Saturday, 10 August 2013

'Getting to know' series

I really do hope that my sincere apologies for not writing more often here will be accepted!

From my interactions and experiences with several parents of deaf children in Nigeria, the most prevalent concern about their child is 'how would their child cope particularly in a country in Nigeria?' I can understand their worry about providing their child with a foundation with which to live a successful and independent life. It is certainly challenging to do that in Nigeria but it is by no means, impossible. One thing that I have always wished that I had whilst having my secondary school and undergraduate degree in Nigeria is a mentor- at the very least, someone who understood the challenges, struggles of facing life with hearing loss in a country. Where the majority of people are ignorant of deafness, have different misconceptions, look down on deaf people and all the malarkey that goes with just being uninformed. And also where the government does not have a lot of pro-active policy for deaf people.

One has to bear in mind that every deaf person has dissimilar hearing loss and so will have different experiences, so to speak. Nevertheless, I always think that it is interesting to know how the others cope. I came up with the 'Getting to know' series to educate, enlighten and inspire other deaf people but most importantly, the parents /caregivers of deaf children in Nigeria. There is always something positive about the lives of the deaf people and those associated with them that one can draw upon/from.

The first interesting person whom I would like to kick off the series with is: a young man called Chidi. Please have a look at the interview below!

Can you tell me about yourself; how old were you when you became deaf?

My name is Chidi Topaz Olujie. I am from Abia State but I was born and bred in lagos, I am the youngest out of three (3) children. I am currently attending a masters programme; I am studying Special Education at the University of Ibadan. I love it when someone calls me "Cheeta. It is a nick name and it is a unique name that I believe that no one else has as it makes me feel so different from the rest of mankind. I could hear from birth but I became deaf when I was between 3-4years old, I was sick and was diagnosed with "Mumps" but the doctor treated me for "Malaria" which didn't cure the mumps and then some complications resulted to my being deaf till date.

What challenges have you faced?

I have faced numerous challenges. Most times I can't hear or understand what's being said in the TV or Radio, sometimes when there are public meetings, I can't participate fully and it is really frustrating, it also makes me withdraw a bit (but I am now used to it and it does not bother me anymore). The popular belief in Nigeria today is that those who are Deaf are also DUMB i.e (MUTE/SILENT). Most times I have problems with people I come across on a daily basis especially police men who stop me and when I speak, they believe that I am hearing and if I say that I can't hear, they think that I am pretending. This has caused a lot of problems. Most people always pity me because I can't hear and sometime they think that I am a beggar which so irritates me.

What are your dreams for your life?

I always wanted to be an engineer when I was growing up but the secondary school where I went to, didn't have physics, chemistry etc so it was not possible for me to study engineering in University. As we know 'Man proposes but God disposes', so I studied Special Education/Political Science.  I have always dreamt of running an NGO, to bring changes to the society, to touch mankind and to also create awareness about Deafness.

What would be your advice for parents of deaf children?

My advice that parents of deaf children should not lose hope in them, the most important thing that parents should do is to believe in themselves and their deaf child. Those deaf children are so special, they need special attention, love, care and guidance; the parents should always be around them when it Is required and guard them against danger. Parents should also maintain good relationship with their deaf child. Deaf children can do anything that normal children do; it Is just that they can't hear- that's the only difference.

Your dreams...

One of my greatest desire is to be a PhD holder; others are to touch mankind, create awareness about deafness and also to legalise Nigerian Sign Language as an official language alongside English Language.

A funny anecdote of what is it like being deaf.

Being deaf is like a man in his own island. It is like when you block your ears and you don't hear what's being said around you, you don't hear any noise, you don't hear music etc. You have no idea of what's going on around you. There was a time when a friend was taking his bath and water went into his ears, he tried to get the water out of his ears and he discovered that he didn't hear anything, he screamed, he couldn't bear it and shortly after he could hear, he was panting heavily and said, "you have to be deaf to understand the deaf" **laughing out loud**

Meet Cheeta!


Thank you. Cheeta for your time!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Response to the outrageous 'Deaf and Dumb Driver' article....

A few weeks ago, a story about a 'deaf and dumb' driver was published in the Nigerian newspaper. A lot of dust has been raised and mine was kicked about enough and got into my eyes.

Here is a response all the way from the United States of America!

