By Arret Jatta
The Executive Director of The Gambia Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (GADHO), Mr Doudou Loum, has raised concerns that “people with disabilities are patiently waiting and hoping to see changes and improvements in their lives” and that they “are no longer interested in hearing promises”. Instead “what they want now is action”.
Mr Loum notes that while the authorities, the government and the society continue to offer promises and good intentions towards them, what they really need to see is action. “They express sympathy towards people with disability but very little has happened so far,” opined Mr Loum.
The Executive Director enthused that “it’s when these good intentions are actualized in concrete material action, that’s the time we will see changes”.
He revealed that given that The Gambia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and that the laws should be implemented, however, that has not happened. An article published by Article 19 highlights that The Gambia’s National Assembly passed the Persons with Disabilities Bill on 6th July 2022.
The article notes that given the passing of the Disability Act “after almost a decade of tireless advocacy engaging a range of stakeholders, people with disabilities now have a fully-fledged law that protects their fundamental rights and freedoms”. However, the GHADHO Executive Director is not convinced that the Disability Law is being implemented. He raised concerns that “now the Gambia created a Disability Law but all these are meaningless if they are not backed by actions”.
He also said that the government and society failed to embrace sign language which he says is as important to deaf people as spoken languages are to people who can speak and hear.
Mr Loum believes that “the sign language barrier is the cause of all our problems and that is also the reason why we cannot participate in society. [It’s] the reason why we cannot have access to the opportunities that are available in society and also the reason why we cannot take control of our own lives”.
He highlighted the importance of sign language which he believes is a barrier to implementing development for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In his view sign language cannot be ignored when engaging people who are deaf or hard of hearing because that’s their mode of communication.
GADHO is involved in training children who are deaf or hard of hearing along with their parents. In total, he revealed that their organisation started training about 39 families to communicate using sign language to strengthen communication between children and their parents. In addition, GADHO also has teachers trained to teach sign language.
The concerns were raised at a press conference held on Thursday 29th September 2022 to commemorate World Day of the Deaf which helps to raise awareness of the challenges facing the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society across the globe.