Candidates require sign language interpreters

Friday, 31 December 2010 00:00 Written by  Barry Peter Oluoch

Articles 32 and 35 are both against discrimination of Ugandan citizens on the basis of their disabilities.

Noting that Uganda is among states with disability-friendly legislations on the continent, it’s worrying that in the ongoing election campaigns, no political leader has included persons with hearing impairment as their voters. What the politicians say about their policies and promises when they get into power is never conveyed to the deaf voters due to the absences of sign language interpreters at these rallies and meetings.

The politicians at local council level too, do not have sign language interpreters during their rallies. It defeats one’s understanding and reason to see presidential candidates and those aspiring to rule this country’s citizens (the deaf inclusive) not catering for a provision to offer sign language interpretation during their political rallies or even mentioning persons with disabilities (PWDs) issues in their manifestos. We may have one of the most friendly legislations on the whole continent but without political will to implement them, they remain useless.

The Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD) recommends that arrangements are immediately made to engage professional sign language interpreters at all campaign rallies.

According to Alex Ndeezi, MP representing PWDs for central region, the country has enough qualified sign language interpreters to serve every district in Uganda. However, the government, through the Public Service Commission, has failed to seek methods of recruitment for these vital resources in public service administration.

Mr G. Kutosi, head of department, Special Needs Education in Kyambogo University, says the university has been graduating over 20 students in Diploma in Sign Language since 2000. Kyambogo University also offers certificate courses and refresher-tailored workshops to teachers of sign language. This would mean that the candidates on the campaign trail can’t fail to get sign language interpreters.

Sign language is a profession with its code of ethics like confidentiality, objectivity and neutrality, just like other comparable professions of teachers, doctors or engineers.
The challenge of deaf citizens not accessing information has been aggravated by the Uganda Broadcasting Commission (UBC) that has failed to implement the Articles that relate to access to information in the Communication Act where all television stations are supposed to provide signography on all televisions at-least twice a day.

We appeal to the government and politicians to rectify these seemingly embarrassing anomalies and provide sign language interpreters in order to include deaf persons as formidable voters in its civic education and other programmes.

According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics and related national census of 2002, Uganda has over 700,000 deaf adults (excluding deaf children who have since grown up). The government would consider coming up with a policy to force the telecommunication and media companies to at least use 30 per cent of airtime to broadcast issues on deaf populace. Freedom of access to relevant and timely information is a human right, not a privilege.

Mr Oluoch is the director, African Sign Language Interpreters and Translators Agency
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Source: The Daily Monitor