"I am writing in response to your story in the PM News on-line issue of Monday May 28, 2013 entitled Deaf, Dumb Bus Driver Arrested, and the follow-up Editorial published on Thursday May 30 entitled The Deaf And Dumb Danfo Driver And Us.
I am only an occasional reader of PM News and other on-line news sources; however this particular story caught my eye because of my own deafness.
Media practitioners, especially journalists, control powerful vehicles for molding public opinion.  When a group of journalists and editors - by virtue of whose professional calling are or should be considerably better informed and vastly more enlightened on contemporary issues than the generality of their own society - particularly ones who write for as progressive a media institution with a reputation as admirable as PM News, commits the cardinal error of describing a Deaf person as "deaf and dumb", I am angry and disgusted, as I am sure millions of Deaf people on the planet and their families, friends and allies who read the story and the editorial were as well. 
 Again, I am Deaf myself. The trajectory of my life in Nigeria was characterized by constant overcoming of obstacles occasioned by attitudes created not by evidence, but by an ill-informed and rather backward orthodoxy regarding Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people. Aspects of this prevailing orthodoxy are apparent in the choice of descriptive label; in the comments section of the story; and in the tone of your editorial: Deaf people “can’t” because they can’t hear.
 I have been an administrator in American higher education for the past 15 years. But as a Deaf person, I am not unique in that sense. I was employed as a lawyer and Senior Deputy Editor at Gani Fawehinmi Chambers/Nigerian Law Publications for 3 years up to my departure for the United States in 1994. But as a Deaf lawyer, I am not unique. I graduated from OAU, Ile-Ife in 1990 and was called to the Bar in 1991. But as a Deaf university graduate, I am not unique. I spent 5 successful years at Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti, graduating in 1983. But as a Deaf alumnus of a prestigious Nigerian high school, I am not unique. Millions of Deaf people all over this world can point to superior records of accomplishment in their own CV’s than I am able to in mine.
And yet, the orthodoxy holds that  “deaf and dumb” people cannot do things any other human being should take for granted.
This is neither the time nor the place to discuss the tangential issue of why Deaf people consider "deaf and dumb" pejorative, but these are powerful examples. During 2001, I saw the likes of Comrade Adams Oshiomole –as he then was—dismiss the federal government as being one "of the deaf”; a columnist with another newspaper congratulating the Broadcasting Service of Oyo State (BCOS) for incorporating "hand sign translations on the news for the deaf and dumb at last"; the hitherto unimpeachable Wole Soyinka treading the dishonorable path of applying deafness to describe reactionaries in opprobrious terms; and the then irresistible Reuben Abati refer to "the deaf and the dumb" in his article of Friday June 22, 2001. These individuals are among the educated elite of Nigerian society, and if elementary enlightenment eludes them, then perhaps for us Deaf people generally to theorize that nothing better can be expected from the generality of society which is constituted by these otherwise distinguished gentlemen’s putative intellectual inferiors, is forgivable.  
Deep ignorance about deafness and issues related thereto lies at the heart of this disparaging labeling of Deaf people. This is an unfortunate reality in a country approaching its centenary that has prided itself for many years as the "Giant of Africa".

Hopefully, cognizant of its ability to influence the formulation of public opinion and shape the corpus of public knowledge, PM News and its entire journalistic corps will find common cause with Deaf Nigerians and take the lead in enlightening both the general public and leading individuals on sensitivity and correct usage.

The correct term for a person whose auditory faculties are not functioning is "Deaf" simpliciter. The additional factor that this person is unable to express orally, is incidental, but not in all cases true, being entirely a function of whether deafness is congenital or adventitious. All Deaf people, whether they are capable of speech or not, prefer to be termed properly and correctly as Deaf.
It will be appreciated if PM News will lead the way in educating the general public and referring to Deaf people simply as Deaf henceforth.
While auditory information is important in the driving process, there is insufficient data to indicate that deafness affects driving ability. In 1994, McCloskey, Koepsell, Wolf and Buchner conducted a population-based case control study to determine whether hearing loss puts older drivers at greater risk of collision injuries. Their findings (Motor Vehicle Collision Injuries and Sensory Impairment of Older Drivers) were reported in the magazine Age & Ageing, 23 at pages 267-273.
The cases were drivers who sought medical care, within 7 days, for injuries sustained in a police recorded motor vehicle crash. Controls were selected from a pool of eligible subjects who had not been injured in a police recorded motor vehicle crash. Driving exposure, based on self-report, was similar for both groups. Sensory impairment data were extracted from medical records. Results of their investigation revealed no significant increase in risk of injury from motor vehicle collisions as a function of deafness. Clearly, there is no association between deafness and increased risk for motor vehicle accidents. Consequently, there is no empirical evidence to warrant restrictions on Deaf individuals from operating a vehicle.
I doubt any law in Nigeria explicitly or by implication prohibits Deaf persons from operating a vehicle. I also doubt regulations exist governing the operation of motor vehicles by Deaf persons. Accordingly, I would suggest the adoption of fitness-to-drive guidelines to clarify the position. Australia and Canada have workable, reasonable and logical guidelines:
Totally Deaf
No restriction
Not addressed
Hearing Aids
No restriction
Not addressed
Some Hearing Loss
No restriction
No restriction. As greater reliance on vision is needed, external mirrors are required
Vestibular disorders
Acute labyrinthitis Patients with acute labyrinthitis or positional vertigo with horizontal head movement should be advised not to drive at all until their condition has subsided or responded to treatment.
Recurrent attacks of vertigo Patients who are subject to recurrent attacks of vertigo that occur without warning also should not drive until it is certain that their spells of dizziness have been controlled or abated.  
Acute labyrinthitis, Benign paroxysmal vertigo, Meniere’s Disease, Recurrent Vertigo: Should not drive while symptoms persist.
At worst, the Deaf driver, Mr. Sunday Ogunmola, was arrested for driving without a license and driving in a BRT lane. Driving without a license seems to be a common enough offense in Nigeria; and driving in the BRT lane illegally appears to be similarly common, going by the Lagos state governor B.R. Fashola's widely-reported apprehension of an army colonel for doing just that. Sunday Ogunmola's real offenses are prosaic, and, in reality they are indicative of the systemic need in Nigeria for all qualified persons to enroll in formal, structured driver education classes and pass written and practical driver-education exams as a prerequisite for the issuance of a driver’s license, be it private or commercial.
Thank you.
‘Gbenga Aina
Savage, Maryland, USA"

And I say 'He Who has ears, let him Hear!"

Sunday, 7 April 2013

"Living In Silence" Art Exhibition

....which was organised by the NGO I founded -Centre for Deaf Rights and Empowerment was successfully held on the 3rd -5th April at Transcorp Hilton Abuja. This was done to (create and) raise awareness of deafness.

We all know that arts are languages that all people 'speak' that cut across all sorts of barriers; be they social, cultural, educational,etc. Art is a form of self-expression. This has enabled the messages of many of the artworks by the deaf artists during this exhibition be passed on without the need for 'interpretation'. Art provide opportunities for collaboration and this has proven to be so during this exhibition; with all the artists coming together for a common goal. All the participating artists come from differing backgrounds and have different styles in their art.

