Enhancing Communications for Social Officers on Sign Language in FCT Abuja

Disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movement, sense, and activities. These include conditions like deafness. According to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (CRPD) 2006, disabilities “include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

Deafness or hard of hearing is one of the 6 general types of disabilities. Sign language is a required skill to communicate effectively with them. With the appropriate care and support from society, when given a chance, persons with deafness have the capacity to contribute to national development. Persons living with disabilities need all the help they can get with their daily activities.

Social development workers are a group of people who help other people develop their skills and their ability to use their resources and those of the community to resolve problems. In Nigeria, social work is growing within communities, as much as social problems and the need for professionals in this field are increasing. This profession is mainly concerned with promoting the well being of individuals by helping them live optimally. This is because the Nigerian society is becoming more diverse, and it is important that social workers develop competence in working with a diverse population. Social work can generally mediate the process of development by enabling individuals and society to reach out to other people.

In October 2020, The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Social Development Secretariat (SDS) organized a two-day training for social welfare Officers in the FCT on signs language to support improved communication, reporting, prevention, and response for sexual gender-based violence in women and girls with disabilities.

The Director of Gender Department, SDS, FCT, Mrs. Agnes Utah-Hart said persons with disabilities have become soft targets of sexual violence. She advised the social workers from different hospitals in the FCT to take advantage of the training to improve themselves and strive to improve service delivery for a person’ with disabilities. This brings the need for a safe house that can be used to protect persons with disabilities who have been violated. She said social workers play a very important role as they become go-between and in many cases the first contacts for survivors.

The founder, Cider Seed Foundation, Mrs. Lois Auta-Udonkanta, who was a facilitator at the event, explained that it was inappropriate to use some terminologies to refer to persons with disabilities to avoid discrimination against them. This is so because if people fixate on how they think people with disabilities inhibited then the emphasis will shift to their obstacles rather than their achievements. People should be sensitive to the feelings of individuals with disabilities and their right to be respected in order to allow them to feel accepted in society.

Facilitators at the event.

Another facilitator, with Save the Deaf and Endangered Language Initiative, Miss Blessing Ini who presented a paper titled Total communication says communications is a very important tool in relating to persons with disabilities. Especially the deaf and blind, and as such social workers should be able to communicate with these individuals. It is important to learn the basics of finger spellings which will enable them to understand to an extent the needs of persons with living disabilities. Being deaf comes with difficulties of communication and it is advised to enroll deaf children from an early stage in specials schools to develop their communication skills because gestures vary from sign language. Gestures developed by a deaf child may vary from another deaf child in another location due to culture and language differences, so there is a need to learn the central accepted mode of communication.

To address the issues of and creating an enabling environment for social workers to do their jobs, some of the participants talked about the need for the Government to mainstream access for people with disabilities in government facilities and structures to aid movement. They said there is a need for policies and services to adopt a national disability strategy, to plan and to invest in social protection and social inclusion program for persons with disabilities. They called for the improvement of human resource capacity on disabilities inclusion and reserve budget that will attend to the needs of persons with disabilities.

Mrs. Lois Auta-Udonkanta made an appeal to the Government to engage people with disabilities and make available facilities that are work-friendly for them.

Story; Hilda Katu


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