Officers heading public offices in the country have been urged to learn sign language to enable the deaf access government services easily.
Coordinator of the Kakamega Deaf Association Mr. Bonface Ochieng’ also wants the government to fully recognize sign language as the third official language to be used in all public fora for easy access of government services.
Speaking to KNA in Kakamega town, Ochieng’ lamented that despite the constitution providing that the State should promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenya Sign language, braille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities, people with disability still face challenges communicating to public officers.
“Sign language should be considered the third language to make it easier to communicate with the deaf so that they can get service anywhere,” he noted
He pointed out that public servants need to train in sign language to reduce challenges their clients face when seeking public services.
He said Kakamega Deaf Association advocates for the rights of the deaf in different areas in the county to access public information and participation in public meetings.
Ochieng’ urged the deaf to join the association saying it is free and called on parents who have deaf children to take them to special school.
“Kakamega Deaf Association was started in 1987 and has partnered with the Kenya National Association of the Deaf and National Council for Persons Living with Disabilities to enhance the rights of those with disability,” he said.
He called on County government of Kakamega to ensure they invite the deaf to their forums before decisions affecting them are made.
“Sometimes county government has public forums which target the deaf, they need to include them in decision making,” he added.
He suggested that the government should recognize the deaf as other people and give them opportunities as well as to ensure that every service point has an interpreter to ease access to services for the deaf.
According to County Disability Services Officer, Priscah Akoth, the National Council for Persons Living with disability has a program that trains public servants especially those who interact with the differently abled at the front desk of every government office in order to improve access to information.
“The registration and training program of public servants is done online free of charge and I urge them to apply before the window closes,” she said,
She encouraged public servants to make an effort to learn sign language in order to ease communication with the deaf.
Akoth said that the program has trained 50 public servants so far from different government offices in Kakamega County.
By Solomon Ageng’a and Cynthia Momanyi