Voting pamphlets and explanations of federal bills should be available online in sign language, says the Swiss Federation for the Deaf, which has handed in a petition to the federal chancellery. For the more than 10,000 people in Switzerland who are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing, the voting pamphlet appears in the “wrong language”, the federation said in a statementexternal link on Monday. “Their language is sign language. Written German is a foreign language they have to struggle to learn,” it wrote. “Having to understand complex political content in this foreign language is an unnecessary hurdle which violates Swiss and international law on barrier-free access to information.” The federation explained that without appropriate measures, “the free formation of opinions and therefore political participation is made more difficult – if not impossible – for affected people”.
More than 2,700 signatures were collected on Saturday, National Sign Language Day. The petition calls for all political information producing by the state to be made accessible in sign language, beginning at a federal level.
But is this really necessary? Surely deaf people can read?
“They can read, because they learn to in school – just like speaking,” Martina Raschle, spokeswoman for the Swiss Federation for the Deaf in German-speaking Switzerland, told swissinfo.ch.