DR Congo Set to Introduce Sign Language as Fifth Official Language

Felix Tshisekedi: President DR Congo

The government of Democratic Republic of Congo has announced plans to adopt sign language as its fifth official language.

The country’s Minister for People with Disabilities, Irene Esambo disclosed the news. Following the development, sign language joins Swahili, Lingala, Kituba and Tshiluba as the country’s formal languages and will be formally taught in schools.

Explaining the decision, Esambo tells the BBC that making everyone understand sign language will build a more inclusive society and people who rely on sign languages will be able to access government services.

“It’s a community that for long has been marginalized because of the communication challenges,” Esambo said.

The development is generally seen as a step forward as people living with sight and hearing disabilities had lost their lives and court cases due to not being able to express themselves in words, while those who could offer help do not understand sign language.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2012 report, approximately 2 million people had sight and hearing disability in a then estimated population of 50 million people.

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