Pageant princess to create awareness for deaf

Cedric Touzard with his wife, Mrs Deaf SA first princess Angelique Touzard and her sister, Sonjia Viljoen.

Camps Bay resident Angelique Touzard is still on a high after being crowned first princess in the Mrs Deaf South Africa contest held in Pretoria last month.

While the Miss Deaf SA pageant has been running since 2000, Mr and Mrs Deaf SA were only introduced this year.

The pageants aim to raise awareness about the deaf community.

Ms Touzard, 40, was born deaf. Her family realised when she was about six months old that she was not responding to loud noises.

She started boarding at the Dominican Grimley School for the Deaf in Hout Bay at the tender age of three and spent all of her schooling career there.

Atlantic Sun met Ms Touzard at her home and interviewed her with the help of her sister, Sonjia Viljoen who acted as a translator. The sisters communicated using sign language.

Ms Touzard said she took part in the pageant for the experience.

The competition is open to people who are either hard of hearing or deaf.

“A friend of mine who was also deaf told me about the competition. I wanted to take part for experience purposes but also to help raise awareness for the deaf community.”

The aim of the competition was to raise funds for hearing aids for deaf children.

“We were there for a week and we had to practise how to walk, model and pose. We had to learn how to do a line dance.”

She said it was a challenging experience for someone who is completely deaf, but it was rewarding and fun.

Part of the awareness campaign, she says, is to advocate for sign language to become the 12th official language in the country.

“People have this perception that because I sound different they are almost scared to approach or talk to me. People don’t need to be afraid to approach because I won’t take offence if they don’t understand. In the workplace and in general, people don’t look up, but a deaf person needs to be able to see your face and read lips.”

Ms Touzard, who worked for a time as a data capturer for a company that closed down in 2003, said more needs to be done in the workplace to help deaf people.

At the moment she helps her husband Cedric, who is also deaf, with his bakery, but she would love to work with animals.

The couple met through mutual friends.

She said even though modern technology has made life easier for deaf people, there are still challenges.

“Even things like going to the cinema is very difficult because there are no subtitles. Technology has changed a lot from when I was little,” she said.

Ms Touzard recalled the isolation of being deaf as a child.

“I was cut off when I was younger. I used to feel left out because I couldn’t follow the family’s conversations sometimes.”

Ms Viljoen, agreed that more needed to be done for the deaf community.

“It’s difficult for them to find jobs because they can’t communicate properly. I can converse with my sister because I’ve grown up with her but if I met another deaf person I might not understand them. It also depends on what school they went to. There is definitely more that can be done to integrate hearing and deaf people. It was very heartbreaking and I always used to feel guilty that she couldn’t hear music, hear us talking or what our voices sounded like.”

Ms Touzard said she wanted to encourage other deaf people to live a full life.

“The deaf can be who they want to be just like a hearing person can be who they want to be. You don’t have to be embarrassed about the situation.”