WINDHOEK – With the recent launch of Sign Wiki, Namibians and others can now communicate with the hearing impaired through a new interactive site.
The site is a cooperation initiative between the Ministry of Education, the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) and the Communication Centre for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SHH) in Iceland.
“When they thought of Sign Wiki, they immediately thought of other developing countries and Namibia was one of the first countries they thought of. We joined in the venture because we are here to see the development of sign language and this is a platform for both the deaf and people that can hear,” said Centre for Communication and Deaf Studies Head of Department Lizette Beukes. The centre is situated in Khomasdal.
She explained that Sign Wiki is a teacher’s resource and is more than just a sign dictionary that can be used by the hearing to communicate with the deaf. The site shows what the different communication signs are and explains their meanings.
“This a great platform because now, for example, interpreters can use Sign Wiki in the event that one needs to know what the sign for ‘judge’ is – you can simply go on your cellphone and be able to communicate,” she said.
But Sign Wiki is not only meant for deaf people and teachers – it can also be utilised by parents who have deaf children and would like to communicate with them, as well as being useful for learners.
She said the Centre for Communication and Deaf Studies (CCDS) staff have been trained in how to upload videos onto the site and a teachers’ workshop was held to equip teachers with the information and know-how on Sign Wiki.
“For the deaf people this is a major achievement because this site shows their sign language to the rest of Namibia and it will be a tool for hearing parents with deaf children – and the rest of Namibia can learn sign language. It is a big achievement to have sign language available and accessible,” she said.
She explained that there has already been over 100 signs loaded onto the site and over the course of the next months, more signs will be loaded to give the public more access to sign language
“The Namibian Directorate of Examinations now recognizes sign language and we are concentrating on various ways to further expand and Sign Wiki is an example of how further we can expand,” said Edda Bohn, the Director for Programmes and Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Education.
She noted that over the years sign language has developed and said the ministry will continue strengthening the efforts of CCDS through partnerships with ICEIDA. “It has been an ongoing initiative in that resources have been set aside since 2006 to expand the initiative. The expansion of the centre will be seen as further addressing the national need for deaf education and the further development of sign language,” she said