Deaf Week session delves into question of human rights

The Land Transport Authority (L.T.A) took part in a deaf and sign language workshop on Wednesday as part of the International Week of the Deaf.

Nuanua o le Alofa Advocate and Trainer, Taase Auvaa, who is also a teacher at SENESE Inclusive School, took staff members through some basic sign language training, beginning with the alphabet and counting numbers. 

In continuing the discussion on the human rights topic of the full inclusion of hearing impaired people in our society, there was extensive and honest group talk about encouraging the everyday use of inclusive and non-derogatory language when referring to people with disabilities. 

One L.T.A officer raised a concern to the trainer, putting forth the question that if he is unable to use the Samoan terms ‘faipe’ (deaf) and ‘valea’ (fool) during work hours – when then, are the appropriate times to use them. 

He explained that for him it’s much easier to understand and remember the Samoan terms. 

Ms. Auvaa explained that the words “faipe’ and ‘valea’ are hurtful to anyone being referred to in those derogatory Samoan words but it is especially hurtful to those from the hearing disabilities community who feel belittled and inferior to be labeled in those terms. She added that it’s important that we no longer normalize those terms.

President of the Deaf Association, Josefa Sokovagane who has a hearing disability said through interpreter, Noue Maevaga, that not only are the words degrading but they also violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (C.R.P.D) that Samoa has ratified

“Nuanua and the Deaf  association are trying to follow through the articles that is highlighted in the Convention signed by Samoa,” said Mr. Sokovagane. 

“These articles say that words like ‘faipe’ and ‘valea’ can put down people with disabilities including the people who are deaf so I feel that we must follow this convention. If Samoa is strong enough to sign it then surely the people should be strong enough to follow through with the rules in the convention.”

Mr. Sokovagane added that he was impressed by how quickly the L.T.A staff members picked up sign language.

“I was really happy because I know learning a new language is not easy, especially with our language because I can see that it was a challenge to them but they tried,” he said.

“To me what is more important is that they were engaging because that is the first step. If the Deaf association can prepare and set up trainings, surely it will open the door for opportunity for them to learn. 

“I believe that with repetition of these basic sign language skills it can support our cause to have more awareness and encouragement that sign language can be implemented in not only their Ministry but also in their minds. “

Yesterday, there were deaf and sign language training at the National University of Samoa. 

Today, the International Deaf Week forum will take place with the theme being ‘With Sign Language everyone is included’. 

The week of Deaf awareness will end tomorrow with their Annual General Meeting held at Millennia Hotel.

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