LAUREL V WILLIAMS
SIGN language should be recognised as an official language thereby ensuring all stakeholders, including the deaf, have ready access to it and realise their basic human rights.
This was the main message coming out of a media clinic and sign language workshop hosted last week by the Social Development and Family Services Ministry at the auditorium, Government Campus Plaza in Port of Spain.
Permanent secretary Natasha Barrow told the gathering that children and their families ought to be exposed to sign language as a first option for communication, during the earliest stages of their development.
“It would also be expected then, that the State would ensure that public services, policies and other legislation, are compliant in this regard,” she said. The theme of the event was, 'With sign language, everyone is included.'
The ministry is hoping to bring awareness to media and communication practitioners on the rights of people with disabilities. It was the first media clinic on disabilities in commemoration of the UN’s International Sign Language Day which was observed yesterday.
A draft policy on people with disabilities was laid in Parliament recently and will soon be available for public consultation. One of the aims of this policy is to ensure people with disabilities are guaranteed the same freedoms and accessibility in areas of society than the average citizen.
“As representatives of the media and communication practitioners, I urge you to place the policy in your schedule of programming so the national community is kept abreast,” Barrow said.
Facilitators included Quashiba La Fleur of the TT Association for the Hearing Impaired who shared information about interacting with people with disabilities. According to her, “people-first language” emphasises the person and not the disability. It eliminates generalisations and stereotypes, by focusing on the person rather than the disability.
The facilitators offered “three golden rules” when interacting with people with disabilities: ask before you help, always use people-first language and treat people equal.
Flyers and brochures at the workshop had information about acceptable language versus offensive language. It is acceptable to say a person with a disability as opposed to a referring to such a person as physically challenged or 'broko'. One must never use words such as retarded, dumb, moon or crippled, facilitators at the workshop advised. There were also trainers of the deaf and sign language interpreters at the workshop.