Deaf Ukrainians ask the government to grant special status for sign language

Дата: 23 September 2015
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The Ukrainian Society of the Deaf calls on the Government and the President of Ukraine to determine the special status for sign language, elaborate and adopt a relevant law.

The sign language as means of communication between people with hearing impairments must be protected. Although Ukraine ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, the deaf people still remain out of the guardianship of the state, the Human Rights Information Centre correspondent reports.

First Deputy Head of the central department of the Ukrainian Society of the Deaf Iryna Chepchyna, in particular, notes that voters with hearing impairments do not have access to information. “The information on Ukrainian television is unavailable for deaf persons. The news does not have high-quality translation in sign language. Even the Channel 5, the presidential channel, has no translation in sign language,” Chepchyna says.

Speeches of the candidates for president or MPs are not always translated into sign language. According to the expert, the deaf people do not feel real citizens of Ukraine because of unavailability of the information.

The Ukrainian sign language is recognized as the state language of the people with hearing impairments and is protected by the Article 23 of the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of Social Protection of Disabled Persons.” However, this recognition is purely declarative in nature.

As representatives of the Ukrainian Society of the Deaf note, the situation is slowly changing – often under pressure exerted by the international organizations.

We came back from the meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where we had represented the report on rights of the deaf people. The UN Committee gave a number of recommendations to our state. Our meeting took place on August 20 roughly. The miracle happened. On August 23, the Day of Ukrainian Flag, the address of the President of Ukraine, broadcasted on the national channel, was translated into sign language. Obviously, that became possible only after the impact of the UN Committee,” says Ihor Bondarenko, head of the council of sign language interpreters of the Kyiv department of the Society.

According to official statistics, there are about 46,000 deaf people in Ukraine. However, the number includes only those who are registered. The experts claim that there are far many people with hearing impairments.

All these people remain without the right to protection as the government does not support the sign language. The people with hearing loss have no access to education, no opportunity to have good job, to exercise their voting rights, access to justice.

Despite the total violation of rights of the deaf people in Ukraine, there is only one lawsuit. This case concerned the lack of procedure and conditions of translation into sign language which must be provided by the Cabinet of Ministers. The complainant demanded to recognize the inaction of officials, who had not performed the abovementioned procedure, as unlawful, and demanded that the government approve it. Although the complainant won, the court’s decision has not yet been abided by.

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