Sign language

Section 45 (1) (c) of the Constitution, 1996 (the Constitution) provides for Parliament to establish a committee that should review the Constitution annually. In giving effect to this provision, the Joint Constitutional Review Committee invites the public annually to submit written representations on any constitutional matter.

Deafsa requested a review of sections 6 (1) and 6 (5) (a) to include South African Sign Language (SASL) as an official language. Deafsa was of the opinion that, while SASL is well recognised in the Constitution and given a special status, it was not sufficient to enable deaf people to enjoy all constitutional rights. Using Stats SA data (2011), Deafsa pointed out that SASL has 1.6 million users and there are 45 deaf schools with 18600 learners in South Africa that use SASL as a language of learning and teaching.

After consulting with a number of stakeholders, the Committee accepted that this matter is long overdue and that necessary formalities should be made by Parliament to ensure that amendment of the Constitution to accommodate this.

Members of the deaf community have reacted positively to this development and highlighted that “recognising SASL as a language would have a significant impact on society”.