• Vanessa Nakitende

Support for the Deaf in Uganda

It is no surprise that to this date, the deaf community in Africa have not been able to fully discover and exploit their potential.

A deaf person is anyone with some form of disabling hearing loss, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimate of 466 million people has some form of hearing impairment. In Uganda however, there are more than 500,000 people who are completely deaf; that is up almost 1% of the total population in the country. They communicate using the Ugandan Sign Language(USL). There are so many misconceptions that surround the deaf community as unexposed parents see their deaf child as a curse, others consider them as a ‘punishment’ for wrongdoing; some go as far as thinking think their child was bewitched. In Uganda, a deaf person is commonly referred to as “Kasilu” which is translated as “stupid” or “foolish”, and this directly exposes them a stigma.

Being born deaf makes one susceptible to many challenges such including inaccessibility to information and resources since there is minimal mixing of the hearing and deaf community. The stigmatization and discrimination of deaf individuals in the hearing community erode their self-esteem and confidence, to the extent that they cannot voice their needs. This leads to low self-esteem which hinders assertiveness to negotiate in society, especially for their rights. The majority of the deaf community are living in poverty due to lack of employment, as well as employable skills which would otherwise enable them to compete for jobs. Sadly, they are usually given the causal jobs which are hectic and dirty such as building and fetching water on work sites. The deaf community also lack adequate educational facilities such as schools, teaching materials, among others; for the few that are available, they often lack the funds to access this education. Additionally, some parents also think sending a deaf child to school is a waste of resources which could be used for a hearing sibling.

Despite the development, there is still a general lack of awareness about the deaf community in Uganda. However, there is still hope! Various organizations have sprung up over the years whose mandate is to support the development of the deaf community through educational institutes, workplace employment schemes and nurturing employable skills. Employment programs have been put in place for inclusivity of people who are deaf in the hearing community. Some of these organizations include National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (NUDIPU), Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD), Silent Voices, The Joshua Project, Boanerges Deaf Initiative (BDI), among others. These organizations have done and are still doing a commendable job in regard to spreading awareness about the deaf community, in addition to advocating for their rights.

We stand united! Siloam256 is joining the deaf community to work alongside the organizations that are already in place, and to grow with them. Our mission is to support young people with hearing impairments by equipping them with vocational skills. This will aid economic independence followed by reintegration into their hearing communities to showcase their skills and work independently as entrepreneurs. As Siloam256, our goal is to advocate for change in perception of the deaf community’s abilities and this starts with creating awareness of the apprentice’s skillset within communities.

In conclusion, people with hearing impairments are PEOPLE first, and their impairments are only a secondary factor in their lives, therefore they should not be denied access to the same rights as the hearing community. When empowered with knowledge skills and resources, people who are deaf and hard of hearing have the potential to contribute to the economic development of Uganda as a country.

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