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The three major barriers deaf people face in the community

Published Date: 08 Jun 2021

A guest post from Richard Mativu Musau

Hellen Keller once said, ‘Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.’ Yes, deafness cuts one from people, but it shouldn’t, if we are aware of the challenges and communication needs of deaf people. There are people who have never met a deaf person, who, in the presence of a deaf person, wouldn’t know what to do.

Communities are important to a deaf person, inclusion within the community means that a deaf person will be able to become an active member of the community, engage in some economic activity and be able to access services within the community.

Imagine any service within the community, whether its just going to church or mosque, going to the market place, in the hospital, at school, police stations and even weddings and birthdays. Deaf people also need to also get services from these entities or participate in the social gatherings.

So, what are the major barriers that hinder deaf people from being fully included in the society?

Lack of awareness. The first and fundamental one is lack of awareness. Sometimes being are just lacking knowledge, don’t know how to act, or where to get a sign language interpreter. There are many ways to communicate with a deaf person and without one knowing some of these options, they might not be able to fully interact with a deaf person.

Social attitudes. Negative social attitudes, stereotypes and prejudice are harmful for deaf people. Cultural beliefs can be deep rooted in myths and misconceptions about deaf people, seeing deafness for instance as a curse.

Lack of access to language and/or assistive devices. Most deaf children are born into hearing families, and some parents might still be in denial that they have deaf children, consequently seeking support service late in the life of the child. Deaf children are often delayed in acquiring and developing their language because they don't get early access to sign language. Children who live in poverty or in rural areas can't afford or get access to technology such as hearing aids. 

Richard Mativu Musau is the Senior Technical Advisor for Deaf Child Worldwide East Africa. Richard will give the keynote speech at the 'Communities' webinar on 22 June, where he will talk about the negative cultural attitudes towards deafness he has encountered in his life and his work and how they can be changed. You can join the webinar by registering here.