Swapo Member of Parliament, Kletus Karondo, says deaf people face more barriers than other citizens in accessing the criminal justice system.
Karondo contributed to a motion tabled by Deputy Minister of Disability Affairs, Alexia Manombe-Ncube, which seeks to recommend the recognition of Namibian Sign Language as a national language and the appointment of sign language interpreters for live parliamentary debates.
"There are also other social implications of not being able to communicate in the same way as the majority of society: it is, for example, more difficult to order a cup of coffee or tea or open a bank account if there is nobody who can communicate with you simply and effectively by non-oral means. Research indicates that people who are deaf have poorer employment outcomes. Deaf people in general have increased difficulty accessing primary health care services as they are mostly not able or rather unable to communicate with medical staff."
Karondo says sign language should be accessible and should be prioritised and integrated into the school curriculum, both in the secondary and primary phases.
He stated that the acquisition of widespread knowledge of sign language would benefit numerous groups who are already disadvantaged, such as those with communication disabilities.
"These individuals are at risk for social isolation, stigmatisation, loss of independence, poorer literacy and academic outcomes, and underemployment. It is so important to note that even if people only acquire a small amount of sign language, this could have significant benefits in terms of the social acceptance of deaf culture. It is more difficult for people who are deaf to communicate with other members of society and go about their daily lives."
Also contributing to the motion was Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Jennely Matundu.
"I support the call for the appointment of sign language interpreters for the live parliamentary debates because sign language interpreters are like interpreters for any other language, who interpret from one language to another. In this case, the call is to accommodate a group of people whose linguistic rights have not yet been met. The debate in the National Assembly discusses issues that affect our people daily, and the people in this category are really left out in the dark as far as lack of interpretation is concerned."