World Celebrates International Week of Deaf People

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By John Kariuki

As the world commemorates the International Week of Deaf People, Lugha Ishara together with its partners gathered tens of deaf children and their parents who shared their experiences and celebrated the milestones they have achieved so far.

In her opening remarks, Nancy Maina, CEO and Founder of Lugha Ishara cited the joy of seeing children who were previously cut out from many interactions now speaking their minds voluntarily in sign language.

She called upon stakeholders to consider investing in such ventures as Lugha Ishara because if the impact was so tremendous with barely any funding, so much more can be done. Lugha Ishara is an organization that tackles language deprivation in deaf children by offering early intervention before a child’s brain loses the plasticity to acquire language.

The keynote speaker, Ms Sheila Lutta, a senior Education Officer at the Special Needs Directorate, Ministry of Education, encouraged the parents and children that Kenyan Sign Language will now be more accessible to the wider community with the new Competency based Curriculum as it will be a selective subject like many others. The outcome of this, she noted, would be in line with this year’s deaf awareness theme, ‘Building Inclusive Communities for all.’

“I hope Nancy and the Lugha Idhara team are looking to partner with the Ministry of Education so that other children are reached and included in communities such as Lugha Ishara,” she said.

Besides Sign language for deaf children, other innovators with solutions for the deaf were present, showing the various ways in which they are making it easier for the deaf community to be included in society for example, Knock Knock, a technology solution that alerts a deaf person when there is a knock on the door.

Bernard Chiira, the Country Director for Innovate Now, Africa’s first Assistive Technology Accelerator, said one of the reasons they are committed to grow ventures in assistive technology has great potential to solve issues faces by people with disability just as it is being used to provide solutions in other areas.

“By supporting such ventures, we are helping people with disabilities to get access to assistive technology,” Bernard asserted, adding that many of these ventures provide solutions tailor made solutions to fit not just specific disabilities but also the circumstances of their localities.

Parents of deaf children cited some of their challenges as late detection of deafness and lack of knowledge on how to go about it after diagnosis, causing delays in their children participating in all spheres of life fully- the Lugha Ishara’s hangout Hun has therefore been a relief to many as there they not only meet other parents in similar situations, but theya also receive counselling and therapy as their children enjoy being in a fully inclusive space.

They also cited lack of schools for the deaf as a major challenge- many of them have had to take their children to boarding school early because they cannot find a school for the deaf near them.and have to travel long distances.

The ceremony culminated in the launch of Lugha Ishara’s Strategic Plan for 2021-2024. They are bringing together everything they have been offering the children and parents to give a comprehensive end-to-end solution for language deprivation- from early detection to information, therapy and a variety of intervention methods, including Sign Language.

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