ZIMBABWE on Wednesday commemorated the international Week Of The Deaf, an event aimed to celebrate the deaf community, their successes as well as raise awareness on the importance of sign language.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
In an interview on the sidelines of the event held in Harare, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust Programs Manager Ms Paidamoyo Chimhini said the event was themed Sign Language Rights For All.
This event is to commemorate the International Week for the deaf. This event is done annually where we celebrate sign language, deaf culture and deafness the world over. So this is our own way of celebrating the deaf community in Zimbabwe and celebrating the successes they have enjoyed in their lives. And also to raise awareness for the need to learn sign language so that we bring the communication gap between the deaf community and the hearing people in Zimbabwe,” she said.
She said they have learned that the deaf community has been facing challenges in health facilities due to ignorance.
“The challenge has been the lack of sign language in our health institutions where you find that sometimes nurses are trained in sign language but they do not use the language often which then means they forget how to use it. So when deaf people visit the health centres they do not know how to communicate with them. Communication is the bedrock of diagnosis, so if you can’t communicate with your patient, it makes it difficult to provide a service. So that has been the challenge,” she said.
The organisation has been training healthcare service providers in sign language and disability management. These programs are meant for health workers to improve their attitude towards disability.
From the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Sheila Matindike said they too are grappling with the challenges faced by persons with disabilities seeking health services.
“That one is a critical issue because it’s the right to health and the right to health has the right to live with it. If you cannot access health and you are not understood, it means you can lose your life. So its one of the fundamental rights. And when we look at persons with disabilities, we have heard them also saying sometimes they have problems with communication when looking at the deaf community. When you go to the health service centre, the health worker might not be able to understand sign language and meanwhile the deaf person would like to communicate their health problem. They may be misunderstood and the actual case, ailment may not be treated,” she said.
She concurred with Ms Chimhini emphasizing the need for health workers to upgrade their attitude towards people with disabilities.
“It’s one of those issues where we feel there is need for health service providers to be trained how to handle persons with disabilities and that includes those with either visual or hearing impairments. And those in wheelchairs, physical disabilities, even mental disabilities. So there is need for training for different service providers to be able to properly service the needs of all societies,” Commissioner Matindike said.
Meanwhile, stakeholder consultations for the Disability Bill involving the Department of Social Welfare, Justice Ministry, among other interested parties are ongoing.