If a new draft Bill successfully passes through the National Assembly, there is the potential for the inclusion of basic sign language in the schools curriculum.
The Kenya Sign Language Bill of 2023, championed by Nominated MP Umulkher Harun Mohamed, aims to establish recognition, promotion, development, and utilization of Kenyan sign language.
The draft Bill underscores its alignment with the Constitution, specifically referencing Articles 54 and 56, which mandate the State to implement measures to safeguard the rights of marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities.
During an appearance before the Budget and Appropriations Committee, Mohamed stressed the importance of introducing basic sign language education early in Kenyan schools.
She emphasized that many people have limited knowledge of sign language, which poses significant challenges for the deaf community in the country.
Kenya ratified the United Nations General Assembly’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008, which called for the inclusion of sign language interpreters in all television newscasts.
Consequently, all television stations must now include sign language interpretation during their news broadcasts.
The CRPD also recommended facilitating the teaching of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community.
The proposed legislation also suggests the establishment of the Kenyan Sign Language Council, which is responsible for regulating sign language interpretation.
The council would have the mandate to promote and encourage the use of Kenyan sign language, conduct research, and raise awareness about the culture and heritage of the deaf community in the country.
Furthermore, it would set and enforce standards for the training, practice, and utilization of sign language and interpretation services and register and license interpreters.
The council would maintain a registry of all sign language interpreters in the country and determine the minimum fees for their services. Additionally, it would be responsible for developing and overseeing ethical and disciplinary standards for sign language interpreters.