van Niekerk, it would mean that services and information that must be available in the official languages will now be available in SASL including the learner license test you have to write.
In addition, the recognition of SASL as an official language would raise the status of the language.
Furthermore, it will in turn foster the understanding that SASL is of comparable status to spoken languages. Deaf people will be able to have access to information wherever legislation requires that it be available in all official languages.
Deafblind SA National Director, Philip Dobson, concluded by saying: “We are very happy our language is getting the same recognition as other languages. Many deafblind can only communicate via sign because it’s the only language you can feel and touch and get information from.”