On Tuesday (the day before the exhibition started), I was given the opportunity to speak on the very amiable Jojo's show on CoolFM. I spoke about the need for the public to be aware of the various impact of deafness -functional (where the ability of the individual with hearing impairment communicates with others), social/emotional impact in which limited access to services and exclusion from the society give rise to certain feelings like loneliness, frustration. And lastly, I talked about the economical impact where there is a need to improve access to education, employment to provide a platform for "equal opportunities" in a society where there is already a very high rate of unemployment in the hearing working force. I was asked about the challenges which I face as a person with a hearing impairment particularly in Nigeria- Jojo steadfastly refuses to use the word 'deafness' and I give her a lot of kudos because her awareness about deafness is above-average in the Nigerian context; given the fact that she grew up with an aunty who has a 'hearing impairment'.

Two students from the School of the Deaf, Kuje also participated and they were motivated by the wealth of art display. I had earlier visited their school and like many under-funded schools across Nigeria, their school needs a whole lot of improvement. The school adjacent to the Deaf School is a secondary school and employs an "inclusive" environment in which the older deaf students learn alongside hearing students. Here, sign language interpreters interpret what the teachers say and I must say at this point that it is not a conducive environment to learn in. It does not take someone with a degree in special education to see that having someone just interpreting what another adult says is hardly an effective way of learning. Little wonder that many deaf students who pass through that sort of teaching method don't fare well. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with their intelligence as some ignorant people would make of it. So much needs to be done in the area of Deaf education in Nigeria! Learning aids should be made a priority in these schools.

There were a lot of visitors to the exhibition and many were curious (a very good thing!). I had few parents of deaf children come by and I am really glad that they did as that would encourage more parents/guardians of deaf children to be more aware but more importantly , take their childrren's education seriously. I believe that the goal of raising awareness of deafness was met during this event. I have been reminded of the need to carry the awareness outside so hopefully, you'll be hearing of more exhibitions....

Please visit the link which will let you have a look at how the exhibition went:

And I would like to seize the opportunity to thank the management of Transcorp Hilton Abuja for making the event possible. Also to the following organisations for their support; Projektglobus, Dullion Group and SPINE: fixed in Abuja and the media: CoolFM, AIT (Raypower) and NTA for covering the event. I will not forget the awesome encouragement given by family and friends.

Let's do it again!!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

International Women's Day

Once again, International Women's Day was celebrated (or noted, should I say?) in various ways across the world.
On Thursday, I attended a beautiful arts exhibition held at Institut Francais to support the Female Artists Association of Nigeria. It was titled "Plight of Women". Forty female artists showcased their artworks which were done in different media; ranging from acrylic on canvas, ink on paper, painting on paper, sculpture, ceramic, textile printing, etc. All of the participants came from assorted backgrounds and it was great to see them (and other female attendees) united for one purpose. My favorite female Nigerian artist, Ndidi Emefiele was there!

There were lots of issues that were tackled during the exhibition and these included widowhood, rape, assorted abuse, genital mutilation (yes, it still does happen!), forced early marriage, sexual exploitation; just to mention a few. The life cycle of a woman from the time she is born in a patriachal society and going through the cycles of abuse especially at the hands of men who are supposed to support her to the time that she dies (early in many cases) can be a sorry tale to bear listening to.

I'd like to implore you to put yourself in the shoes of a DEAF woman. Imagine what she has to go through the above-mentioned cycle and add neglect, isolation, inability to voice herself out and multiply the critical issues that were outlined. What did you come up with? Most likely, a sorrier and worse situation to imagine, I expect.

The world is forever going through its motions but a Deaf woman would struggle to keep up with it.

Can you help to empower a Deaf woman not to merely exist but to live with purpose?

Friday, 1 March 2013

Matt Daigle

A lot of Deaf people often laugh at themselves but this Deaf guy, Matt Daigle takes it to another level. He is so talented in sharing anecdotes about being deaf.

I just love his comic strips on facebook which are done by himself and his wife, Kay (who is hearing). His facebook page is: That Deaf Guy - Matt Daigle. The last comic strip which I checked out resonated with me was about choosing a seat on the exit row. And in his case, he got upgraded to first class. I must try his tip! The comic strips are funny but the readers' comments are also hilarious!

His comic strips don't stop at facebook as he has a website: He has also published a humor book called "That Deaf Guy: A Family Portrait".

Go on and have a laugh!!!

Old posts

I have just noticed that some old posts which I had edited to include more tags were published as 'new' posts. Kindly overlook the error....

Monday, 25 February 2013

Lydia Callis

Profound apologies for not keeping up-to-date with the blogging.

It was over a month ago since Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc on the East Coast of the US of America. I remember watching CNN at that time and was really impressed with one person in particular: a smart-looking sign language interpreter- Lydia Callis. It was really cool seeing her on the stage; signing away, right beside the New York Mayor,  Michael Bloomberg.

