By Stephen Kitsao, Disability ambassador,
Today being 23rd September 2019, Kenya joins the rest of the world to mark the international Sign Language Day. As we commemorate this day, very little has been done to bridge the gap between the hearing, hard of hearing and the hearing impaired. The deaf community is still agitating for redress on critical issues while the state lends a deaf ear. Despite Sign Language being one of the indigenous language in the Kenyan Constitution, Deaf people still face communication barriers in the employment sector, in healthcare and even in Education.
Kenya has ratified the international laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The rights of the Deaf are enshrined both in international conventions as well as the Kenyan Constitution. Article 54 of the Constitution of Kenya in particular states ‘A person with a disability is entitled to use Sign language, Braille and other appropriate means of communication and to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability’. However, despite this being stipulated clearly, it remains to be on paper.
Majority of public hospitals lack Sign Language Interpreters thus locking the community out due to language barrier. Nonetheless, the healthcare practioners lack an understanding of how to engage with Sign Language Interpreters. As a result, some even don’t understand their prescription after accessing health services. In the Education sector, their curriculum is not as effective resulting the community to be left out and thus the need for call to action to address Deaf Education.
The way forward
What is so difficult in enforcing these beautiful legislations? The government of Kenya needs to address the issues for the deaf to enable them have better access to healthcare and an improved quality of life. But how can this be done?
1.There should be massive awareness programmes to sensitise hearing people about deafness. This could include training medical practitioners as well as the inclusion of basic Kenyan Sign Language the Kenya curriculum.
2.The government as a duty bearer has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Kenyans who are deaf- the rights holders – by respecting their language. Disability inclusion should cut across the globe because it is a global agenda that all nations are focussing on under Agenda 2030 with a call to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND
I STAND ABLE