Deaf Awareness Month: Advocacy groups calling on YOU to lend them an ear

Sana Ebrahim

September is the International Month for Deaf People in commemoration of the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf that happened in September 1951.

Amidst the doom and gloom of the Covid pandemic, Deaf advocacy groups have been rallying to end the spiral of silence around Deaf matters and celebrate Deaf Awareness Month in style.

The Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) presents a series of online webinars that recognise Deaf communities and sign languages that have existed for several centuries. Such initiatives cherish the proud histories of deaf people and their thriving communities, and the many people, deaf, children of Deaf adults (codas), and allies, who have worked together to enable the flourishing communities found around the world today.

DeafSA has free online classes which ends on September 30.

The KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society (KZNBDS) educates the public about Deaf culture, hearing loss, deafness and sign language in KZN. As part of a fundraising drive, the public is encouraged to purchase exquisite aprons made by the Deaf.  Contact 031 309 4991, fundraising@bdskzn.org.za

On an embryonic level, as a South African Sign Language (SASL) lecturer at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), I recently founded ArtSigns Visual. The social club shares SASL and Deaf culture perspectives amongst Deaf and hearing participants. Deaf compassion and empathy training lie at the heart of the initiative. An inaugural Hand Chats Roundtable was presented at L’Art Arabe Gallery Musgrave on Sunday 19 September. The SASL engagement attracted seven eager participants who appreciated the networking opportunity to create value on humanistic and inventive frontiers. The benefits of learning a visual language and enriching one’s life through befriending Deaf people were highlighted. Learning and conversing in SASL may be considered ‘Ubuntu in Action’ towards enhancing inclusivity and social cohesion.

“L’Art Arabe Gallery and Country Bake are committed to celebrating and welcoming diverse communities. We look forward to further SASL engagements where Deaf people can be seen and engaged with,” says Shehnaz Desai, director of L’Art Arabe Gallery.

Audiologist at Fulton School for the Deaf, Faatima Nakhooda Vanker shared insights into her work at the SASL engagement. “National Month of the Deaf is here and this year’s theme is “Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities”. Deaf communities within South Africa have been flourishing and ‘thriving’, and in September we should celebrate them by acknowledging that they have their own communities, cultures and language. Do your part by learning some sign language in order to communicate with a Deaf person,” she says.

ArtSigns Visual envisages a series of SASL workshops with Deaf and hearing facilitators. Participants can look forward to interacting with Deaf poet and SASL educator, Zohra Moosa. She writes:

‘When you are frustrated

You sometimes feel depressed!

When you struggle

Life seems imperfect

When you are unsuccessful

Your heart feels riddled

When prejudices ignite discrimination

You feel alone

I am a Deaf woman!

I feel the same too

Can we unite?

You a hearing person

Me a deaf person’

Moosa shares a poem highlighting the determination of Deaf women:

Silenced!

For years the Deaf woman has been crying

with her inner tears!

The Deaf woman endures years of deception and rejection

in every place!

Yet her will power of refusing to be silenced

or to be silent makes her over-look discrimination!

The Deaf woman harbours a lot of anguishes

that stings on her bruised soul!

Yet her divine love fights to keep her whole!

Her strength of faith allows her to stand strong

to carry her heavy burden all along!

In spite of all the hardship and pain she endures

her inner voice that calls out the Mightiest Almighty

to sustain her from grief!

The Deaf woman has the power to explain

the endurance of painful pain!

She hides inside

where injustice and prejudice reside!

Still the Deaf woman’s soul struggles to rise high!

She is a haggard true heroine of an unpleasant strife

where she is surrounded by people who hamper her silent life!

The Deaf woman’s faith continues to rise

that sparkles from her melancholic sorrowful eyes!

Zohra Moosa

Deaf Poet of South Africa

For more information about Deaf Awareness Month and related activities, visit the following Facebook pages: DeafSA, KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society, and ArtSigns Visual.

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