The sign your name challenge hashtag has been awash on Twitter for the last few weeks. Political figures, musicians and media personalities among others have taken part in the challenge with the aim of garnering awareness about the importance of inclusion of persons with disabilities in society.
The campaign, initiated by Media for Deaf Rwanda, has gone on to depict that whether able-bodied or living with a disability, all Rwandans have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone.
Kellya Uwiragiye, the founder of Media for the deaf Rwanda explained that the campaign was started with the aim of enlightening the Rwandan society about the existence of Rwandan sign language used by people with hearing impairement.
She pointed out that many people have welcomed the concept and that it has taken the campaign to a whole new level, a good indicator of achieving its objective in the first place.
Uwiragiye affirmed the need to do more for people living with disabilities to see that they are well integrated in society and also their quality of lives improved.
“You find that in other countries sign language is an official language which helps those with hearing impairments to find ways of interacting in society. Promoting sign language is vital since it’s another way of promoting the Rwandan culture.”
Challenges faced by persons with disabilities
Dominique Bizimana, who heads the National Union of Disability Organizations of Rwanda, said the campaign came at the right time because people living with disabilities face a lot of challenges on a day-to-day basis, and that these need to be addressed.
He said the campaign will not only ease communication for those with hearing impairments but will also serve as grounds for advocating for rights for other people with disabilities.
Bizimana pointed out aspects such as education, health services and justice as some of those where persons with disabilities meet a lot of challenges.
“In schools you find that the teachers are not equipped to attend to a child who has a disability like those who have sight or hearing impairments. The nature of buildings at times are not favorable, accessing the wash rooms for one who uses a wheel chair can be challenging. It is such challenges that we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Bizimana added that addressing such challenges needs to be handled as a cross cutting issue.
“If you are going to develop youth or women, devise solutions that consider needs of persons with disabilities too because they also have the right to live like other people.”
He went on to thank the government for doing a good job in helping people with disabilities, especially in enacting laws that ensure that their rights are respected. However, he stressed that sometimes the laws are not implemented.
“If the sign language is made official, a lot more will be achieved and we will achieve a society that is favourable for all people. We are in a country that promotes human rights and I believe all this will be achieved.”
All people are equal regardless of disability
George Ndirangu, a senior presenter and producer at CNBC Africa and one of the participants in the challenge, said the campaign helps highlight that all people are equal, regardless of disability.
He also said that it helps the society to become more aware of how tough those with speech or hearing disabilities have it while trying to communicate even the simplest things.
“Also, sign language is just like any other language, different way to go about it, but equally interesting and equally hard. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the initiative,” Ndirangu added.
Another participant, David Toovey, Managing Director of Spruik Agency said the Media for Deaf campaign shares an important message about building a society in which everyone, including those with disabilities, have the chance to reach their full potential.
“From learning sign language and having interpretation at events to adding subtitles to videos, we can all play a part in supporting the deaf community.