Bits of ME
They live among ‘us’ I always thought to myself and it’s for that reason that I sought to host this outstanding individual on NBS TV’s People and Power to pronounce to the world: ‘they are not any ‘different’.
My dilemma therein lay; how was he going to communicate? He couldn’t speak but he could hear!
The answer was right in front of me, but like we’ve been accustomed to judge…by the cover, I was guilty of bypassing the sign language interpreter…Ulala!
I later admitted; a community of ‘silent minority’ in a world of dominant same feathers is easily swallowed by wrongly cooked perceptions.
After hosting Dr. Sam Nkiingi Lutalo (Ugandan) the only deaf African with a PHD in Linguistics, I was put in my place.
As I recount our meeting at the Kyambogo University Faculty of Special Needs and Rehabilitation I recall how loud the ‘silent conversation’ was!
I recall, Dr. Lutalo’s sign language interpreter lullabied me with lines ‘Mable is now ‘disabled’. Yet it landed to my joy after being whispered to.
I was the only one not singing among the group. For an instant, I awed in the surprise ambush of feeling inferior among the people ‘we call’ impaired; yet here their superiority was clear.
It comes down to habitual perceptions to lower their bar, or them lowering theirs.
One of the ways the gap between the deaf can be narrowed is to uplift sign language across the education curriculum as part of selected languages for study, dreaming right?
Bits of YOU
Many of you must by this paragraph be reflecting on your own bits of experiences with the deaf community but what often ticks their pride against the ‘luxuries’ of the hearing community is the flow of information.
Dr. Lutalo acknowledges, access to information among the hearing impaired community has tremendously improved since the directive given to media houses to have Ugandan sign language interpreters on all television stations during news bulletins but argues it’s just a summary of 24 hours in a day.
“It isn’t enough; I rate it at 20%…there is need to have interpreters on all TV programmes in order to enable deaf people access information equally as their hearing counterparts. The lack of it affects the deaf people’s social functioning and this further increases the inequality gap,” he said.
Regulation 30 of the Uganda Communications (content) Regulations 2019 requires an operator who operates a television station to use sign language or subtitles for the benefit of persons who are hearing impaired in newscasts at least once a day and in live telecasts of national events as provided for under section 21(2) (a) of the Persons’ with disabilities Act 2006.
Not so long ago on twitter, a news viewer @Ssenyonyiderick posted and tagged me, “…can someone help me understand this, the lady in yellow circle uses sign language to reach those who can’t speak and hear…why is it that she gets smaller space on screen yet us who can see, hear and speak get almost the all screen?”
Such is the divide in a world made up of straight lines and bends, mountains and valleys is symbolic of the disparities that are not only manifested in classes but also nature that bears physical disabilities.
Nonetheless, Dr. Lutalo says that while the international regulations spearheaded by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires state parties to provide information to Persons with Disabilities in accessible formats, it does not dictate on the size/position of spacing for the sign language interpreter on television.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) standards under S. 5 (1) (x) for sign language on local television operators in Uganda on the size of image states that, “the image of the signer should be superimposed upon the original programme and should generally appear on the right hand of the screen and occupy a space no smaller than one-sixth of the picture.”
Whereas some countries like UK have sign language interpreters appear in slightly bigger size space on television and others even stand, Joe Kigozi the Chief Strategist Officer, Next Media Services says the size of the image is visible, UCC approves it and we follow the UCC regulations’.
UCC spokesperson Ibrahim Bbosa also acknowledged the commission’s awareness of the recent changes in both law and technology developments to involve and consult all stakeholders regarding the developments that include providing television access services beyond just signing.
What you may consider as a basic need may be a luxury to another; ask anyone what they want in your circle, and you will realize that their desires are either spendthrift or miserly depending on what yours could be.