With September being deaf awareness month, we spread the theme “Sign Language Rights for All”. The campaign theme ensures that no one in the Deaf Community is left behind as it calls upon decision-makers to give linguistic rights to deaf people and all sign language users.
For believers of the evolution theory and matters to do with “Early Man,” you will notice that as human beings evolved from their ape-like nature to the “developed being” homo-sapiens, their main means of communication was sign language- apart from the squeaking noises and art of drawing and painting which they developed during the process. Sign language helped them understand each other as they made signs of different animals that they wanted to hunt or what they planned to do.
Sign language is just like English, Swahili, French, German or any other language and it deserves to be treated as such. Most people think sign language is exclusive for the hearing-impaired society, forgetting that it has existed throughout history. Making it a priority just like other languages can make a big difference not only on our perception about it but also in how we interact and communicate with hearing-impaired people.
It would be amazing to find people excited to take up sign language classes as they always are when studying foreign languages. Furthermore, it would even be better if sign language is made part of the compulsory subjects in early education so that apart from the usual Math, English, and Kiswahili, we also have Sign Language.
It is sad that we have ignored sign language yet it is part and parcel of our day to day conversations. For instance, how often do you find yourself pointing towards someone of somewhere or waving towards someone without having to necessarily speak? You see! Even involuntarily, we all use sign language more than we know. What then would it cost to learn the official linguistics of the sign language?
Sign Language in the Healthcare Sector
The healthcare sector is a crucial part of any government and an individual’s life. At some point and time, one is bound to seek medical assistance from hospitals and healthcare centers. These institutions receive people of different languages, cultures, backgrounds, behaviors, abilities, and disabilities all looking to find the best services. Therefore, professionals in the healthcare sector need to be well-versed in all socio-cultural perspectives to understand their patient’s needs. As a result, they will be enabled to offer efficient services in line with the exclusive needs of each patient.
For a long time now, the hearing-impaired persons have faced significant challenges when it comes to accessing healthcare services owing to the lack of professional medical workers who know sign language. Because communication is crucial in understanding patients, people in the health sector, especially the doctors and nurses, should see the great need to learn sign language as it will ensure effective communication with hearing-impaired patients to better understand their needs and wants.
There may be the option of hiring sign language interpreters, yes, but would that be considerate basing on the fact that medical reports are usually private and confidential unless the patient decides to let it be known to a third party? So then wouldn’t hiring an interpreter during check-up or consultation with healthcare personnel breach patient’s privacy?
Importance of Having Healthcare Professionals Learn Sign Language
- Hearing-impaired patients will be able to convey information to specialists accurately
- It will enhance the provision of adequate and equal treatment for all persons
- It will help pull hearing impaired patients out of isolation
- It will improve privacy for hearing impaired patients
“Sign Language Rights for All” is a call to embrace the language as part of the society and create awareness not only in healthcare but in other sectors as well. Deaf Awareness Week which starts from 23rd September also serves the purpose of advocating for more people to learn this beautiful and fun silent language and to accept it as a better part of our local cultures. It is a week in which the hearing-impaired community and allies focus on the deaf culture, challenges they face, and celebrate their achievements.
If every one of us considered sign language a second or third language after their mother tongues, we would strengthen the bond we have between our brothers and sisters with hearing impairment, hence making this minority group feel part and parcel of the society.
By: Linzer Kibebe