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Right to use of sign language enshrined in Constitution

Ljubljana, 27 May - The right to use and development of the Slovenian sign language was enshrined in the Constitution on Thursday as MPs endorsed the step unanimously. The latest constitutional law also sets down that a free use and development of the deaf-blind language is governed by law.

Ljubljana
President Borut Pahor receives members of the Dlan association of deaf-blind people to mark the recognition of their sign language in the Constitution.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Ljubljana
President Borut Pahor receives members of the Dlan association of deaf-blind people to mark the recognition of their sign language in the Constitution.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Ljubljana
Slovenian sign language.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The amendment to the Constitution ensures a free use and development of the Slovenian sign language as well as the Hungarian and Italian sign languages in areas with official language minority communities.

"The use of these languages and the status of their users are governed by the law. A free use and development of the language of deaf-blind persons is governed by law," reads Article 62.a of the Constitution.

All deputy groups welcomed the step, saying they were glad the deaf, hearing impaired, deaf-blind and those with a cochlear implant will find it easier now to exercise their rights and integrate into society.

Today's decision has made Slovenia the fifth country in the EU to have enshrined the right to sign language in the Constitution. Austria, Finland, Hungary and Portugal had already done this.

Moreover, Slovenia is now the first country in the world to recognise the status of tactile sign language by deaf-blind persons in the Constitution.

A proposal to amend the Constitution accordingly was sponsored by the government at the initiative of the Union of Slovenian Associations of Deaf and Hearing Impaired. It was also supported by the Dlan association of deaf-blind persons.

To mark today's milestone decision, President Borut Pahor received members of Dlan. The spirit of our Constitution as an idea of an inclusive society applies to all, he said, stressing the importance of equal opportunities.

He highlighted that the recognition of the Slovenian sign language in the Constitution broke new ground both in Europe and around the world.

In a recent report on deaf people in the education system, Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik notes that the deaf are disadvantaged when it comes to exercising their rights, also because education is not provided in their language. Another issue is an overall shortage of interpreters of the Slovenian sign language.

Relevant data show that in 2011 only 1% of deaf people had higher education. The share in the entire population stands at 17%, Lobnik's office said, calling on the authorities to improve the situation.

There are some 1,500 deaf persons in Slovenia who use the Slovenian sign language. Around 450 have a cochlear implant, some 100 are deaf-blind persons who use a tactile sign language and about 75,000 use a hearing aid.

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© STA, 2021