Sign language dictionary launched

HARARE - Zimbabwe's first sign language dictionary has been launched, a development meant to enhance disabled people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.

A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) came up with 400 nationalised symbols to be used primarily by the country’s medical staff to diagnose people with speech and hearing impairments.

Renias Mundingi, Southern Africa HIV and Aids Information Dissemination Service (Safaids) senior programmes officer, said the book will plug health gaps within the deaf community in Zimbabwe.

“There has not been a single book like that,” Mundingi said. “We believe this book will help to bridge that gap as nurses can always refer to the manual.”

Mundingi said the lack of universal sign language has proved to be a barrier to effective communication.

“During the compilation of this manuscript, we had to work with officials from many centres which teach sign language in the country because their signs vary,” he said.

“Sometimes, during the process, people would use six signs to refer to the same thing. Universalising the language is key, maybe lack of it is what affected the South African interpreter,” he said, proffering the possibility that Thamsanqa Jantjie, the “bogus” interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, could have learnt localised signs.

Jacob Tivenga, national director for The HIV and Aids Management and Support Organisation (Thamaso), said the book will bridge the gap between the deaf and able people.

“The dictionary includes an illustrated guide to signing and signing for individual letters, along with illustrations and descriptions for common words as well as new HIV and SRHR (sexual and reproductive health rights) signs,” he said.

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