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Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has ordered sign language to be used on all television stations and at official functions, and to be recognized as a national language.

Chakwera said he was concerned with challenges deaf people in the country face largely because of a lack of sign language interpreters. “We must stop thinking of sign language as a favor to deaf people,” he said. “That kind of condescension has no place in this new Malawi. We need a re-education of our minds to regard sign language as a human right.”

Chakwera said every person has a right to acquire language from the moment of birth, including sign language for people born with hearing impairments. Chakwera said his administration will work with the Malawi National Association of the Deaf, MANAD, to make life easier for the country’s 400,000 sign language users.

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