Often, actually very often you see someone on the street with a disability, but this time it was different. A man walked over to me last week and handed over a card on the train. It said, “Hello, I am a Deaf and a Hard of Hearing person selling these cards to support my family. Pay any price you wish. Thank you for your kindness,” As he walked over to everyone handing out the card, he had a smile on his face. You could see that people were benevolent to him.
As someone gave him a loonie, he walked away. I looked at the card, which had a bunch of basic ASL signs frequently used by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. “Pretty neat,” I thought to myself. It also got me thinking about the number of people interested in learning sign language.
For starters, in Canada there are two types of sign language used by people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing which include American Sign Language (ASL) and la Langue des Signes Quebecoise (QSL). Over the past few years, a number of people have started joining Meetups to learn and practice sign language in Toronto. Many are visiting the neighborhood public library or taking certificate courses in sign language too. According to a survey by Statistics Canada, in 2011, the number of people who reported using sign languages at home was nearly 25,000. In 2016, this jumped to 27, 510 people.
Interestingly, according to a recent report by the National Post, in a bid to remove communication barriers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the federal government is also giving some serious thought to making sign language the official language along with English and French.
As a language service agency, we want to remove communication barriers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which is why we work with only active members of the Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada (AVLIC). We encourage all current active AVLIC members to join our roster to ensure that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing have access to legal, healthcare and social services.
So, if you run into or are struggling to communicate with a Deaf and Hard of Hearing person, and do not have the time to learn the language, give us a call. We may be able to provide you with a qualified sign language interpreter who can help with all your needs.
-Vivek Vijayapalan, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Toronto, Ontario, August 06, 2017