TT Association for the Hearing Impaired (TTAHI) executive Qushiba La Fleur said the deaf community in TT lacks equal access to services.
She was speaking yesterday at the TTAHI media conference and 75th-anniversary launch at TTAHI/DRETCHI, Port of Spain. La Fleur said the deaf in this country do not have superior access to services at banks, hospitals or in the justice system because the services of an interpreter were not provided.
“Across the board, deaf people do not have equal access to social services.”
She said some deaf people visiting health institutions were told there was no interpreter and they would have to bring their own, or they may be arrested and need an interpreter. She added the subvention TTAHI receives did not cover paying for interpreters. “Even to get a disability grant is difficult.” La Fleur also said one cannot say education was being mainstreamed, and deaf students were not being provided with the resources they needed.
“The education system needs to be fixed for our our deaf children.” She said with adequate support, at the end of their educational life the deaf would be better people in society, and she would like to see deaf senators in the Parliament.
“If we don’t fix the education system (for the deaf), they will continue to work at groceries and in menial jobs.”
TTAHI president Patricia Charles said the association has asked for a meeting with the Education Ministry and Education Minister and sent a letter two weeks ago reminding them of the request. She said the association wanted to discuss the need for specially trained teachers for the deaf, adding that teachers being sent to train deaf children did not know sign language.
She added one of the recommendations to the Education Ministry was to have sign language included in the curriculum. TTAHI also called for training and certification of sign language interpreters.
At the meeting it was reported that the employers for some deaf people were not paying NIS for them, but the employees were afraid of being fired if they spoke up. La Fleur said TTAHI was looking at a workshop on rights in the workplace. Charles said the association may also have to do an education drive for employers as well. The two-day TTAHI anniversary celebration is being held this weekend at DRETCHI on Wrightson Road from 10am to 5pm and includes a kids’ zone, fashion extravaganza and market stalls.