Deaf Community and Culture in South Africa

Schools, Organizations, and Television

Flag of South Africa
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In terms of an established deaf community, one of the brightest spots on the African continent is South Africa. South Africa's deaf community is well-established and even has something that we lack in the United States.

Demographics of South African Deafness

One web source said that in 1998 there were at least four million deaf and hard of hearing people in South Africa. According to the 2001 South African census (Statistics South Africa), approximately 20 percent of all disabled people in South Africa have a hearing loss. As would be expected for a country with South Africa's history, unemployment and illiteracy are high in South Africa's deaf community.

Famous South African Deaf People

In late 2009, a deaf South African, Darren Rajbal, was named the most talented person in South Africa when he won on the South Africa's Got Talent Show. Another well known deaf South African is Terrence Parkin, a former Olympian. Another well-known former deaf South African is Lindsay Dunn.

Deaf South African Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen is reportedly the first deaf female in the world to be an elected official, with experience serving on the South Africa Parliament. A profile of her was published in Focus on Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen - Disability World, Issue No.3, June-July 2000.

National Deaf Organization

South Africa's national organization for the deaf is the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) (formerly South African National Council for the Deaf). DeafSA, has been around since 1929. It has nine provincial chapters throughout South Africa.

Two other national deaf/hoh organizations are Deafblind South Africa and SHHH South Africa, the South African organization for the hard of hearing.

Regional/Local Organizations

There is a Kwa Zulu Natal Deaf Association. It is affiliated with the Deaf Federation of South Africa.

South African Sign Language

Estimates state that between 500,000 and 600,000 South Africans use SASL, the South African Sign Language. There are a few pictures of SASL on the DeafSA website, showing that SASL is similar to yet different from American sign language. For example, the sign for mother is different from how we do it in the United States.

As sign language has grown in South Africa – particularly baby sign language – a deaf nonprofit organization has formed to promote sign language. This nonprofit is Sign Language Education and Development (SLED). Signing with hearing babies and children is being promoted through the Signsational Kids website.​

Deaf Culture in South Africa


One thing that South Africa's deaf community has that we lack, is a deaf television program. There is a deaf TV program, Deaf TV on South African Broadcasting Corporation's SABC3 channel. Deaf TV has been successful in South Africa since 1996 and has produced original programming including dramas and soap operas.

Deaf Studies Materials

Handz-on Learning is an online catalog company. It provides deafness materials to South Africans who want to learn about deafness. The University of South Africa Press (Unisa Press) has also published the book, "Deaf me Normal" Deaf South Africans tell their life stories, as part of their Hidden Histories series, in November 2008.


South Africa has other churches for the deaf besides the ones run by the Institute for the Deaf.

Deaf Education in South Africa

South Africa has a long-established deaf education system. Statistics indicate that there are more than 40 schools for the deaf in South Africa. Just a few of them:

  • De la Bat School (run by Institute for the Deaf)
  • Fulton School for the Deaf
  • Kutlwanong School for the Deaf (Rustenburg)
  • Kwa Thintwa School for Hearing Impaired
  • St. Vincent's School for the Deaf (Johannesburg)
  • Vuleka School for the Blind and Deaf

Some South African schools for blind children also educate deafblind children.

Post-Secondary Deaf Education

The Institute for the Deaf, Worcester operates Deaf College South Africa, which trains deaf people for jobs. In addition, the Bible College for the Deaf in Gauteng trains people to work in deaf ministry. 

Teacher of the Deaf Education Programs

The University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg has a Centre for Deaf Studies. The Centre offers programs in deaf education and focuses on teaching, research, and community service.

Deaf Service Organizations

The National Institute for the Deaf provides services including services for multiply disabled deaf, runs two deaf churches, and provides audiological and mental health services.

Community Service Organizations

A Deaf Child Centre at the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Cape Town provides preschool education and community services. This Centre also does a lot of deafness research.

The Carel du Toit Center provides early childhood auditory-oral education. They are based in Cape Town, with additional satellite centers. In addition to providing auditory education services, the Center also engages in Community Outreach, helping families with hearing related needs and more practical needs such as food.

A similar center is the Eduplex in Pretoria. The Eduplex provides auditory-oral preschool and primary school educational services, teaching hearing and deaf together. Plus, the Eduplex provides training to prospective teachers, audiologists, and therapists.

Deaf Travel to South Africa

There are travel agencies and specialized tours for deaf people.

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