SUBTITLES and sign language are normal parts of life, from going to lectures and watching movies, if you are deaf.

 

This week the Centre for Deaf Studies ran a series of films highlighting deaf education and deaf awareness. The screenings, which form part of a course for students who are studying deaf education, were open to the public.

 

“The centre [at Wits] was started 12 years ago by those with a heart for the deaf,” said Guy Mcilroy, deaf education lecturer.

 

“It is the only centre for deaf education in South Africa. We are showing [the films to the students] before they begin their teaching practicals which will motivate them as teachers.”

 

The centre, directed by Dr. Claudine Storbeck, is completely self-funded and has two branches: Education and High Hopes. The second part is a programme created to assist and support families with deaf children up to three years old. Centre staff visit families to teach them about communicating with a deaf child.

 

Wits sign language interpreter Augustine Letlale, who was at the screening, says it is important to tell the public about the lives of the deaf.

 

“[We need to] create awareness on issues of the deaf, the experiences of deaf children and how most of them grow up in hearing families. People need to see their experiences in mainstream communities as well.”

 

Letlale says the deaf in South Africa “are still marginalised, although there is progress”.

 

“Our government does seem to be doing something in terms of bringing issues of deafness into mainstream [society] such as bringing interpreters to government events and public broadcasting like the news.”

 

On Tuesday the film screened was Mr Holland’s Opus – a story about a music teacher who has a deaf son. Mcilroy says this film was used to teach the students and the public about reversed perspectives, looking at what the deaf son wanted in comparison to what the dad, who could hear, wanted.

 

Other movies shown during the week on Education Campus included Beyond Silence, Hear and Now, Sweet Nothing in my Ear and Children of a Lesser God.