Disability Rights Awareness Month: GO GEORGE Champions upskilled with sign language phrases

Champions learn sign language

Most chuffed with themselves and their newly acquired Sign Language vocabulary, the GO GEORGE champions could hardly wait to get to the bus stops to test their new skill. Signing “I help you” are, clockwise from front left, Janell Gelant, Thandokazi Joka, Tanya Appels, Joey Ruiters, Thembisa Matiya and Nomsa Ginyagazi.

Persons who are hard of hearing will turn their head with the ear that hears better towards you and will watch your face and mouth to lip read. Speak slowly and form the words clearly with your lips, making sure there is light on your face for clear viewing.

These are a few of the handy tips conveyed to the first group of GO GEORGE communication champions attending a workshop presented by Elina Nieuwoudt, a friend of the Deaf community in George and who knows South African Sign Language (SASL).

The aim is to equip the champions with basic knowledge to identify a passenger who is possibly hard of hearing or deaf and to sign basic phrases regarding the bus service. They are the staff who engage directly with passengers, including persons with different categories of special needs. The group attending the workshop enjoyed the opportunity to acquire a new skill that will enable them to show courtesy to passengers who are hearing impaired.

“Even if I can only greet that person, say my name, and welcome them on a GO GEORGE bus in sign language, I’m sure they will appreciate my effort,” said one of the champions, “but if we practise amongst ourselves, I hope to remember how to offer the bus timetables and route maps too, and remind them that they cannot pay with cash, but need to use a Smart Card to get on the bus.”

According to feedback that Elina has received from a few Deaf friends, the wearing of masks poses some challenges to lip readers. When visiting the GO GEORGE info kiosk for advice, a passenger who was hearing impaired could not read the information officer’s lips, so she offered to stand back from the window enabling the officer to remove her mask for the conversation – a win-win situation. “Another passenger wrote down her question about the bus service, with the champion responding in writing. A request for route information on Facebook was responded to with a photo of the route map. In general, people with a hearing impairment find the GO GEORGE staff and bus drivers most helpful,” she says.

To accommodate passengers who are hearing impaired, the digital information boards inside the buses indicate which stop comes next, while written instructions applied inside buses assist them in using the system.

James Robb, GO GEORGE Manager, is positive about the latest developments. “Upskilling the champions to better serve different categories of special needs has been launched this month, Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM). It will, however, remain part of an ongoing programme to focus on the needs of all passengers and to continuously improve the customer experience of the GO GEORGE service within the community of George,” he said.

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