By DRCI Team
Every 23RD September annually has been set aside by the United Nations to commemorate the international day for sign languages.
This annual event aims to highlight the impact of hearing loss on everyday life and increase the visibility of the deaf in society as well as mobilizing support for the inclusion of Deaf persons in every aspect of developmental strides in society.
Society at large comprises both the Disabled and the Deaf, hard of hearing persons are among them.
The society we live in sees Deafness as a course, sickness, disease, being demonic or possessed by evil spirits which are some of the reasons why society does not want to have anything to do with them, thereby excluding them in policy making, decision making, opinion polls and all every other issue that concerns them.
Deaf or hard-of-hearing persons can still make huge and important contributions during discussions, and policy-making that will bring positive impacts in societal activities ONLY IF they are accompanied by a Sign language interpreter who understands their Language and communicates back to them using sign language which is their common or alternative mode of communication.
Considering this year’s theme for the celebration which is *BUILDING INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES FOR ALL* someone can easily deduce that there is an already existing gap that is calling for urgent attention to close to having an inclusive community or society for all.
It is however in line with these various calls that the Anambra State Disability rights law which was passed and assented to on 13th September and 18th December 2018 respectively criminalises every act of marginalization and discrimination against persons with hearing impairment as several sections of the law stipulated how Deaf persons can be carried along in the society where they found themselves.
The Law also seeks to address the problem of Non-inclusiveness among the Deaf or hard of hearing persons in our society as can be witnessed in the areas of their Education, Religious activities, businesses ventures, justice and medical services etc
Section 41 of the law for example States that;
“The government, individual and corporate bodies shall provide information intended for the general public and persons with Disabilities shall be in an accessible format and technology.”
While Section 25, subsection (2 ) of the law states that government shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that all state-owned media houses shall train their reporters on sign language as alternative communication in news and each of its media programs.
Subsection( 3) equally states that television stations shall make provision for translation of audio aspects of their programs in sign language or subtitles for the benefit of deaf persons.
It is therefore expected that media houses, churches, Hospitals, Police Stations, Courts, schools, institutions and other service providers always engage the services of sign language Interpreters leveraging on the sign language directory produced by the ROLAC project in Anambra State after training of 30 sign language Interpreters to add to 5 interpreters employed the state government.
The benefits of building an inclusive community for all can never be overemphasized, it will in no small measures give the Deaf or hard of hearing persons a sense of belonging, Reduce the mortality rate of Deaf woman who does not go to the Hospital for Anti-natal care because the Doctor or Nurse that supposed to attend to her does not understand her complaints and issues. Brutalities on Deaf women and some men by people who wrongly accuse them as a result of the language barrier will no longer see such an opportunity to do so. etc
Finally, as we are commemorating the International day for sign Language, all hands must be on deck to ensure that our community is accessible to all. The government is expected to make policies that will encourage more people to have an interest in learning sign languages, employ more sign language teachers and include sign languages in the school curriculum.
Religious bodies, media organisations, families, traditional leaders, financial institutions, educational, medical and other service providers should make a conscious effort to ensure that their services are accessible to all by always engaging the services of sign language Interpreters. Let us remember that if the disability has not reached you, it has not passed you. Our Communities must be accessible to all.
JOINTLY WRITTEN BY
DISABILITY RIGHT COMMISSION INTERPRETERS TEAM