The Deaf Bulletin 2020 Issue 3
High Court orders Govt to provide Sign Language and Braille information on COVID-19
By Tinotenda Chikunya
In a ruling hailed by the disability community, Justice Mafusire has ordered Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to ensure access to information for persons with disabilities through provision of Sign Language and Braille information on COVID-19.
This follows a petition lodged by Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, Zimbabwe National League of the Blind and Centre for Disability and Development Trust. The petition sued government and ZBC for failure to provide COVID-19 information in simplified formats for persons with disabilities.
In an application filled by Denford Halimani and Doug Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the three organisations argued that with the advent of the novel COVID-19 , the national broadcaster’s failure to provide Sign Language interpretation during programming was discriminatory and amounted to denying the Deaf community access to information.
The organisations also cited that in light of COVID-19 lack of access to information had serious implications for the Deaf community and the country at large.
In passing judgement, Justice Mafusire said ZBC shall provide subtitles /captions for all prerecorded programmes. ZBC was also ordered to provide Sign Language interpretation for all main bulletins including 8PM news and 11PM news weekdays.
Justice Mafusire added that ZBC was to allow Deaf Zimbabwe Trust to second trained Sign Language interpreters to ZBC to provide additional Sign Language Interpretation beyond the broadcaster’s existing capacity.
ZBC was also ordered to provide Sign Language interpretation for all live announcements, subject to ZBC receiving sufficient notice and progressively increase the provision of Sign Language interpretation for all live programming including news bulletins.
The Ministry of Health was also ordered to ensure that COVID-19 hotlines and health centers have personnel who are equipped to cater for the needs of persons with disabilities.
Deaf Zimbabwe Trust had previously engaged ZBC and the Ministry of Information on numerous occasions on matters pertaining to the provision of Sign Language and subtitles on television programs, to no avail.
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