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Renewed call to make sign language an official language

People with hearing and speaking impairments have renewed their appeal to the Government to include sign language as Rwanda’s fifth official language.

Organised through a partnership between Patriotism Organization Rwanda, a not-for-profit run mainly by youth, and the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD), the week’s activities will bring together family members of deaf people, sign language interpreters, as well as local and international organisations and government officials to reflect on the challenges facing people living with hearing loss.

According to statistics from RNUD, over 70,000 people have hearing and speech impairment in the country.

Samuel Munana, Executive Secretary of the union said that including sign language as an official language will help people with hearing and speaking impairment in being included in all the programmes in the country.

“We (people with hearing and speaking impairment), are always left out in terms of information access in every sector, like health services where doctors do not know sign language, lack of education where teachers do not know sign language, and justice,” he said.

Munana added that in terms of communication through the media, they are left out because they do not understand the programmes that broadcast and they do not know what is going on in the country.

“For instance, at the height of Covid-19 pandemic we had to wait for someone to translate for us all the resolutions by the Government and new measures which always came days later,” he said.

“We believe that once sign language is made an official language, all these issues will be solved,” he said. Munana added that officiating sign language will make Rwandans study sign language at school as any other language, which will promote inclusivity in education.

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