UNIVERSITY of Zimbabwe sign language lecturer, Tawanda Matende, has called for the empowerment of deaf and hard of hearing communities in the country.
Matende wants organisations and private players to provide alternative opportunities for individuals, rather than leaving them with few other options.
Research cited by Matende shows that deaf individuals have less access to education, employment opportunities and social integration, putting them at greater risk of marginalisation.
He also emphasised the role of entrepreneurship in allowing deaf people to enter the job market and exit poverty.
“An open and just society in Zimbabwe is only possible if the linguistic and rights of the deaf people are promoted.
“Deafness is widely acknowledged as a serious impairment that impacts an individual’s access to education, employment and general social integration.
“This leads to deaf people in Zimbabwe to turn to the streets for their livelihoods. Consequently, they face a high rate of poverty and economic exclusion,” he said.
Research shows that the deaf and hard of hearing people typically leave school with fewer qualifications and they are more likely to find themselves in jobs where they are not promoted.
“The University of Zimbabwe has walked the talk by introducing sign language as a university wide course as a way of promoting it among the academia, but the question remains, is it being taught by deaf people themselves.
The true measure of a country’s development lies in how able it is to cater for its most vulnerable and marginalised people and deaf people fall under this category.”