Telecommunication service providers will be compelled to provide sign language interpretation to make their products accessible to the deaf if Parliament approves a new Bill into law. The Kenyan Sign Language Bill seeks to include the deaf community in all aspects of society, in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination including in areas of communication, employment and access to information and education,

“Telecommunication service providers shall make their services accessible to the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind community through the establishment and provision of relay services, including text relay, video relay, captioned telephone relay, and communication facilitators for the deaf or deafblind,” the Bill states.

The Bill sponsored by nominated MP Umulkher Harun Mohamed also seeks to facilitate access to information, educational institutions and facilities as by persons with hearing impairments.

“The Bill seeks to regulate the sign language interpretation in Kenya through accreditation and registration of the sign language interpreters,” Ms Mohamed said.

The Bill places specific obligations on all entities including private and public entities to provide, such assistive device and support services including Kenyan sign language interpretation services without any payment, to a person who is availing of, or seeking to access information offered by the entity under this Act or any other written law.

All health service providers will be required to put in place measures including the provision of Kenyan Sign Language interpretation services at no costs, to ensure that the deaf have access to the highest attainable standard of health care services.

The Bill mandates the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Education to ensure that there is a sufficient number of educational placements offering Kenyan Sign Language training for deaf children who are attending public or private schools.

“The Cabinet Secretary responsible for Education shall for the purposes of giving effect to Article 53(1)(b) of the Constitution-establish a mechanism for the provision of Kenyan Sign Language classes to the parents, siblings and grandparents of a child who is deaf or other persons who serve as a guardian to a child who is deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind,” the Bill states.

The Bill requires that the Judiciary provides for the use of sign language in legal proceedings.

“Every court or tribunal shall in any proceedings before it, avail without any costs to the parties, a sign language interpreter if any of the parties to the proceedings cannot hear or understand the language of the court or tribunal,” the Bill states.

The Bill will compel television stations to provide closed captioning and programmes. TV stations will also provide a Kenyan Sign Language inset covering at least one-third of the size of the television screen, in all newscasts, educational and national programmes, for the purpose of ensuring equality, dignity and respect in terms of the promotion and broadcasting of such programmes.

“Despite subsection (1), content on television and the internet shall also be made accessible to the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind community through the provision of closed captioning and transcripts on all content,” the Bill states.