Advocating for the rights of deaf people in Botswana was the main focus of the Botswana Association of the Deaf (BOAD) during the International Week of the Deaf (IWD) that was commemorated from the 19th to 25th September.
“We believe we have raised awareness of the abilities and achievement made so far to the public, about Deafness, causes and importance of Sign Language in breaking the barrier to communication,” said Disabilities advocate, Shirley Keoagile.
The association called upon the Government to eradicate communication barriers that are experienced by Deaf people at all aspects of life – informal and formal education, health, social life, politics, the economy, the environment, banking, the police, the courts, parliament and conferences. “These barriers hinder the Deaf people’s full participation in society and should be done away with,” she said.
The week was filled with events, marches, campaigns and meetings that highlighted issues they wished to be addressed by local and national authorities.
The purpose of the Week was to draw attention to deaf people, their accomplishments and their issues.
Keoagile said they are aiming at taking Botswana sign language to people. “People do not know our own sign language in Botswana; we want people to communicate with us in our own language,” she said.
The weeklong commemorations managed to draw the attention of politicians, authorities and general public to achievements and concerns of the community of Deaf people which, over the years, have been rather neglected.
In the traditional school environments, it has become very difficult for deaf people to navigate without the aid of interpreters.
“Government should put up special schools for the deaf, help young people learn how to communicate with others and the skills necessary to get through the world as a deaf person,” she said. “It is our hope that after this awareness week, the population will be well aware of the problems faced by the deaf in trying to access their rights and that measures will be put in place”.
Keoagile said to surmount this barrier, there is need for the institutions to employ sign language interpreters to ensure the Deaf won’t face a communication barrier and that they receive the right information.