Following the statistics by the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf individuals across the globe. 80% of them reside in developing countries. Collectively, the deaf community uses over 300 different sign languages to communicate.
Unfortunately, these languages have yet to gain their place among the general public. To raise awareness on the importance of sign languages and to ensure no one is left behind, the United Nations has declared 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages.
In conjunction with today’s celebration, we highlight 3 establishments that promote and educate the general public on the use of sign language.
1. Starbucks Malaysia, Bangsar Village II
Being the world’s first-ever Starbucks outlet to hire deaf baristas, the Bangsar Village II outlet aspires to leave no one behind, including the deaf community and people with disabilities. Unlike regular Starbucks cafes, this outlet allows deaf customers to place orders using sign language.
Not only is the menu deaf-friendly, but the team is also made up of 10 deaf baristas and 3 hearing staff. Deaf customers need not worry as the baristas are well-versed in sign language.
Aside from just buying coffee, customers are also given the golden opportunity to learn the art of signing. The Bangsar outlet regularly holds free sessions and workshops for the public and the deaf community throughout the year on personal and professional development, deaf empowerment and awareness for youth as well as signing.
Coffee lovers will get to learn a new skill for free in signing workshops while enjoying their caffeine fix!
(FYI: Signing workshops are held six times every quarter of the year!)
2. Amazon’s ASL Interpreter Program
Amazon devised a program to cater to the needs of their deaf employees and to promote greater inclusivity at the the workplace. This objective is achieved by hiring personal interpreters to assist their deaf employees. These interpreters are hired as full-time staff to assist deaf employees during crucial moments like meetings and brainstorming sessions.
“In our [deaf] culture, we don’t really see deafness as a disability. We see it as a unique culture with a language and with an education system that is different from the mainstream,” said Michael Nesmith, an art director at Amazon.
“What’s important is to have access to language. So that’s the only thing that really makes, from the outside perspective, my disability unique.”
View how the program works here.
3. YMCA, Kuala Lumpur
Since its formation in 1905, YMCA has always been known for its philanthropic efforts. The NGO has empowered communities of all kinds through their courses and activities. Among them is the deaf community.
For instance, the institution promotes the use of sign languages by offering sign language courses to the public. The following programs provides students with knowledge in conversing in Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM). They also stand to gain better insights into the lifestyle and culture of the deaf community in Malaysia.
Here are some fun facts on sign languages.
1. Sign language varies from country to country (such as Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia, sign language in English, etc with its own grammar. But fret not, it is quite easy to learn!
2. It is a visual-gestural language. This means eye contact is important. Is it is advisable to maintain eye contact with the other party during a conversation to avoid coming across as being rude.
3. Direction of the palm can change the entire meaning of the sign.
4. Malaysian Sign Language is based on the American Sign Language (ASL). Terms relating to women (such as wife, daughter etc.) are signed near to the jawline. Signs related to men (such as father, boy etc.) are signed by the forehead.
5. The deaf refer to us as “hearing people”!
6. The term “dumb” is archaic and considered offensive. Avoid calling a person who is mute or uses sign language, “dumb”.
*Featured image sourced from amaterracrianza.com/un.org