The chairperson of the Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) said it is time for Namibia to recognize the use of sign language in the country on the basis of equality, just like other languages are recognized.
Speaking during the launch of the International Week of Deaf awareness campaign, Beata Armas said deaf people are deprived of information because their language is not recognized as a local language.
“We the deaf are a minority but we still have rights. Hence the need for us to be recognized like any other group. Sign language should be recognized as any other language,” said Armas.
According to her, hearing-impaired people often find themselves in difficult situations, some of which are life-threatening, as even hospitals do not have sign interpreters.
She said hearing-impaired people struggle to find jobs but the lucky ones that are employed struggle daily in their job environment because of the language barrier.
She added that hearing-impaired children are only sent to school at a very late stage by their families, which makes it difficult for them to attain a university education.
According to her, there is a need for the education sector to consider teaching sign language at all levels to ensure that hearing-impaired people are catered for at all levels and in all sectors of society.
“The aim is for deaf people to have access to information like everyone else. We are not on par with everyone. Our education system has a policy of inclusivity. But so many policies but they don’t cater for the deaf. The deaf should be included in policy and decision-making. Sometimes they are called for interviews but they find no interpreters.”
“Deaf people have fallen victim to HIV/AIDS because of a lack of information. Toddlers with hearing impairment are not sent to school on time. It’s difficult for them to reach university level,” she said
Armas further encouraged hearing-impaired parents to teach their children sign language. She maintained that a child must learn his/her mother tongue. “Sign language is a language like any other language.”
Martin Mwinga, special adviser to the governor of Oshana Region, officially launched the deaf awareness campaign day, which was celebrated under the theme “with sign language I am equal.”
According to Mwinga, government is committed to protecting the rights of people with disability.
He said some schools in Oshana Region already have facilities in place to cater for hearing and visually impaired people.
“Oshana Region is committed to advocate for the rights of deaf people and all people with disability,” said Mwinga.
Relating his life experience, Damian Paulus, the interim chairperson of NNAD, said that when he was growing up development had not focused on hearing-impaired people at all.
“I was taught by teachers but we couldn’t communicate properly, things were not clear. I managed to learn up to Grade 10. I got a job but it was always tough,” he said.
Paulus says the struggles faced by hearing-impaired people have not changed much as there is still no equal access to employment for them.
“If you go to the open market you find hearing-impaired people who have stalls. It’s not easy to get sponsorships as a deaf person or even get domestic work. You can’t be employed in the army or in the transport industry,” he said