Here is an article on her from the NY Times:

Published: October 31, 2012
The stories of devastation and destruction on the local news lately have not provided much in the way of relief - unless, that is, you happened to catch sight of a sign-language interpreter named Lydia Callis.
And she was pretty hard to miss. Ms. Callis has been a fixture at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's news briefings, gesticulating, bobbing and nodding her way through the words of city officials as she communicates for the hearing-impaired.
Her expressiveness has caught the attention of the news media, and evidently the mayor himself, who now thanks her before almost everyone else as he prepares to give New Yorkers the latest updates on the storm.
Official news conferences in New York are often attended by sign-language interpreters. But they generally go unnoticed, blending in with the aides or elected officials that surround a mayor or a governor at such events.
Ms. Callis's form makes it all but impossible not to notice her. With her smartly coifed short dark hair and sharp suits, she literally throws her whole body into signing, from her head to her hands to her hips.
She has inspired a tribute Tumblr page: Lydia Callis's Face for Mayor, which has compiled images of her expressions as she signs. In one photo, Mr. Bloomberg looks on from behind, seemingly fixated on her hands.
New York magazine's Web site called her "a legitimate reason to smile" amid all the grim news about the storm. Someone on YouTube set her signing to music, her gestures and jabs punctuating each beat.
On Twitter, she has been called hypnotizing, mesmerizing and a rock star. "I could watch her for hours," one admirer wrote. "She needs to do sign language interpreting for everything everywhere forever," another wrote."

Did anybody catch the last comment in the article? Someone wishing that she  would sign for everything everywhere. That brings a big smile to my face!

Kaos signing choir again!

On 3rd December (International Day of Persons With Disabilities), The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children joined the British Paraorchestra to release a single 'True Colors'. This single is expected to be a hit this Christmas.

I have earlier written about the Kaos Signing Choir who performed wonderfully in the opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympics. The British Paraorchestra is the first of its kind; it is made up of professional musicians with a disability. It was founded by Charles Hazlewood, a British conductor. The group is starting a global movement to encourage musicians with disabilities and who possess extraordinary abilities. Its mission is to put an end end to the limitations that have been placed on them, particularly by lack of opportunity.

Please check out "the British Paraorchestra - True Colors" on youtube.

A very interesting fact here is that the solo voice heard at the beginning and end of the track belongs to Lyn Levett (a member of the Paraorchestra). Lyn has cerebral palsy and cannot speak. However with state-of-the-art technology, she sings through her computer in 'True Colors', for the very first time. Amazing!!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Success story of a deaf Jordanian lady

Thank you Sarah for bringing my attention to this lady, Shereen Hussein.

 Here is her story as shared with deafunity....(

Shereen is the first Jordanian deaf woman to graduate from University with an MA. She shares her story with Deaf Unity.

Jordan is an Arab country located in Southwest Asia. The official statistics from the Higher Council for People with Disabilities show that Jordan has 30,000 Deaf people; however, official statistics can be difficult to come by in Jordan, and they are not always reliable.

The Ministry of Education has established 13 Deaf Schools and it is thought that currently around 50% of deaf children receive primary education. However, this figure drops to 0.2% of deaf children who receive secondary education. There are no studies or statistics about the fate of the remaining Deaf people who are unable to access education. Some Deaf people do not achieve any qualifications and may have been enrolled by their parents into centres for people with complex disabilities.When I look at these stark statistics, I sometimes wonder how it is that I have managed to get where I am today in the face of such challenging circumstances.

I’m not the only deaf person in my family. Two of my siblings are hard of hearing and one is profoundly deaf. We had various methods of communicating. We wore hearing aids, used lip reading to communicate with hearing people and learnt sign language in order to communicate with other deaf people.

My parents were very secretive about our deafness during our childhood. In fact, they tried to hide it for as long as possible. Even our neighbours didn’t know about it. I still remember that when visitors came to the house my mum would answer any questions that were directed at us so that our deafness would not be exposed. The result of this was that we were rather withdrawn and isolated as children. All that has changed now of course and there is much more awareness in the community regarding people with disabilities and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Early Education

For the first five years of my school life I went to a private school. I received special treatment because my parents had explained my situation to the school administration.

At the age of nine I moved to a public school. Academically, I was capable but I struggled to form friendships. I was trying to hide my deafness from the school administration and other students. In order to do this I would try to not speak so that people wouldn’t realize that I was deaf by the tone of my voice.

The environment was very different to my previous school and I had to learn quickly how to lip read. Though learning how to lip read helped me to some extent I became very shy as a consequence of my inability to communicate with my peers with ease. It is well known that the integration of Deaf students into mainstream settings in Jordan is generally unsuccessful as there is no specific training on how to create a suitable learning environment for Deaf learners and this is partly why so many Deaf learners drop out of education. There is also no specialised curriculum for Deaf students or differentiation for Deaf learners, which can make the classroom environment difficult.

Challenges at University

I chose to specialise in the field of Special Education at Al-Balqa AppliedUniversity and was encouraged to do this by my parents. It was the first time in my life I had met and mingled with deaf people and with the Deaf community. I absolutely loved it!

I faced many challenges during my time in university. It was extremely difficult to access the type of help I required. Furthermore, there was only one sign language interpreter available to me. In Jordan, there are only 30 sign language interpreters working in areas such as the Court of Justice, universities and organisations working with Deaf people. There is an urgent need to increase the number of sign language interpreters because more Deaf students are being accepted into university. Sometimes these interpreters do not have the skills or expertise to be able to provide a full and accurate sign language interpretation for the Deaf community in Jordan.

Despite these challenges, I completed my four year college degree and graduated with excellent marks. In the end, I overcame the obstacles in my path by helping my teachers to understand my support needs. I gradually told them that I was deaf and they began to understand and communicate with me better.

After graduating from college I worked as a teacher in a special School for the Deaf. I then began working at Amal school for Deaf, and the year after I began to study for my MA. The majority of deaf people do not pursue higher education due to the obstacles they encounter. Ordinarily they complete their high school certificate and try to get a job. Realising that there were no deaf people studying for MA’s I decided that I would try to break this barrier and be a role model for the Deaf community.

