Sign Language for all, at the mall!
by Norah Lay, Communications Volunteer, Live and Learn Cambodia
Every Saturday, Sign Language For All hosts a small meet-up between deaf people or people with hearing impairments and people who want to know more about sign language. The goal: making connections while learning and teaching sign language!
It was the 7th of October 2023, 8:30 AM, a regular Saturday at one of the AEON Malls in Phnom Penh city. The mall had just opened its doors and people were going on about their days. Among them were deaf people. At the food court, a diverse group was meeting up and people started conversing happily. People were excited to meet each other for the activity that was about to take place because this time the agenda was very unique, engaging and fun for everyone involved. The participants split into three groups of six and were given $20. The task was simple: spend that money in the supermarket as you like and present what you had bought in sign language. Each group had at least two deaf people teaching the other participants how to sign the items they were buying. For some participants it was their first try at sign language, while for some they were already a bit familiar.
Either way, everyone learned a lot that day and connected with each other in new and meaningful ways. After around an hour, everyone gathered at the food court again to rehearse their introduction and their presentation on their items one last time. Participants were excited and eager to showcase what they have learned in this short amount of time already. As the students of the groups were presenting their haul, other passers-by watched closely with much interest in these unusual activities that were taking place. When everyone had finished with their shopping haul and sharing, the group held a solidarity lunch. Since there were two persons celebrating their birthday, they also shared some cake!
All in all, the activity left everyone feeling content and happy with their newly learned skills and new connections. By also bringing these actions into public spaces like the mall, we can contribute into normalising sign language and the visibility of people with disabilities. Our aim is to make sign language accessible to everyone regardless of their abilities. Inclusion starts with connection and connection starts with communication which is why we need to keep on learning ways of communicating. The Cambodia Linking & Learning Team is very happy to be able to support and amplify these kinds of activities and will continue to do so!
Live and Learn Cambodia is the Linking and Learning Facilitator of Voice in Cambodia.