- The deaf community challenged the national and county governments to address inequalities they face in the job market.
- One of the challenges they want addressed include employment of sign language interpreters in all government offices.
Persons with hearing impairment in Nyeri have vowed to lobby the Ministry of Education through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to introduce sign language at the basic level of education.
They are proposing that Kenya Sign Language be taught at Early Childhood Development Education centres and at the primary schools as the first step towards addressing some of the challenges hindering the hearing impaired from living a dignified life.
They also want the county government to start employing ECDE teachers with knowledge in sign language as a way of ensuring that the hearing impaired get fair shot at education as their hearing counterparts.
“The challenges for the hearing impaired start at the foundation level, where the parent does not have knowledge of sign language and when these children go to school, they find teachers are not conversant with the sign language," said Monica Muthoni, a deaf person living in Nyeri.
"This inequality can be addressed at the foundation level by introducing Kenya Sign Language in our curriculum, where it will be taught just like Kiswahili or English.
“The county governments can also play a role by employing ECDE teachers with knowledge in sign language so that these children can have a strong education foundation and they can be equal with the hearing,” she added.
Speaking during the International Sign Language Day celebrations in Nyeri, the deaf community also challenged the national and county governments to address inequalities they face in the job market.
The Constitution of Kenya and the Persons with Disability Act of 2003 require that at least five per cent of the workforce in both private and public sectors should be people living with disability.
However, they said that despite presenting their petitions to the relevant state organs, they were yet to get any feedback on how the issues raised are being addressed by both national and county governments.
“We have been talking about inclusivity in the job market but when you go to the offices, you will not find an employed deaf person and yet they have various skills. So, we are asking where are the jobs for the deaf?” posed Ruguru.
Some of the challenges they want addressed include employment of sign language interpreters in all government offices including hospitals, and inclusion of the hearing impaired in community activities such as public participation forums.
“We have one big challenge particularly when trying to access health services because you have to go with an interpreter. This infringes on our right to privacy because it means that our health matters, which are supposed to be private between the doctor and the patient, are handled by a third person,” she added.
To commemorate the day, members of the deaf community staged a walk along the streets of Nyeri creating awareness about their language, before converging at the Whispers park for celebrations.
National Council for Persons with Disabilities county director Kenneth Kabene said the day was set aside by the United Nations to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users.
He said that NCPWD is working with both tiers of government to address the challenges facing people living with disability.
“As a government agency we appreciate that unemployment is one of the issues affecting PWDs and we are working with county and national governments resolve them,” Kabene said.
The celebrations were also graced by the Nyeri county children’s officer Kung’u Mwaniki, social services director Lilian Olunga, chief officer for social services Joe Gethi and his public service counterpart Joseph King’ori. Also present were nominated ward reps representing PWDs, Pauline Nyokabi and Lucy Wanyitu.
Wanyitu said the county assembly is in the process of amending the Nyeri County Disability Act of 2017 to include regulations.
She said the amendments will, among other things, give autonomy to disability issues. Currently, women youth and PWDs are clustered as one group. Additionally, the amendments will address issues of employment of PWDs as well as creating a fund to support their activities in the county.
“The amendments touch on health, employment, education and funding. One of the highlights is the proposal to set aside funds in the county budget, which will only cater for PWD issues,” Wanyitu said.