September of each year is a very special time for Deaf people as they celebrate Deaf Awareness Month. The aim of this month is to create awareness about Deaf people & their culture. The UCT Disability Services also celebrated with a special Deaf Awareness Day on 13 September with special activities on campus. On the same day, articles written by three members of the UCT community were published in the Cape Times.
Tactile communication: Cyril Axelrod demonstrates that one of the ways hearing people can communicate with him is by spelling words in the palm of his hand.
Cyril Axelrod, a deaf-blind priest, candidly shared how he deals with this disability in his everyday life as part of the UCT's Deaf Awareness Month.
South-African-born Axelrod lives alone in London flat and travels widely training and giving seminars on deaf-blindness. He was born deaf. In 1980 he was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which accounts for his deafness, but which also meant that he gradually lost his sight.
He explained that the key to his independence is planning.
"A deaf-blind person's life must be organised. I feel it's my responsibility to assist people to understand my needs hence the planning."
Axelrod has two guides that assist him with various tasks at home. He pays their salaries from a grant that he receives from the British government. They don't help him cook or dress, but accompany him when he goes shopping or read his email and answer telephone calls on his behalf.
Medical interpreters a boon for public health
Sign of the changing times: Representatives from the Faculty of Health Sciences celebrated with graduates from the country's first medical-sign-language course.
Holding true to its pioneering spirit, UCT's Faculty of Health Sciences officially certified the path-breaking graduates of an accredited medical-sign-language interpreter course - the first in South Africa - at a merry ceremony on 12 June.
The course, Introduction to community medical sign (SASL) language interpreting, is the brainchild of Dr Marion Heap of the faculty's School of Public Health and Family Medicine. Heap, along with others, has long argued that public healthcare services in South Africa suffer from lack of effective communication between practitioners and patients, including deaf people who use signed language.
A dozen students successfully completed the course, taught at UCT by Elizabeth Deysel and Susan Lombaard of the University of the Free State between November 2011 and March 2012.
Reneitte Popplestone, head of UCT's Disability Service, lauded the graduates and said the occasion represented the essence of what transformation is about: "equitable access and meaningful communication".
"[This course] is about empowering people to change the conditions that make them vulnerable," added Professor Leslie London, director of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine.