According to the statistics by the Census and Statistics Department, in 2013, there were 155,200 and 49,300 people with hearing difficulty and speech difficulty respectively in Hong Kong. Yet, among the two groups, only around 3,900 and 3,400 knew how to use sign language.
A representative from an organisation that serves deaf people pointed that, the general public or even plenty of the family members are not aware of the many difficulties faced by the deaf; hence, many of them are not able to learn sign language at appropriate times, which hampers the learning progress and social contact. Government policies should be people-oriented, and protect the basic rights of the deaf.
Article 24 of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stipulates the right of persons with disabilities to education “without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity”; and governments should take appropriate measures “facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community”. Nevertheless, at present, there is only one special school designed for deaf students in Hong Kong. People with hearing impairments have little chance to study at schools where sign language is taught. The importance of sign language was given no formal recognition in Hong Kong, resulting in the lack of relevant policies and support, and the deprivation of the hearing-impaired of their freedom of expression and right to information.
Browse the full version of Human Rights Issue 26, and learn more about the views of the aforementioned interviewee, other language-related issues, and the relationship between linguistic rights and other human rights: https://issuu.com/aihk/docs/issue_26_final