Persons living with disabilities have called for deployment of sign language interpreters to hospitals to enhance communication and access to services by speech and hearing impaired.
Speaking during a public hearing conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and HIV and Aids in Hwange on Monday, persons living with disabilities said they were sidelined from accessing primary health care services and the justice system because public workers are not well versed in sign language.
The meeting was organised to gather people’s views towards craft legislation that seeks to amend the Health Act.
They said in most cases they are misunderstood or misquoted while their testimonies are also sometimes not correctly captured.
In some instances, court proceedings are also halted because of lack of sign language interpreters. Some schools also do not have sign language teachers even if they have special classes.
People living with disabilities in Victoria Falls also recently said they were failing to access public services because most buildings have no wheelchair ramps.
Some attended the Hwange meeting through the help of Leonard Cheshire Zimbabwe Trust (LCZT), a non-governmental organisation that represents and safeguards the interests and rights of people with speech and hearing challenges and other disabilities.
LCZT is a member of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance which operates in 54 countries and seeks to create equal opportunities for people with disability.
Speaking at the meeting, persons living disabilities said they are deprived of information.
They said they fail to access health services or to be attended to at police stations because public officials are not trained in sign language, which is one the country’s 14 official languages contained in the Constitution.
“Health centres should be capacitated with sign language interpreters. Persons with disability are abused and they get frustrated when they seek justice or health services because service providers such as police and nurses do not understand sign language. We speak of young girls getting pregnant and we forget to mention that those with disability are also victims."
“They fall pregnant due to abuse but police and nurses are not capacitated to attend to them. We end up helping many of these victims but police turn against us and accuse us of coercing the victims to implicate innocent people,” said Ms Rosemary Maketo, representing LCZT.
Secretary for national council for the disabled Ms Octavia Phiri said she had noted with concern some attitudes exhibited by public officers towards persons with disability.
“Persons with disability face challenges starting from school. We need to do something about education of disabled people. Disabled girls are abused but because people don’t understand sign language then they are not protected.
“That’s why we want them to have access to sexual reproductive health services for their protection since they are prone to abuse,” she said.