Struggle to improve recognition of sign language in Hong Kong


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The South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong, reports on how sign language is often discouraged in the city, despite its effectiveness.

William Tang Siu-Chung has had profound hearing loss since the age of three and when he was growing up, he was forbidden to learn sign language. "I went to take the Form Five public exam [high school] together with able-bodied students. Then I saw a group of deaf people taking the exam in a special room. They were communicating in sign language. That was when I learned that there was a deaf community," he says. He was the only hearing-impaired student in his class throughout his studies. "People think a hearing aid is a panacea for us. But it's far from that," he says.

William Tang’s example is not an exception. For a long time, the government’s policy was to integrate children with hearing impairment into mainstream schools that did not provide sign language education. This integrated education system was launched in 1997. There was also a general misconception that learning sign language would discourage hard-of-hearing children from speaking, according to the paper. Additionally, medical advances in assisted hearing devices promoted educators to focus on teaching oral communication at the expense of sign language.

Hong Kong has about 100,000 hearing-impaired people, 9,000 of whom are profoundly deaf. While those with profound hearing loss are usually able to sign, many with lower degrees of hearing impairment know only rudimentary or no sign language at all.

Source: South China Morning Post