I faced many challenges during my studies due to my deafness. The university was unable to provide me with a sign language interpreter, which meant that I had to rely on my classmates and teachers to assist me in the classes. I was, however, delighted that my determination paid off and I passed my exams with a very good grade!

My Work, Inspiration and Vision for Deaf People in Jordan
Since 2003 I have been working as an ICT teacher at a private school for deaf children. I also work for the Jordanian Ministry of Education. My role involves advocating for the rights of disabled people as well as providing training to people on best practice when working with disabled people. I am also a member of the Supreme Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities where I represent deaf people. I am trained in Sign Language and train people who work with deaf people. I also spend time coordinating projects between deaf people and stakeholders and providing the necessary communication support.

I am passionate about volunteering and raising awareness of the needs of deaf people by telling my own success story. I want to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing people. I am always developing my skills by joining courses and programmes that enable me to be a better advocate for myself and other deaf people without relying on anyone else’s help.

In the future I would like to see deaf people learning languages such as English, French and German. I want deaf people to have a decent standard of living, to know their rights, and for their votes and decisions to directly impact policies that affect their lives. I want to see deaf people realising their dreams because so many deaf people do not know how to take the steps towards fulfilling their aspirations. I want to see more deaf people getting married, especially deaf women. I want there to be a formalised and structured training programme for Sign Language interpreters so that deaf people and their interpreters are both aware of their rights and duties. Finally, I would like to see deaf people united.

This article is contributed by Shereen Hussein,  the first Deaf woman in Jordan to achieve a master’s degree.   She works on integrating children with disabilities and nondisabled children in kindergarten programmes and vocational training. Her ambitions for the future are to study outside of Jordan for a PHD in Deaf education and improve the lives of Deaf people living in Jordan.

Ethiopian Deaf tour company

It is of no secret that I am (happily) afflicted with a travel bug. And imagine my pleasant surprise this afternoon when I stumbled across an article about a deaf tour company that has very recently started operations on the opposite side of the continent in Ethiopia. And nobody can tell me that there is nothing to see in Ethiopia!

The following information about the Ethiopian Deaf Tour was gotten from website.

"Addis Deaf Travel to be the first travel agent in Ethiopia providing the deaf community with the all requirement travel service in Ethiopia.
Addis Tour & Travel is a travel agent specialist for Deaf Travel Services in Ethiopia.

To raise awareness of the needs of hearing impaired travelers, remove physical and attitudinal barriers to free access and expand travel opportunities in the Ethiopia.

Addis Ethiopia Tours aims to bring the spirit of travel and tours to deaf travelers through specialty travel programs - this time ready in sign language. Travelers can choose among wide range of guided tours, customized tours, and other specialty travel services such as interpretation services. Dedicated attention from the first contact with the company until the end of the tour give deaf travelers the assurance that tour goes exactly the way they want it to. Addis Tour can guarantee deaf Travelers safety and satisfaction."

Whoever came up with this deserves a big shout-out!! And I look forward to making use of their services soon!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

It is 2013 already!

Happy New Year to you all!

2012 seemed to have flown by so fast. I would like to seize the opportunity to wish you a great and productive year. The reminders that I have for myself are: 1. I shouldn't expect anyone to understand my journey especially if they have not walked my path. 2. I am confined only by the walls that I build myself. 3. I should embrace those things that make me different. 4. Taking cues from famous 'failures' like Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Oprah Winfrey, one would not fail if one try anything new! 5. Apart from thinking outside the box, step outside the box...

Once again, I would like to wish each and everyone a productive and purposeful year!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Human Rights Day

Today, the 10th day of December, is Human Rights Day all over the world. Exactly a week ago, 3rd December was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year's theme for International Day of Persons With Disabilities was "Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all" and that of the Human Rights Day was/is "Inclusion and the Right to Participate in Public Life".

Together, the themes send out a strong message to the world how important it is to include Persons With Disabilities and integrate them into the full fabric of the society. They are part and parcel regardless of the misconceptions of those who fail to understand that the article 1 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that " All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".

Last week's so-called 'celebrations' in Nigeria were mired in scandal. It is enough in Nigeria that the general society is corrupt. But when the umbrella association of Persons With Disabilities are corrupt?! What and how does one begin to wonder why a certain group of exco officials in that organisation will use their position of responsibility to milk other Persons With Disabilities dry and abet corruption to worsen the suffering of the 'voiceless'? Highly troubling. Someone who would ordinarily be at someone else's mercy, would have no qualms to keep many others at his/her own mercy! Presently, a number of concerned shareholders have decided to take matters up to ensure that those people are not given the chance to continue to destroy other people's lives.

I know that today's post is very brief and I ask that you overlook its brevity. would prefer to translate what I have left unsaid into action. Comments and suggestions to unhoist mean people of little or no integrity is highly welcome

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Silent Rider is back on the worldwide trail!

Good news! Kohei Hakamada aka the Silent Rider has recovered from his illness that put a pause on his tour since February. His bike also broke down in Guinea. So he returned to Guinea on November 18th.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Today's event at the Nigerian IWD 2012

The opening ceremony took place in the same place it was held last year- the National Human Rights Commission. Again like yesterday, the event was not very well-attended. Some dignitaries who attended included the representatives from the Ministeries of Women Affairs and Social Development, Education and the Federal Capital Territory. The Ambassador of Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr. Bert Ronhaar, his wife Mrs. Hanneke Ronhaar and Mrs. Madeleine Collie were very gracious to attend the ceremony to lend their support. I finally got to meet the National President of the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria; popularly and fondly known as 'Mama Deaf'. The amiable,young Senior Special Adviser to the Adamawa State Governor on Disability Matters, Umar Tukur also attended.

