This article considers the feasibility of inclusive education for Deaf students in a mainstream Further Education and Training (FET) classroom through the use of a South African Sign Language interpreter. It revisits the centrality of language in Deaf students' education and reports on progressive policy changes in the areas of language, education and disability in South Africa. The article surveys classroom discourse and literacy practices in a mainstream FET classroom, focusing particularly on students’ acquisition of text literacy skills in Business English. Drawing on theoretical frameworks from the New Literacy Studies, Critical Discourse Analysis and the Social Model of Disability, the article argues that there is definitely potential for establishing inclusive education for Deaf students in a mainstream classroom. It however highlights that there are many difficulties and challenges around providing fully inclusive education for Deaf students. It was found that the signed interpretations in this classroom frequently represent an impoverished form of language while some types of pedagogic practice impede the interpreter’s signing. The article concludes that interpreters and teachers need to be trained in forms of language and pedagogy that would benefit all students in class, including Deaf students.
Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2012, 30(1): 25–37