The Deaf Bulletin 2016 Issue 5
Technology, a threat to Sign Language? By Paidamoyo Chimhini
Technology, in its ever changing nature plays a very important role in shaping how people communicate. To celebrate this important role, World Telecommunications Day is commemorated annually on the 17th of May and is aimed at highlighting how information travels across the world. It also aims to promote the development of technologies that improve communication between people. This year WTD comes at a time when Sign Language in Zimbabwe is taking centre stage with regards to Deaf issues. Sign Language is the primary means of communication for people who are Deaf. It enables Deaf people to acquire information as well as share feelings and thoughts.
For these people, deafness is an identity rather than impairment. Technological developments in recent years have seen an increase in the number of devices that deaf people can use to enable them to hear and speak more. Amongst these are cochlear implants, hearing aids and electric mouthpieces that can transmit sound.
In today‟s fast paced world, such technological advancements are changing the lives of deaf people around the world by giving them the ability to hear and speak but what does all this mean for Sign Language? Is it at risk of extinction? Surely if deaf people could hear and speak more then there would be no need for Sign Language right? Granted, deaf people have far more options available to them today than they
had a century ago as a result of technology but this does not mean the devices work for every deaf person.
Furthermore, the cost of acquiring such devices is out of reach for many deaf people. Sign Language remains functional and relevant not just for those who cannot access corrective devices but also for those who view deafness as an identity. For these, Sign Language remains their language of choice. Interestingly, technology has contributed to the popularisation of Sign Language throughout the world.
Various mobile phone applications including the ASL Dictionary have been developed to help people learn Sign Language. Apps like Skype and FaceTime allow Deaf people to communicate with other Deaf people over video call. Video Relay Systems for the Deaf have also been developed to enable the Deaf to communicate in real time via video with hearing people through an interpreter. Such technologies have enabled Sign Language users to communicate effectively. Hence, whether one is for or against corrective devices, one cannot ignore the role technology is playing in changing the way deaf and hard of hearing people
Other topics covered in this bulletin are:
- Reading skills for children who are Deaf and hard of hearing – by Barbra Nyangairi.
- Access to Justice for the Deaf community: The court room. By Precious Nkomo
- Upon a Deaf Heart: By Precious Masiye.
- Menstrual Matters. By Paidamoyo Chimhini.
- A WORLD WITHOUT AIDS: World AIDS Vaccine Day. By Rosemary Mundhluli.