There was a slight change to the slogan which is now ' Nothing about the Deaf without the Deaf FULLY INVOLVED'.  That gives a better twist to show that deaf people should be inclusive and proactively in the forefront of everything that affects them- not sitting like ducks on the ground to be swept in any direction that the water takes us to. The messages in the speeches given by speakers were mostly optimistic. That means only one thing- the Deaf are not going to give up! For all that is worth, the hearing community should be happy to encourage the deaf community to achieve its goal to function as valuable members of the society.

Who says dramas are not interesting? By this, I mean a silent performance by the Silent Afro Mime Theatre. The theme was about a young deaf girl whose father ,out of ignorance, took her to the imam, 'white garment' prophet and a 'babalawo' ( a traditional mystic) in efforts to find a solution to her 'deafness'. One of them even suggested to the father that the girl is a witch and turns into a bird. Oh, do not let me get started on the emotional abuses (and physical, verbal abuses) that deaf people particularly children go through in the hands of family members who perceive deafness as 'abnormal'. The drama cuts to a scene in which the girl's mother who upon discovering that her husband took their daughter to these so-called mystics was very angry. A fight almost ensued but is cut short by a neighbor who chastises the husband for his actions and who admonishes him that the girl could well be better than him when she grows up. Another scene shows the cheerful girl who has started attending school and eager to show her mother and that neighbor all that she learnt in school. After much persuasion from her mother and the neighbor, she shows her new signing skills/ socabulary to her father who has been 'commanded' to learn sign language in order to communicate with her.

I managed to take some photos of the silent mime and I will upload them soon.

Monday, 15 October 2012

International Week of the Deaf

As mentioned last week, commemoration of the International Week of the Deaf took place in Abuja, Nigeria.

The main event: press conference and rally took place today. The turn-out was disappointingly low this year. One of the main reasons was the fuel scarcity that hampered a lot of people's ease of movement. Apparently, a lot of people faced hardship and that seems to have affected attendance this year. The attitude was not as buzzing last year but with members of the Deaf Community coming together, there's an atmosphere of delight in seeing each other again. I saw delegates and attendees from places as far as Lagos, Zamfara and Yola.

This year's theme is 'Sign Bilingualism and Empowerment are Human Rights of the Deaf'. Here, we are encouraging the use of Sign Language as a language in its own right and as the first mother tongue for the Deaf. Although Nigeria has been a signatory to Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, nothing practical has been done on ground.

Human rights of the Deaf has not been given any legal backing as the Disability Bill has not been signed into law (yet). The theme was chosen to highlight the importance of/and appealing for the advocating for the rights of the deaf in the society especially in policy making.

The bane of the development of Persons With Disabilities in Nigeria is the use of JONAPWD by development agencies. The leadership structure in that so-called organisation is very weak and non-representative of deaf people in particular.  It has been frustrating because deaf people has been left out of the deliberations and are not even consulted. Even more worrying is that even after the failed DFID projects which has not done anything to positively impact the lives of Persons Living With Disabilities, development agencies like USAID and UNDP do not consult with deaf people to find out how the projects can be inclusive and benefit the Deaf Community.

Corruption among the current leadership of JONAPWD who have deemed it not fit to give account of the millions of dollars in aid pumped in by development agencies have continued unabetted...

Join and support us in our advocacy on our rights to be fully involved!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

International Day of the Girl Child

Day of the Girl
Logo from the website
Today the United Nations marked the first ever 'International Day of the Girl Child'.

The focus is to abolish child marriage by the year 2030 and to shore up support for educating the girl child. We know that the development of a family, community and country depends on the education and thus development of the woman who, in essence, should have been educated as a young girl. That is to say, educating a girl is a sure way of building a foundation for her family and thus her community.

It is an extremely laudable goal.  And I, for one, cannot help to think how this will impact the deaf girl in the short term. If it could take ages for a non-disabled girl to overcome such hurdles in this part of the world, who knows how long that would take for a deaf girl to do the same? Deaf adults still receive the rough end of the stick in the society today- not getting the basic education, for example and I can only imagine what it would mean to fight for the deaf girl to enjoy the same rights as the non-disabled girl.

Stories of non-disabled girls around the world abound and are heard everyday. Very few people get to hear the story of a deaf girl. I began a video documentary some months ago on a couple of deaf girls who were lured away from school and trafficked out of state. It is still ongoing and I hope to be able to tell their collective story.

Next week, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf will mark the International Week of the Deaf which was actually earlier celebrated between 24th - 30th September this year in other countries. I hope to participate in a couple of activities next week and intend to share on this blog.

Until then...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Stem cell deaf breakthrough...what is your take on this?

Last week, an article written by Charles Swinburne for the Guardian following a scientific breakthrough showing the use of stem cells in improving hearing in animals, has raised a lot of furore in the deaf community....

"A huge breakthrough in deafness research was announced this week, when for the first time stem cells were shown to improve hearing in animals.

The prospect of using the treatment on humans is a few years away, but eventually it could be used to treat a condition called auditory neuropathy, which affects about 15% of deaf people in Britain. Since one in six people in the UK have some level of hearing loss, stem cell treatment could potentially change the lives of 1.5 million people.

This is just the latest development in treatment options for deaf people. There was a time when your only choice would be whether to wear a hearing aid or not, but nowadays more and more deaf people are choosing to have a cochlear implant. Where once there was hostility to the idea of implants, today they're much more accepted in the deaf world. That said, cochlear implants aren't for everyone (a subject I've written about before) and nor would stem cell treatment be.

