The Executive Director of the Henry Djaba Memorial Foundation, Dr. Otiko Afisah Djaba has observed that the ongoing public campaign by the Government against the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) seems to discriminate against or properly not targeting persons with hearing impairment. She said if conscious measures were not taken to also target the vulnerable groups in the mass education with the right communication mechanisms, the disease can cause serious destruction.
She, therefore, appealed to the Government to come out publicly to announce the kind of precautionary measures put in place to protect and sensitize the hearing impaired about the deadly Coronavirus so that their lives were not put at risk.
In a statement issued in Accra by her Foundation, Dr. Otiko Djaba drew the attention of the Ministry of Information, NCCE, Duty Bearers and the Media to make information about the COVID-19 accessible to all, especially to the hearing impaired in Ghana.
She indicated that persons with hearing impairment were faced with language and communication barriers, and had difficulty in accessing information through audio, radio and television unless the information was given in alternative formats such as sign language, captioning on television, easy to read information or infographics on social media, print and other formats.
According to the former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Coronavirus is a widespread deadly disease that can affect anyone, regardless of colour, gender, age, social standing, disability or otherwise. Adding that, over 246,762 cases and over 10,000 deaths have been reported to date, and still counting globally.
“These are urgent and desperate times and persons with hearing impairment should have rapid and easy access to information in sign language on regulations and directives to prevent and protect, know what to do, where to go and how to get supplies or health assistance. In addition, Sign Language Interpretation is urgently needed and required on all communication nationally and at the community level on the updates, hand washing, emergency telephone numbers, social distancing, physical isolation, quarantine and testing centers, and daily accurate news to enable them identify fake news and discount myths to reduce the risk of infection”.
Dr. Otiko Djaba who has for the past years devoted her time, energy and resources to protecting and defending the rights of persons with disability in Ghana and Africa, noted that, the hearing impaired also had real concerns and fears with regards to the spread of the Coronavirus, and the lack of accurate and adequate access to information in the communities makes it worse.
She, therefore, implored the duty bearers, in particular the Ministry of Information, NCCE and media houses to provide sign language interpretation at all times for all communication, to ensure that persons with hearing impairment are accurately and adequately informed on Coronavirus.
The Executive Director of Henry Djaba Memorial Foundation also expressed concern about how children are appropriately being communicated to, on the Coronavirus.
“How adequate is the communication for persons with sight impairment, street children, ‘kayayei’, hawkers, mental health patients and beggars on our streets? We are in this war against coronavirus together and so the needs of each group of our society should be addressed”.