THE EDITOR: This year we are looking forward to International Deaf Awareness Week – from tomorrow to September 30. Some of us who are deaf/hard of hearing are celebrating the whole month, because we are proud of our language and culture as citizens of TT and part of the society.
This year’s theme is “With Sign Language Everyone is Included” and for the first time the UN is celebrating tomorrow as the International Day of Sign Language.
But this year I cannot celebrate fully. Why? Since August I have been talking to three deaf teens who passed the SEA exam this year. I am excited for them because they have better opportunities than the older deaf.
Social worker Anessa Hamilton has been talking to their parents, helping them to understand this new change in their lives. But something is still not working.
One of the teens does not have an interpreter. Three weeks after the opening of the new school term and still no interpreter. Every day he messages me: “No interpreter for me, why? Please come to my school and help me.”
I wish I could help, but I am also deaf. I would need an interpreter in order to help him in class. So every day I ask him if he is understanding what he is learning. He says some of it. Equal rights to education but no access to the information. Why?
There is sign language on television now, so why none for my brother in school? Is it not important? Why is my brother not being included? Everything is taught in English, but why no sign language interpreter for him to be included in class? Why is my deaf brother not getting an equal opportunity and access as hearing student are? When he is tested at the end of the term, he will be tested in English, his second language. How will it be fair?
We ratified the Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities in 2015. Article 7 speaks about children with disabilities being equal to children without disabilities. Does every creed and race have an equal place? Until my brother gets a sign language interpreter, the answer is no. He is not getting an equal place.
This is not about attacking the Government or the Ministry of Education. Something needs to change. It is time we stop fighting and start working together. Every year we have the same stress, why? Every year there must be a letter to the newspapers, why? What is a different way forward?
To the Ministry of Education, how can I help going forward? How can we get more interpreters? How can I help in the training of deaf/hard of hearing students? I don’t have a degree but I have over 20 years of experience in signing. I can work along with a special ed teacher as a deaf interpreter if that will help.
I am not from the association, but I am a deaf adult who works in the community. I can make a difference. My deaf brother cannot continue with this problem. He is left out and it’s not fair. He can be great in society but he is not getting the opportunity to equal education. He should not have to wait.
We have to fix this problem now, because more children will be writing the SEA exam in the future. These barriers cannot continue. I want to be part of the solution.
Voice of the Deaf and
Hard of Hearing of TT