The Minister of State for the elderly and disabled, Sarah Kanyike, has revealed that the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development will focus on popularizing the use of sign language as a mode of communication as Uganda celebrates the International week of the deaf.
The Deaf Awareness Week is observed annually throughout the last full week of September and this year, it’s running from 21 to 25 September under the theme ‘Sign Language Rights for All’.
“The Ministry will popularize sign language as a mode of communication. The policy will adopt the Uganda sign language dictionary as the key document to be applied in communication,” Kanyike said.
The International Week of the Deaf (IWD) will be scientifically celebrated in Masaka.
The theme has been selected to reaffirm the importance of sign language which is the mode of communication for deaf people as a right.
Addressing the press on Tuesday at media centre, Kanyike noted that the Ministry of Gender is working with the Ministry of Public Service to mainstream sign language in public service through recruitment of sign language interpreters and conducting job trainings for key government sectors like health, judiciary, police, and community development among others.
“The Persons with Disabilities Act 2020 provides for sign language services in key social service sectors for instance schools, health services, media and communication, and should be mainstreamed across all services provided whether government or private,” she added.
“The Act is being translated into audio visual and will have all provisions in the law signed as per the Uganda sign language dictionary,” Kanyike stated.
She also noted that learners with disabilities have found it difficult to access E-learning especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where lessons have been conducted on Televisions and radios.
“We need to involve the deaf in e-learning. For instance with TV, teachers teach but the deaf are not catered for. There should be an interpreter to help these people understand and also benefit like the abled,” the Minister said.
She further revealed that the Ministry of Education and Sports under the special needs department is working out modalities on how to increase access to learning for deaf learners.
“The disabled are subject to equal rights. As leaders, we should also do our best to see that the attitude that people have towards the disabled changes so that they can also access these services,” Kanyike said.
The Executive Director Uganda National Association of the Deaf Mbulamwana Joseph noted that there is an urgent need to have sign language taught as a subject from primary one and not secondary as it’s the case now.
“Since March, learners are studying but you don’t expect deaf people to learn,” Mbulamwana said.
He also revealed that the deaf identified key issues that they want addressed by government and actors in the development arena.
“They demand for inclusion in all poverty reduction programmes and in the planning, implementation and monitoring of development ventures such as vision 2040, SDGs, national development plan 2, government and institutional budgets at all levels,” Mbulamwana said.