Deaf people in the DR continue to fight for their rights

On September 23 of each year, the International Day of Sign Languages ​​is celebrated, a date instituted by the United Nations to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of the deaf people. The celebration coincides with the International Week of the Deaf people (the last week of September), which this year finds the Dominican community in the struggle for their rights to be recognized.

This is how they manifest it Paul Taveras Y Alan Jesusumpresident and secretary of the National Association of the Deaf (Ansordo), respectively. Although it is true that in recent years there has been more and more talk of inclusion in the country, both agree on the deaf people they still don’t have the access that that implies. “We don’t have interpreters, so we don’t have access to information,” says Jesurum. “If there is so much talk about inclusion, where is the access, because we don’t see it.”

The fact that hospitals and clinics, as well as educational and information centers in the country do not have sign language interpreters, is the most common form of discrimination they face, which condemns them to live in inequality. . In the workplace there is also rejection, which is notorious when they are denied a job based on the false conception that their hearing impairment it is a limitation, they say.


Pablo Taveras and Alan Jesurum. (PETER BAZIL)

In search of regulation of sign language

What some may not be aware of is that the Dominican deaf community has its own sign language, which is a mix between the one used in the United States and signs from the Dominican Republic. In 2019, thanks to a joint alliance between the Ministry of Education, the National Disability Council (Conadis) and Ansordo, the first official dictionary of Dominican sign language was created.

“Sign language in the country emerged in the 70s or 80s, from the hand of American missionaries who came to the country and taught American Sign Language. From that moment on, a mixture between the American and the Dominican began to be used in the country,” explains Taveras.

The launch of the dictionary represented an “unprecedented advance” for the exercise of public policies for the inclusion of the population with disabilities and their families. However, they continue to fight for the Senate of the Republic to approve a bill to regulate sign language in the country.

“The sign language bill has been deposited for approval since 2014, but they deposit it, they deposit it again, but it has never been approved,” says Jesurum. “He’s been at it for many years now. Now, this year, the Chamber of Deputies approved it in both readings, they passed the project to the Senate and we were advocating for our observations to be included, but now we have to do it again with that process.”

If approved, people with hearing impairment They would have guaranteed access to the educational system, the labor area and health without having to depend on their relatives. “Many deaf people they have a family member as an interpreter, which prevents them from having an independent life”, they add.

Currently, the only law that exists on disability is 05-13, whose principles are respect for the inherent dignity of the human condition, non-discrimination, equal rights, equity, solidarity, social justice, integration and inclusion. , participation and accessibility.

Although the priority is to pass the sign language law, Ansordo emphasizes that they are working on other projects in order to achieve real inclusion in society for the deaf community, such as guaranteeing interpreters for students. “The Ministry of Higher Education does not give interpreters to deaf students and they must pay for their own interpreters,” says the president of the entity. “It’s frustrating, because we can’t study without an interpreter, but we don’t have the money to pay for the service.”

They are also working to make alliances with state institutions, such as the National Police, to teach the Dominican sign language and enable courses for people and other entities that wish to learn it.

so they will celebrate

To celebrate the International Day of Sign Languages ​​and the International Week of Deaf people They will carry out a peaceful demonstration on September 27, from 9:00 in the morning to 12:00 noon, in front of the National Congress. The intention is to continue insisting that the sign language bill be approved.

“Some of the senators and representatives don’t know our needs and maybe they don’t see the benefit of that, they think it’s not necessary, but it is. We need a law that speaks of us as a community, of our language and that details the access we need and how to achieve it”, explains Pablo.

To this they add that the laws related to people with disabilities should not be “a matter of political interests”, but a necessity. “We are people, it is urgent for us that they give us the opportunity to develop as Dominican citizens that we are.”

In addition, with this event they seek to give visibility to their culture, identity and language, as well as to strengthen ties with the deaf community and make known what they do as an association.

Those interested in learning sign language can contact the National Association of the Deaf through Instagram and Facebook as @ansordord and by WhatsApp: 809-441-6462.