Issued: September 23, 2022
Press Release: International Day of Sign Languages
September 23 is recognized as the International Day of Sign Languages.
This year's International Day of Sign Language is an opportunity for us as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 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.
Congratulations to the Deaf community for this year’s International Day of Sign Language as it is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves critical questions on the extent to which we include Deaf persons in governance and socio-economic activities in the society; the extent of availability of Sign Language interpreters in Nigeria that could support the teaming Nigerians with hearing impairment.
The theme of this year’s International Day of Sign Language is “Sign Language Unite Us”
. This theme is 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.
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.
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 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 consideration, 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.
Incentives should be provided by Federal and State governments to encourage and increase more students enrollment for Sign Language studies in our higher institutions. 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.
NEC and Political parties must ensure availability of Sign Language interpreters during the forthcoming General elections even as campaign kicks off ending of this month.
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.
David O. Anyaele,
Executive Director Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)