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Written by Lily Goh
Singapore has been advocating for inclusion since 1981 when Disabled People’s International held its first world congress and elected Singaporean disability advocate Mr Ron Chandran-Dudley. Since then disability inclusion has been celebrated in the Purple Parade, Purple Symphony, the National Day Parade, as well as the National Council of Social Service’s “See the True Me” campaign.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even made a commitment towards building an inclusive society in Singapore in his swearing-in speech in 2004. To realize this goal, the Enabling Masterplan was launched in 2007, as the national road map to improve lives of the persons with disabilities. Even, Prime Minister Lee spoke in Singapore Sign Language during his National Day Rally 2016, “Count on me Singapore”.
What does inclusion mean to you? According to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, “inclusiveness speaks to the notion of empowerment and the principle of non-discrimination”and the belief that “no one is left behind”.
In keeping with this spirit, the United Nations declared the International Day of Sign Languages will be celebrated annually across the world. The inaugural celebration was held on Sunday, 23 September 2018, under the theme, “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!”
The Singapore Association of the Deaf hosted the Singapore Sign Language Week 2018 at the Red Box from 24 September to 29 September. Stories, jokes, poems and dramas by different Deaf people were presented to the public, in the celebration of Singapore Sign Language. It has been advocating for Singapore Sign Language and is a strong, unifying identity for the Deaf community.
Now, as a Deaf advocate I call for our Singapore Sign Language to be recognized and validated as the official sign language of Singapore. American Sign Language was declared as the official Sign Language of America in the 1960s, and it has opened doors for other countries to follow suit.
I call on your support to strengthen the linguistics landscape in Singapore because it has been ignoring the Deaf communities’ native sign language. It focuses on the mainstream society only, forgetting the Singapore Sign Language that is supposed to be part of it. Singapore Sign Language has been developing for 60 years, compared to Singapore’s 53rd years’ independence.
Once Singapore Sign Language is declared as the official sign language, it will become the official mode of communication used in educational, institutional, translation and state matters involving those who are Deaf.
I believe with the official recognition of Singapore Sign Language, the concept of inclusion will become stronger and better.
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