Introduction / History
Some Deaf South Africans live in middle and upper-middle-class areas of large cities and small towns. Others maintain rural ancestral lands. Many families live in poorer townships. Most Deaf people live on social grants without jobs, either among their families or in disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. The Deaf are quite patient with hearing people however most of them don’t know any way to communicate and tend to avoid them.
A few have more education, therefore better jobs. Deaf people don’t see themselves as disabled, but communicate directly and literally with Sign Language’s unique structure. Only now does the national Education Department realize that the Deaf need to learn South African Sign Language to achieve more.
The first Catholic Deaf school opened about 170 years ago. But there are very few yet today who follow Christ.
The Deaf generally socialize within their Deaf culture and language group and also with other dialects. Five aspects of any Sign Language include: hand shape, position in space, palm orientation, movement and expression. Sign dialects vary, with some aspects overlapping.
The few believers can’t easily grow in faith, since they don’t understand written Bibles. Perhaps 60-80 percent of Deaf people follow traditional African religious practices. About 1 to 3 percent are Muslim. Because a lack of accessible education creates low reading skills, the Deaf need Bibles their hearts can understand, which is South African Sign Language.
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