‘Being deaf is a gift from God’

Participants attended a sign language training course with the Blaqpearl Foundation and DeafNET Centre of Knowledge, from Monday July 31 to Friday August 4 at the Youth Cafe in Town Centre.

A Rocklands woman’s life changed drastically when she became hard of hearing after a bacterial infection caused damaged to her inner ear.

Lezanne Bosman, 33, from Rocklands, was among a group which attended a sign language training course with the Blaqpearl Foundation and DeafNET Centre of Knowledge from Monday July 31 to Friday August 4 at the Youth Cafe in the Town Centre.

She told the Plainsman on Thursday August 3 that she lost her hearing when she fell ill with flu in 2019. She went to the doctor and got medication but her hearing did not return.

From 2019 to 2020 she went to Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre and later to Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital hoping doctors would find out what’s wrong.

“I was referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist at Groote Schuur Hospital in November 2020. An MRI X-Ray two weeks later revealed I had hearing loss in my left ear due to a bacterial infection causing damage in my inner ear,” she said.

“I experienced stress and depression. How are others going to see me? I was on a trial for a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) but it did not work. I received and now use a CROS (contralateral routing of sound) hearing aid,” she said.

The special type of hearing aid is for people who have little to no hearing in one ear and have normal hearing in the other ear. It’s linked to her cellphone and sends all the information from the bad ear to the good ear, said Ms Bosman.

Before she learnt of her condition, travelling and communicating with people on her way to work was difficult. She taught herself how to read lips, eye contact and body language. “I’ve accepted this as my normal living as I’ve been through the worst,” she said.

She said she participated in the programme last week as deaf awareness is needed in communities.

Last month, South African Sign Language (SASL) became the country’s 12th official language. The 11 other languages are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana, Swati, Venda and Tsonga.

The DeafNET facilitator and sign language interpreter was Eddie Tsubella.

At the programme they taught participants how to sign, combat myths, address assumptions, focus on parameters, and learnt about deaf culture.

“Deaf people are living among us. Even though they are the minority in society it’s important that they are communicated with in their own language. Deaf people must decide for themselves, they have a right as much as hearing people do, they have a right to express themselves,” said Mr Tsubella.

He has a passion for the cause as both his parents are deaf and the language is used in his family. This it has led him to help people understand deaf issues.

“We need interpreters in all governmental departments so that they can accommodate people in these services,” he said.

He said his parents were deaf since they were 6. It was challenging for him at school as some of his peers laughed at his parents.

“I’m proud of my parents, they raised us well and we never struggled,” he said.

Speaking to the Plainsman in sign language, deaf facilitator, Anneke Manuel, said there are many people interested in learning sign language.

“I was born deaf, when we go to hospital and clinics they don’t understand me. Later on in my life the spaces I’m in are a bit better. Thank you to the president for approving this to be an official language,” she said.

This group was the fastest group ever to learn sign, she said.

From left are participants, Nadine Ward, Lezanne Bosman and Jemaine Esau.

Participant at the programme, Jemaine Esau, 36, from Rocklands, said one needs to have patience when learning sign language.

His said his late grandmother, who turned 90 before she passed away, became hard of hearing in the right ear. This inspired him to learn to sign. “It’s important we learn this skill to help others,” he said.

Participant Nadine Ward, 22, from Tafelsig sais she is aware of deaf people experiencing abuse as everyone does not know sign language.

“This is such a good skill to have in life. I aspire to be a teacher and this will help me in getting there. I adapted so quickly and learnt so fast. This is the first time I’m doing it,” she said.

Deaf community member, Sive Nikelo, 26, from Crossroads, said their language is very important.

“It will help others in the future. When you apply for a job, or interact with different cultures, this can help you. I even had to learn English. In future if you want to have children and they experience being deaf, you will be able to help them,” she said.

“I’m not ashamed, it’s a gift from God. God gave me this. Some people make fun of us and that’s so hurtful. The time we applied for this language I was still a baby. I’m proud of our language,” she said.

Janine Overmeyer, co-founder of the Blaqpearl Foundation, said: “It was amazing to witness the pride the participants felt, especially the opportunities they are exposed to because of it.”

For more information on learning sign language, email eddietsubella5683@gmail.com or WhatsApp him on 073 064 3475 or contact Blaqpearl Foundation on 0622061310 or blaqpearlfoundation.office@gmail.com