Persons living with disabilities face a number of challenges as they go about in their daily activities. The blind may require a helper when moving about while those physically challenged are forced to use their limbs in movement.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit the movement of people within the country, most people are now forced to adapt to the virtual form of communication to relay their messages.
Applications like zoom, Skype among other mediums are now being utilized by companies to communicate to their employees.
For people living with disability, this may not be an easy task.
Miriam Opondo is joining a zoom meeting today. She suffers from the inability to hear but that does not stop her. Her friends have organized a virtual meeting dubbed Kisumu county COVID-19 response. This is the second Muhoroni community initiative and the special guest is Governor Anyang’ Nyongo.
She is excited. She has been looking forward to meeting the governor and all her efforts are finally paying off, not in the way she expected but virtual is better than nothing.
In her community in Muhoroni Sub County in Kisumu, she is the team leader of the Deaf basketball Kenya and she holds other high positions of leadership in the country and the region within the deaf community.
She enjoys using zoom to communicate with the rest of the world. Being a sportswoman at the national level, this form of communication is not new to her but it comes with a cost.
A sign language interpreter has to be part of these sessions that she joins in.
For this particular session, Meresha Owiti a sign language interpreter will be her guide. She wants to understand what her governor has done or the measures he has put in place for the deaf community during this coronavirus pandemic.
She is aware that two people living with disability have tested positive for the virus and she wants to be in the know of the protective measures in place.
The meeting is slotted for 2 pm, She can’t access her laptop but uses her phone to log in on time. She is not alone from the deaf community as a few others have also joined in.
The first challenge is; she is unable to see all the participants on one screen since she is using a phone.
From time to time, she has to scroll through the screen to get to her aid the sign language interpreter. This means some communication is lost along the way and she cannot fully keep tabs with what is going on in the meeting.
“I have to shift all the time to find out who is speaking as most times people adjust their phones interfering with the position of my interpreter.” says Miriam.
She has a question. She raises her hand but the sign language interpreter cannot see her as the speakers tab keep shifting.
When the host of the meeting finally notices her, there is poor transfer of communication between the interpreter, the host and her. Her question doesn’t make to reach the intended party.
But Meresha, the sign language interpreter books an appointment with the governor on her behalf, to have another zoom call meeting at the end of this session.
Despite the challenge, she got to understand the governor’s response to some of the questions that were raised during the forum.
In particular, she is pleased that the governor is rallying behind people living with disability to ensure that they are not left behind in the fight against coronavirus.
“People assume that having a sign language interpreter is enough but that is hardly the case, it is much easier when the information is coming from a deaf person to a deaf person compared to coming from an interpreter since at times there is variation of language.” Says Miriam.
Miriam believes that prevention is better than cure and moving forward people living with disability have to be included in fore front of this war.
“A good number of people in the deaf community have smartphones, if we can use such technology and utilize the sign language interpreters to pass messages then a good number can be reached.” Adds Miriam.
As the sun dawns she looks forward to the next meeting that will be for the deaf community only.
“The deaf love the Zoom video meetings and I am sure a number of us will participate.” She says.
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