TOP
  • Home
  • News
  • Health facilities lacking sign language interpreters

Health facilities lacking sign language interpreters

By Victoria Nampala, Michael Odeng

Added 16th August 2017 08:34 AM

The 2014 national census established that nearly 1.1 million Ugandans suffer from hearing disability

Aaaaaaasmalljpg 703x422

UNAD chairperson Joseph Mbulamwana (L) delivering his remarks sign language outside court after filing the petition.

The 2014 national census established that nearly 1.1 million Ugandans suffer from hearing disability

Persons with hearing disability have asked court to direct government to provide for them sign language interpreters in health facilities across Uganda.   

Persons with hearing disability on Tuesday filed a petition against the Attorney General (AG) at the Constitutional Court in Kampala. They were represented by Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD), Ronald Wasswa, 31, and Josephine Namusisi, 26. 

Through Kirunda and Wasige Advocates, they say failure by government to provide sign language interpreters for the deaf violates their constitutional rights to equality, dignity, and deprives them of their freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. 

According to ISER executive director Salim Namusobya, government has failed to enact legislation to redress imbalances which exist in PWDs to enable them access quality health services and information in Uganda. 

They contend that the deaf in Uganda should enjoy the right to equality and non-discrimination as provided for in the Constitution and various international instruments to which Uganda is signatory such as the international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and The African Charter on Human and People’s Right. 

The case has not yet been allocated to a panel of Justices to preside over it. 

“We ask court to order the health and gender ministries to ensure that all health facilities in Uganda provide sign language interpreters with the hospital organizational structure for persons with hearing disabilities in accordance with section 7, 8, 25, 27, 29, 32, 33 and 35 of the Persons and Disability Act, 2006,” the petitioners requested.  

They say failure by government to provide sign language interpreters for the deaf, as well as ensuring access to health information violates their constitutional rights to equality, dignity, and deprives them of their freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. 

They further contend that it violates their right to health, privacy affirmative action, and denies them right to seek, receive and impart health information. This, according to the petitioners, contravenes Article 20, 21, 24, 27, 32, 33, 35, 44 and 45 of the constitution. 

The activists also want court to order the ministers responsible for health, education and gender to introduce sign language interpretation in the curriculum of medical personnel, in accordance to the Disability Act 2006. 

“The said ministers should ensure that all qualified health workers are trained in sign language,” they asked court. 

They also want court to direct the state to furnish it with a comprehensive framework on how it intends to ensure provision of sign language at health centres for the deaf. 

They aver that the deaf in Uganda should enjoy the right to equality and non-discrimination as provided for in the Constitution and various international instruments to which Uganda is signatory such as the international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and The African Charter on Human and People’s Right. 

According to 2014 National Housing and Population Census, nearly 1.1 million Ugandans suffer from hearing disability. 

According to ISER executive director Salim Namusobya, government has failed to enact legislation to redress imbalances which exist in PWDs to enable them access quality health services and information in Uganda. 

“For PWDs to access quality health services, they must incur an additional cost of hiring a sign language interpreter, which majority of them cannot afford,” she states. 

Namusobya revealed that some provisions in the PWDs Act have never been enforced, and as a result PWDs right have been violated. 

In her affidavit, Namusobya contends that after interacting with PWDs and health workers across the country, she discovered that the deaf face a major communication barrier in accessing health services. 

“Due to communication barriers, PWDs confidentiality and privacy of health information is infringed upon because their information is given to their relatives who accompany them to the health centres or to a third party,” she said. 

Namusobya says despite public health campaigns put in place by the state to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, the deaf still maintain that they do not know how to protect themselves from acquiring HIVAIDS and for those tested, disclosed that they do not receive counselling from health workers. 

“The experience of being deaf and trying to navigate health facilities without being understood by health workers can be extremely isolating,” says Ambrose Murangira, former UNAD executive director. 

Murangira further stated that “For women with hearing disabilities, the stakes are even higher, especially when they cannot receive information needed to make their own choices on family planning or reproductive health”. 

Expert’s comments  

When contacted on phone, Workers MP Sam Lyomoki revealed that a process of recruiting people who understand sign language to help medical workers in the health facilities is ongoing. 

“We have been having internal discussions over the issue but it has not yet been implemented”. 

Lyomoki said at the moment most PWDs move to the hospitals with their attendants, who help in communicating their complaint to health workers during examination. 

Nakasero Hospital surgeon Dr. Daniel Ssekabira also revealed that they do not have interpreters but exchange notes with patients. 

He further stated that they sometimes get patients who understand sign language to interpreter for them.

Related Articles

More From The Author

Related articles