By Diana Omueza/Uchechukwu Okoro
Abuja – Mr Thomas Uba, a deaf, has encouraged Nigerians to develop interest in learning sign language and its interpretation.
Uba says understanding sign language is a way of integrating, supporting and encouraging the deaf in the society.
In an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja to commemorate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), he called for more awareness on the plights of the physically challenged.
Uba who was aided by his daughter, Ms Ifeyinwa Uba during the interview, also said that more awareness should be given to the roles and benefits of sign language and its interpretation.
“There are just a few trained persons to help those with hearing loss or deafness in the country, and this set of persons are only available to render this service in exchange for financial rewards.
“I encourage Nigerians to pick up interest in learning how to sign not just for the financial gains but also to support, encourage and integrate those with hearing loss and deafness into the society,’’ he said.
Uba decried that being invisibly disabled could sometimes be frustrating because he looks the same, sounds the same, but his communicating needs were different from others.
According to him, people naturally gravitate away due to not knowing how to communicate with me and this led to the initial unintentional shrinking of my social group.
“They say when things get hard, you find out who your true friends are and certainly that became true at some point in my life.
“Initially I fought so hard against being deaf; I did not want to be deaf. It was a whole new world for me and unfortunately there was very little support I received.
“I had no idea where I could go to access help and support for myself and my family and this led to my shying away from social events as most people found communicating with me very annoying and stressful.
“It was so hard to communicate in a large group within a noisy setting and I became depressed and lonely because I did not want to be a burden to anyone.
“But after about five months of becoming deaf, it became apparent that my wife and my children needed a proper way to communicate and we all went to learn the sign language interpretation,’’ he said.
Uba said that initially, it was very hard and frustrating to have a conversation with lip-reading and pen and paper, but after learning to sign with the support of his entire family, communicating became fun and interesting.
He said that signing was a brilliant and interesting language that should be made generally acceptable not just to aid the deaf or those suffering from hearing impairment but to curb isolation and stigmatisation.
Uba said that if sign language interpretation was learnt by more persons in the society, the burden and barriers of communicating would be lessened or eliminated.
He advised that more awareness should be created by the government and other health and disabilities stakeholders on the roles of sign language in integrating persons suffering from deafness and hearing loss in the society.