Deafness is often thought of as a hidden disability, and consequently, most people don't know just how much variety there is behind the deaf experience. For starters, there isn't one "type" of deaf person, because levels of hearing loss range from mild to profound. Some people can hear just enough to use the phone, others depend on lip reading or use sign language. Of the 10 million people in the UK with some level of deafness, more than 6 million are of retirement age. Many find it hard to adapt to hearing aids (indeed, the majority don't wear them at all) and would almost certainly embrace the chance to hear in as natural a way as possible.

Meanwhile, 3.7 million are of working age. If you find it difficult to hear in an office or a social situation, stem cell treatment would be hard to turn down. It comes down to personal choice. Each individual would need to weigh up their lives, their deafness and what the treatment could offer their future. For many, the decision will be obvious. For others, it won't.

The group most likely to decline a "cure" are those who have been severely or profoundly deaf since birth, or from a young age. For members of the Deaf community (deliberately spelt with a big D), being deaf is not seen as something that holds them back. In BSL (British Sign Language) they have their own language, and they see themselves more as part of an ethnic group, sharing not only a common language but also a common culture, shared history and experiences. They're positive about being deaf in a way that people outside that world rarely understand.

Last year, a film by deaf filmmaker Ted Evans called The End presciently explored the idea of a "treatment" that made deaf people hear. The film charted the lives of its characters, revisiting them as the years pass. Some characters embraced becoming hearing while others struggled to adapt. At the end of the film (spoiler alert) one character realises that he is the last deaf person. The film struck a chord, and had the audience at Wolverhampton's Deaffest film festival in tears as the credits rolled as it showed how a culture could be lost.

I grew up in a deaf family, signing and speaking by equal measure. When we were around other deaf people, we found ourselves in a world where the humour in a joke was in the journey, told in a flicker of hands through the air, as if you could see exactly what had happened, without any need for a punchline. This is a world which is often more physical and warm than the hearing world. There is also a sense of belonging and togetherness that is hard to find elsewhere in modern life.

As I've grown up I've also been lucky enough to work with talented deaf artists, filmmakers, writers, and leaders in all walks of life. What we have in common is seeing the world differently as a result of our deafness, and turning that into a positive.

For people who find it hard to understand why anyone wouldn't want to be fully "hearing", you have to ask yourself: if you've lived your life one way from as long as you can remember, would you take the risk of changing it? Would you fundamentally change who you are later in life if you weren't sure you'd embrace that change? If you're used to perfect silence, would you take the risk of knowing what sound is, if you couldn't turn it off again?

For one person a treatment to make a deaf person into a hearing person would be a godsend, for another it's like wiping out a culture. Neither are wrong – they're simply different people, with different experiences, who live in different worlds.

One of the final lines in The End is delivered straight to camera by the last deaf person. He looks into the lens and says: "Deaf people are beautiful." As science develops, and whatever choices deaf people make, it should never be forgotten that they are."

I enjoyed this article especially because I share a lot of Charles' views. It is true that deaf people differ and thus, would have different opinions on whether to stay deaf or embrace change to become a 'functionally hearing' person.

I'd like to have your comments!

Friday, 14 September 2012


It has been more than a week since the Paralympics Games has ended. Both the opening and closing ceremonies were attended to with great fanfare. But during the games, I struggled to find out about more deaf competitors as the Paralympics have different categories but none for the deaf. Which brings us to the topic: Deaflympics.

Here is an article from the Guardian website which outlines the fact that the Deaflympics existed long before the Paralympics (and a very interesting history)...

"There are many categories in the Paralympics, but none is set aside for deaf competitors. Deaf athletes can (and do) take part in the Olympics but for many the biggest sporting event in the world will take place next year – the 22nd Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Founded in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games, the event became truly international in 1935 when London hosted and the USA sent its first team – of two athletes – to join the Europeans. By the time the Stoke Mandeville Games started in 1948, plans were already afoot for a Winter Games for the Deaf (these were held for the first time in Seefeld, Austria, in 1949).

A century (and more) of deaf sport

The history of deaf sport goes back even further, as several European countries boasted deaf sports organisations by the late 19th century. In the UK the first deaf sports club was probably the Glasgow Deaf and Dumb Football Club, which was founded in 1871 (making it older than both Rangers and Celtic)

Across the channel the first French deaf sports club appeared in 1899 – an organisation for cyclists only. Then came a Parisian athletics club in 1911 and a nationwide athletic federation in 1918 (Fédération Sportive des Sourds-Muets de France). This federation hosted the first international deaf football match – France vs Belgium – in Paris in 1922. (There are some delightful photos of the natty deaf football uniforms on the current Commission Fédérale de Football des Sourds website).

The Glasgow Deaf and Dumb Football Club, the many French organisations, and the Stoke Mandeville Games illustrate three entirely different reasons to start separate deaf sports organisations: for charity, for culture, for cure. The fact that the French model of the "silent sportsman" was at the core of the Deaflympics is one reason why it has not merged with either the Olympics or Paralympics.

Charity, culture, cure

The Glasgow club was an initiative of the Glasgow Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, one of many philanthropic organisations set up by Victorians concerned about the poor and disadvantaged. Institutions and schools for the "deaf and dumb" were often run by religious organisations, and sports and exercise were introduced as part of an ideal of healthy "muscular Christianity" – the idea that physical and spiritual development were both necessary for a good life (as well as being a useful distraction from sexual urges and masturbation, of course).

As most of us following the Paralympics now know, the Stoke Mandeville Games were set up by Ludwig Guttmann to offer hope and physical therapy to injured servicemen, and later expanded dramatically into a site for international sporting excellence for people with a wide range of disabilities.

