Ugandan Sign Language


A language of Uganda

Alternate Names

160,000 (2008 WFD). 160,316–840,000 deaf (2008 WFD, citing various sources). 528,000–800,000 deaf (Lule and Wallin 2010, citing various sources). Over 700,000 deaf adults (Oluoch 2010, citing 2002 Uganda Bureau of Statistics). Figures range from 0.5%–2.7% of the general population of approx. 31,000,000.


Scattered, mainly in urban areas.

Language Status

5 (Developing). Recognized language (1995, Constitution, Article XXIV(d)).


None known. Historical influence from British Sign Language [bfi], American Sign Language [ase] and Kenyan Sign Language [xki], but clearly distinct from all three. Influence from English [eng] in grammar, mouthing, initialization, fingerspelling (both one-handed and two-handed systems), especially among young, urban Deaf. Some mouthing from Luganda [lug] and Swahili [swa] (Lule and Wallin 2010).


One-handed and two-handed fingerspelling.

Language Use

Schools for deaf children since 1959. 8 primary schools and 2 secondary for the deaf; mixture of bilingual education and Total Communication (WFD Regional Secretariat for Southern and Eastern Africa 2008). Sign language in classrooms tends to be Signed English, especially by hearing teachers; some teachers are Deaf. Some schools are residential; education at preschool through vocational and university levels, but not available to all deaf children; many are in mainstream settings (Lule and Wallin 2010). Interpreters available for university, social, medical and religious services, courts, parliament, etc. (WFD Regional Secretariat for Southern and Eastern Africa 2008). Positive attitudes towards USL among Deaf; negative attitudes still common among hearing (Lule and Wallin 2010). All ages. Varied degrees of bilingualism in English [eng], the language of education. 20% of deaf have completed primary school, 8% secondary, 2% tertiary, 10% vocational; 60% illiterate in English (WFD Regional Secretariat for Southern and Eastern Africa 2008).

Language Development
TV. Dictionary. Bible portions: 2011–2014.
Other Comments

Sign Language classes for interpreters and others by Kyambogo University and Uganda National Association of the Deaf (2008 WFD Regional Secretariat for Southern and Eastern Africa, Lule and Wallin 2010). Deaf member of Parliament. 102 interpreters, 77 with formal qualifications, with some government funding. One-handed fingerspelling system is similar to French Sign Language [fsl]. Two-handed system, based on British SL [bfi], may still be used, but less-commonly. (2008 WFD Regional Secretariat for Southern and Eastern Africa). Christian (Roman Catholic), Muslim.