LIFE

Sign language: The key to inclusive human rights

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People from all walks of life should learn sign language as need for the language may arise in any setting, according to the head of an advocacy group for the disabled.

"A person should not think they won't need sign language because they are not deaf or there is no deaf member in their family," Ilimdar Boztaş, head of the Association of all Disabled and Their Families (TEDAY), told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

"We share the same institutions, the same parks, the same world," said Boztaş -- who lost his sight at age 20 -- stressing that society could not ignore millions of hearing-impaired people.

Obstacles faced by disabled

Boztaş said roughly 11 million disabled people in Turkey face numerous obstacles in daily life in areas ranging from education and accessibility to environmental planning and employment.

"Accessibility is not limited to guide tracks or ramps," Boztaş said, underlining that access to information, technology, education and communication in sign language is a human right as well.

"Hearing-impaired individuals should be able to continue their daily lives and their work by providing communication in various institutions.

"Officials who can communicate in sign language should be assigned to public institutions, i.e. in hospitals, municipalities or notaries," he added.

Boztaş underlined that employment for disabled people should also be expanded.

"The public sector disabled quota in Turkey for which employment is limited to 3% is almost full," Boztaş said, adding that a bill to raise this to 5% could provide greater opportunities for disabled community.

"Hundreds of people received courses for the Turkey's Public Personnel Selection Examination [KPSS in short for Turkish] as a result of our consultations with governor's office, district municipality and various institutions and organizations," Boztaş said, adding that a total of 241 people registered to TEDAY are currently employed in the public sector.

Education and disabilities

"There are children with disabilities who have just started school and will adapt to the education process," Boztaş said.

"If they see that their schools are sensitive towards them, they will adapt more easily and progress to success step by step. Our teachers and parents bear great responsibility in this regard," he stressed.

He added that negative attitudes towards children with disabilities result in lower motivation and goals.

"When approached with care, they can cooperate and achieve greater success," he added.

Boztaş underscored that all members of society were equally responsible to make regulations for disabled people, including private sector workplaces.

"Very simple arrangements can address both disabled communities and elderly individuals," he concluded.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide, with more than 80% in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

Sign languages are fully fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from the spoken languages, according to UN.

The UN General Assembly designated Sept. 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness on the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.

The first International Day of Sign languages was celebrated in 2018 under the theme "With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!".

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