DWAI organizes one day training on sign language with health workers, deaf women to bridge communication gap in hospitals, call on FG, private sectors to integrate Sign Language in schools of Nursing, Medicine, organizations


By Joy Odor

It has become worrisome that health workers and practitioners are not able to communicate or understand Sign Language to treat deaf women who come to hospital’s to access health services when they are pregnant or in childbirth.

To this end, the Deaf Women Aloud Initiative (DWAI) has organized a one day Training and Capacity Building for Health Workers and Deaf Women on the Usage of Glossary for Sexual Reproductive Health in Nigeria Sign Language to address the communication gap between them in accessing health services in hospital’s across the country.

The capacity building is also to bring the health professionals and deaf women together to learn how to treat each other in hospital, their challenges and solutions to the communication gap.

The Executive Director, Deaf Women Aloud Initiative (DWAI), Mrs. Helen Beyioku-Alase in an interview with reportcircle shortly after the end of the training and capacity building for health workers in Abuja on Friday said the training will be able to change the health workers attitude towards deaf women and the right percipetive on how to treat the deaf people.

“The capacity building with help to  bridge the gap between the health practitioners and deaf people which they would be able to access health services.

“The capacity building would also help in the implementation of deaf policy on health issues, so by training the health practitioners, they would go back to their health institutions and teach others the basis sign language, attitude approach and how to break the communication gap.

“We  are happy so see that most of the health workers participated in the sign language leaning today and we know only one day training would not be enough but this is a starting point.

“We will continue to engage the health practitioners in Sign Language awareness, advocacies for our own good and better relationship and in policy implementarion because without the deaf policy is just like a loos battle, we will not relent until we are there” she stated.

Mrs Helen appealed to Government to make it a Must not a Choice that the disability policy should be documented in hospital’s, give access health services to the deaf women, saying if the women are not able to access healthcare, the policy is just a wasted effort.

“We are also beging the Federal ministry of health to look into it to make it compulsory that all hospitals to have health policy for people living with Disability, especially the deaf women.

“My word to doctor in hospital’s is that they should be patient to deaf people, l know is not easy because of sign language communication gap and their inpatient to attend to deaf people. If they can learn simply sign, it would be a win win while deaf women should also be patient when explaining their case to health workers, knowing they cannot understand you without the interpreter around” she said.

In his contribution, the Senior Registra Ear Nose and Throat Department, National Hospital, Abuja, Dr Omezikam Mbanaso described the one day training and capacity building for health workers and deaf women on the usage of glossary for sexual reproductive health in Nigeria Sign Language as useful and timely, adding that it has created a close gap between the health practitioner and the deaf women.

According to him, the training has helped to understand better, the needs of the deaf women in communication difficult they express when they come to hospital to access health services and how the health practitioners should improve in helping them to have access to healthcare without negligence.

“The training has also exposed us the health practitioner on how to improve in modifying our hospital systems of operation to accommodate the dear women and made them feel welcomed rather than showing sign of pit or sigmatization to make them feel dejected or rejected.

“We have been able to be eqiuped with the need  to understanding Sign Language even if an interpreter is not around, we the doctor’s can be able to understand their language and communicate with the deaf women for better health treatment.

“It is necessary for hospitals both private and government to provide sign directions or indicators for people living with disabilities to help them navigate their way when they come to access health services to avoid embarrassment and fight.

Also Speaking, a health workers, Ms. lke Stalla lamented that the challenges faced by deaf women and other disabled persons when they come to access health services in hospital’s are interpretation for a doctor to diagnose properly.

According to her, it has become imperative for government at all levels and private sectors to employ interpreter in their organizations to aid the deaf people in every ramifications, noting that by doing so, it would be easy to break the communication gap existed, to turn around the sigmatization.

She hammered that there is the need for government and private hospitals to train their health workers and practitioners in Sign Language right from the basis to make the hospital work comfortable for both.

“When communication are both ways, the doctors cannot misdiagnose due to lack of understanding the sign while the deaf patient will explain their health condition with full confidence”she stated.

Ms Stalla was of the opinion that if the Sign Language can be inculcate or integrate in schools of nursing, colleges of medicine and every areas that has to do with health to learn it from the basis like vocational skills was introduced, by the time the came out of school, the health practitioners should be able to communicate with every form of disability and would reduce and eliminates the difficult communication gap being witness now.


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