Abuja Association of the Deaf (AAD), in it’s one-day event organised to commemorate the International Week of the Deaf and Sign Language (IWDSL), called for recognition and adoption of Nigerian Sign Language as an official language in Nigeria.
International week of the deaf is an annual event celebrated every year as part of a commemoration to promote Sign language and advocate for it’s inclusion in the society. This year’s theme is “A world where Deaf people everywhere can sign anywhere.”
The Chairman of the Association, Mr Ayoade Beyioku-alase in his opening address, expressed gratitude to God, the entire nine million deaf community, friends, partners and stakeholders for their commitment and continued support in creating an inclusive society aimed at making everyone including the deaf feel a sense of belonging.
He highlighted areas of concern which needs to be addressed and provided necessary solutions which according to him includes issues like discrimination, communication barriers, lack of accessibility to fully participate in the society, limited access to education, lack of accessibility in public spaces including healthcare, governmental and private buildings, transportation, employment, lack of adequate representation in key decision making process, and acceptance and recognition.
The Chairman also made a sincerely appeal to the FCT Minister, relevant stakeholders, CSOs and NGOs to give serious consideration in establishing an agency for PWDs in FCT cutting across all Area councils in FCT.
Proffering further solutions to these challenges, Mr Ayoade Beyioku-alase urged government, NGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders to take active part in paving ways for more inclusion by prioritizing the recognition of sign language officially, ensuring there are sign language interpreters available in all strata of our social lives, prioritizing inclusive policy, amplifying awareness creation and sensitization, ensuring there is accessible information and collaboration.
Deaconess Adedoyin Beyioku-alase, the former board member of the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), emphasized on the need for the promotion of Sign Language identity for the deaf, according to her, Language is a fundamental human right with which information are disseminated, and without it, the deaf remain hidden and their rights trampled upon.
She identified the importance of the discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (prohibition) Acts 2018 and classified it as a significant milestone in the lives of millions of PWDs in Nigeria. She, however, stressed the need for continuous advocacy for full implementation of policies that protects the rights of deaf people, this according to her is necessary in promoting language accessibility for deaf people in Nigeria.
Mrs Beyioku-alase added that technology also plays a vital role in shaping communication in an ever increasing interconnected world, according to her, access to technology and online platform is crucial for communication and full participation, she encouraged “we must address the digital divide in order to create full participation and inclusiveness.”
Going further, Mrs Beyioku-alase advocated for equal access to quality education for deaf children, provide an environment that would promote their linguistic identity. She also advocated for quality and adequate training and providing of qualified deaf teachers.
“Advocacy is key, but we need assurance, commitment, and support of government and other stakeholders, including the educational institution, communities, and individuals, to achieve this set objective.”
There was also an outpouring of goodwill messages from some stakeholders, CSOs, NGOs, and representatives of government, who all attest to the importance of communication and why it’s necessary for the inclusion of sign language as an official language in order to create an inclusive society.