First, SA is now the first country in the world to recognize its own national sign language as an official language in the constitution. This differs from the current 11 countries that officially recognize their own sign languages.
Secondly, SA became the seventh country in the world to recognize National Sign Language as its official national language. The other countries are Uruguay (in 2001), New Zealand (2006), Poland (2012), Papua New Guinea and South Korea (2015) and Malta (2016). Four of these countries — New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, and Malta — have formalized their own national sign languages through a National Sign Language Act. Uruguay did this through disability legislation and Papua New Guinea through a dictate from the country’s National Executive Council.
Third, it took SASL a long time to become an official language of the country, as did the nine indigenous South African languages (Zulu, Sotho, etc.). These languages were first recognized as official languages at the regional level in 1963 but were recognized as official national languages along with Afrikaans and English from the 1993 Interim Constitution.
The achievement of these exceptional milestones is due to the globally favorable social and political climate around minority languages and the entire disability issue, constant pressure from the active Deaf lobby, and energetic and decisive upward action by a series of role players.