As Nigeria joins the World to celebrate this years International Day of Sign Language,
David O. Anyaele, Executive Director Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), says it offers us as a nation to reflect on the extent to which we accommodate citizens of our country that do not speak or hear the way we do, in particular persons with hearing impairments that use Sign Language as a means of communication.
While congratulating Nigeria’s Deaf community, Anyaele, said it is also an opportunity for citizens to ask critical questions on the extent to which Deaf persons are given opportunities in governance and socio-economic activities in the society and the extent of availability of Sign Language interpreters in Nigeria that could support the teaming Nigerians with hearing impairment.
Reflecting of the theme of this year’s International Day of Sign Language is “Sign Language Unite Us”, he described the theme as apt for Deaf community in Nigeria as the primary beneficiary of Sign Language. This is because being Deaf in Nigeria attracts exclusion, isolation and stigmatization as well as poverty, he noted.
“Recognizing that over 80% of Deaf persons in the world are living in developing countries, with millions of Nigerians having one level of hearing impairment or the other; acknowledging that Sign Language is the major channel for accessing the world by the Deaf community, yet its awareness among Nigerians is very low;” he observed.
Speaking further, Anyaele, said, “Appreciating that the major form of communication between the Deaf community and members of their society is through Sign Language, which is a tool for social interaction for Deaf persons; and concern that access to Sign Language for Deaf persons in hospitals, schools, government institutions and other public centres are very limited, if not impossible. One wonders how the persons with hearing impairment in Nigeria are coping with such a harsh society.
“Pleased that sections 24 and 25 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 requires public hospitals and the government to ensure that persons with disabilities are given special considerations, including provision of special communication during situations of risk, emergencies (such as Covid-19) and other natural causes. Yet implementation is the real mountain to be removed for Deaf community to feel united in Nigeria .
*Sign Language is the surest way of encouraging the Deaf community’s participation in the electoral process, as evidence shows that many political parties make no provisions for it.*
It becomes imperative to call on the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities to ensure awareness creation on Sign Language in Nigeria; and for the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities take appropriate steps to promote and recognize Sign Language as a lingua franca in Nigeria. This is to reduce the gap between the Deaf community and the larger society.”
He therefore demanded that incentives be provided by Federal and State governments to encourage and increase more students enrollment for Sign Language studies in higher institutions, adding,”This is to ensure availability of Sign Language Interpreters in every location in Nigeria to support the increasing number of Deaf persons; even as the need for capacity building on sign language usage in our public institutions has become imperative.”
Also, he called on the Independent National Electoral Commission. INEC and Political parties to ensure availability of Sign Language interpreters during the forthcoming General elections even as campaign kicks off ending of this month.
He pleaded, “No one should be left behind by reason of hearing impairment, as such with access to Sign Language to Deaf community, will not only unite us a people, but would go along way towards promoting inclusive society free from discrimination on the grounds of disability, and hearing impairment in particular.”