Challenges Hearing Impaired Persons Face During COVID-19 Pandemic

Safety Measures Pose a Challenge for Hearing Impaired Persons

A section of the people with hearing impairment after receiving assorted foodstuff from the CAPD in Mvita constituency, Mombasa County.

COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed the daily economic, social, and physical activities of all individuals across the globe. Various nations affected by the pandemic Kenya inclusive have put measures in place to prevent further spread of the coronavirus as a cure is yet to be found.

Moreover, Persons with Disabilities have been left unassisted in many ways during this pandemic. Some of them are unable to fend for themselves as businesses are not doing well, while persons with hearing impairment suffer more because communication has become a challenge. These group of PWDs usually rely on lip-reading to enable them to understand what people with and without sign language knowledge say as lip reading facilitates the translation of sign language. But, with the introduction and compulsory use of nose masks, the design manufactured does not expose lips hence hindering lip-reading ability.

Nonetheless, organizations and county governments are working to assist these minority and vulnerable groups. On Friday, May 22, 2020, the Coast Association for Persons with Disability (CAPD) CEO Hamisa Zaja initiated the distribution of food to Persons with Disabilities in Mombasa County to help them survive through the current economic hardships. According to Zaja, some of these People with Disabilities lack civic education and sensitization against this deadly disease. She highlighted the challenges faced by people who are hearing impaired including difficulty in conversing with people because face mask manufacturers do not consider lipreaders and the social distance rule also hinders effective communication for the deaf and hard of hearing. This has immensely interfered with the normal lives of these groups of people across the country.

Besides, for people with hearing impairments to communicate effectively in sign language, they need to read lips and gestures of the communicator. Thus, raising the need to have special masks which will allow lip reading for proper translation during sign language communication. However, masks currently available in the market for preventing the spread of coronavirus are unfit for these minority groups.

While speaking during the launch of special masks for people with hearing disabilities held at Tudor flats in Mvita constituency, Zaja called upon the government to manufacture special facemasks for the deaf community and the hard of hearing, adding that these special facemasks will make it easier for them to communicate. She further reported that she is targeting approximately 1000 people in her program which is set to be rolled out in six different counties within the country to help in the fight against the virus.

The Coast Association for Persons with Disability CEO noted that people with hearing disabilities have been neglected despite suffering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In her speech, she said that most of these PWDs are unemployed whereas those undertaking income-generating activities are not doing well.

Coronavirus is real and its effects are adverse. Therefore, every individual especially persons with disabilities are called upon to join in the fight to defeat this deadly virus. Persons with Disabilities are encouraged to take necessary precautions to avoid contracting coronavirus and its spread while the government works to provide solutions for Persons with hearing impairment as far as safety measures are concerned.

People with Disabilities should be a priority when developing and implementing precautionary measures against COVID-19 because they are faced with many difficulties that pose the risk of coronavirus infection. Both financial and moral support will go a long way in assisting this vulnerable group to hinder the spread of coronavirus.

By: Linzer Kibebe

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