A coalition of Deafcentric organizations which includes the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), Association Of Sign Language Interpreters Of Nigeria And The Lionheart Ability Leaders International Foundation (Deaf-blind) have called for recognition of sign language as one of the national languages in Nigeria.
The call was made at a press briefing to commemorate the International Day of Sign Language which held on 23 September,2021.
23 September is marked across the globe to celebrate Sign language. The yearly commemoration among others, aim at protecting the linguistic identity of Deaf persons, along with other Sign Language users. The theme for this year’s celebration is: “We Sign for Human Rights”.
Vice president of the NNAD, Haruna Muhammed, speaking on behalf of the coalition, remarked that there is need for the Federal Government to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to put in place a National Policy which officially recognizes Sign Language as one of the country’s National language.
He appealed to the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to grant powers of employment waiver to the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities to ease employment for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind, including Sign Language interpreters and other PWDs.
Mr. Haruna urged the National Commission for Persons with Disability to monitor and ensure employers’ compliance with the 5% employment quota reserved for Persons with Disabilities as spelt out by the Disability ACT (2018).
Muhammed tasked the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and other government agencies to respect Deaf and Deaf-blind people in Healthcare as frontline workers. Meanwhile medical personnel were urged to make available Personal Protection Equipment(PPE) for Sign Language Interpreters on duty call.
Other appeals made by the coalition include;
“Initiation by the Federal Government, of a certification and licensing system for Sign language Interpreters alongside a capacity building framework for training/retraining Sign Language Interpreters under emergency situations. This is to be done in collaboration with NNAD.
“TV stations to comply with directives of the Honourable Minister of Communication by providing Sign Language services and FULL CAPTIONINGS on recommendations of NNAD and ASLIN.”
The coalition also appreciates availability of refreshable Braille displays that allows Deaf-blind persons to be carried along.
“Public institutions (schools, healthcare, media, etc) to engage the services of Sign Language Interpreters as stipulated in the Disability Act (2018).
“The Federal Government of Nigeria to expedite action and finalize the process of sequential salary scale for sign language interpreters in Nigeria.
“Provision by the Federal Government of additional budget allowance to the National Commission of Persons With Disabilities to help improve planning and development of PWD needs in the country.”
The coalition said implementation of the above listed will have huge impact on the lives of the nine million Deaf people in Nigeria while promoting Sign language.