Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism will be able to accommodate hearing-impaired tourists after 14 tour guides receive training in basic sign language next month.
The training, which begins on March 22, is a R67 000 municipal initiative and will see tour guides in the city walk away with the valuable skill of basic sign language.
Economic development, tourism and agriculture committee chairman Andrew Whitfield said the training was announced last year and was part of the theme of universal access.
“The concept touched on key issues including people with disabilities and we made a commitment that we would focus our efforts on ensuring that we address the issues of disabilities. Sign language is something that needs attention,” he said.
“We need to make sure that tour guides are fully equipped in engaging all our visitors, including the hearing impaired. We are also creating awareness of the importance of universal access around tourism and it was a commitment that we made right up front.
“We are always dealing with visitors who have challenges with access – sign language is an important skill for everyone to have and we want to make sure that we are prepared for any eventuality and all visitors.”
Tour guide and New Brighton-based Lungton Tours owner Lungelo Ngabaza said his inability to communicate in sign language had always worried him.
“I have never encountered a tour with a deaf person, but the thought of how I would handle that situation has always haunted me.
“To have this skill could have a very positive impact on my business,” Ngabaza said.
Ikhaya Lam Tours and Lodge owner Lester Barendse said it was important for tour guides to at least know the basics of sign language.
“I feel that having the skill is very important as it is the official language for deaf people,” Barendse said.