What makes the French organisations different is that they were founded not by concerned philanthropists or doctors, but by the deaf community itself, by men and women like Reubens Alcais, who was nicknamed the "Pierre de Coubertin of the Deaf" (de Coubertin was the French founder of the modern Olympic movement).

These were not sports for people with "disabilities" who needed charity (or cure), but cultural events where deaf culture could be celebrated, and deaf athletes could socialise. No special rules or conditions were introduced: all the sports in 1924 were conducted according to the standard Olympic rules (with visual rather than aural signals where relevant).

The use of sign language was symbolically very important in the late 19th and early 20th century, as this was a time when medical and social authorities were trying to suppress or eradicate "manualism" in favour of teaching all deaf people to speak and read lips – that is to assimilate into non-deaf society. Special sports events were one way to assert a cultural identity under threat.

As the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf said in 2001:

"The rules for playing each sport are not altered in any way for the deaf participants. This fact distinguishes deaf sport from sports played by other groups of people with disabilities. Deaf people are not disabled in any manner except communication – and this is only a disability when a deaf person is in a situation where hearing and speech are the primary means of communication. Deaf people consider themselves a culturally distinct minority group and it is for cultural reasons that the Deaflympics exists. That is, culture and not ability to play a game is the factor central to deaf people having the Deaflympics. Deaf people want to be among others who are deaf and talk in sign language."

The dispute over whether deafness is a culture or a disability is fraught, particularly when it comes to medical interventions such as cochlear implants or fertility treatment.

But whatever your opinion on the matter, it's clear it causes a big headache for deaf sports when it comes to funding. Unless they get access to the money available for disability sport, deaf athletes have to struggle to find sponsorship for their Games. After some financially difficult years, the deaf sporting community have been asking the Paralympics to "showcase" and support deaf sports.

Or maybe the sensible thing to do would be recognise that athletes use many languages, and simply adjust the Olympic regulations to allow for athletes who communicate using signs rather than words?"

Friday, 31 August 2012

A deaf English teaches sign language in Iran

Recently I read an interesting article about a deaf English lady from Newcastle who taught the basics of sign linguistics.

Here is the story culled from BBC website:

Tessa Padden, 55, taught the basics of sign linguistics, which are common across all sign languages, and explained the importance of sign language teaching.

With the help of an Iranian interpreter, she also gave talks and led question-and-answer sessions about linguistics in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz.

She said: "I told them about my own journey from leaving school and when I thought deaf people were consigned to working in routine and menial jobs.

"But through improving opportunities for deaf people through TV, university research and better interpreter provision, deaf people in Iran could aim to achieve more.

"I wanted to encourage and motivate deaf people in their own communities to take possession of their own language and culture and take the lead in working for a better future for the deaf community."

She was also asked to address the inaugural Iranian sign language interpreters conference in Zanjan which included about 200 people and ran workshops for groups of interpreters.

She said: "At the conference, the students that I'd been teaching were so motivated. Some of them came up on stage and said how much they'd enjoyed the three days linguistic training and wanted to share that and they wanted to promote this in Iran.

Mrs Padden at Iran's inaugural interpreting conference
"They were really positive and that's what I wanted to see, deaf people being confident and assertive enough to get on stage to talk to interpreters.

"One of the things I respect most is that many of the interpreters in Iran are volunteers.

"They do this work for deaf people because they come from deaf families or because they want to support deaf people and I was really gobsmacked by that. I admire that quality in Iranian interpreters."

After studying sign language teaching at Durham University, Mrs Padden has since taught the basics of sign linguistics in Spain, Ireland and Africa and runs a website that teaches British sign language.

Aside from the basic signs, the signs for other words can vary due to cultural or historical reasons.

She said: "Some signs for the words 'eat' and 'drink' are similar across different languages but can differ for cultural reasons since people round the world eat and drink in many different ways.

"Irish sign language derives more from French sign language through Roman Catholic deaf educators. American sign language is more similar to French sign language as well, for different historical reasons.

"Another feature of all sign languages is the use of facial expression, but the facial expressions don't always mean the same thing in different sign languages."

Stiff upper lip
Mrs Padden, who has been deaf all of her life, said that she can often relate to deaf people's frustrations with communication.

"With growing up in a hearing society, I always thought most deaf people feel the same, that hearing people are above us, they are superior to us," she said.

"When I went to Durham University, I realised I was equal. Our language was equal, we had a culture of our own and it was just a case of upbringing.

"That helped me, and if people lack information and knowledge I can pass that on to them and convey to deaf people that they can achieve the same as hearing people in different ways."

Mrs Padden (right) said the Iranians were "warm and approachable"
During her three-week stay in Iran, Mrs Padden stayed with an Iranian family and said she learned a lot about the Iranian culture.

She said: "I watched the way they were talking to each other and the way that they talked over each other and cut across each other was quite different to British culture.

"But they were really warm and approachable. Iranian men smile a lot more and they show their teeth a lot and you don't get that here.

"While I was teaching them about the cultural differences I mentioned this and they all laughed and asked what British people were like but they already knew about the British stiff upper lip."

Photo from website.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Olympics is now over

...and Paralympics is now one week away. I enjoyed watching the Olympics. The opening ceremony was inclusive and the best bit was ...the signing choir during the National Anthem! My heart was gladdened at the sight of deaf children being part of a huge moment! I also saw a wheelchair user participating in the Opening Ceremony. A couple of my deaf friends also performed during the Opening Ceremony but I couldn't catch them live. Kudos to the Organisers for bringing in Persons With Disabilities into the main attraction!

My brief research on the signing choir was that the group who performed is called 'the Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children'. Their next event is on Sunday for the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. They have a new Global Patron in the person of Archbishop Desmond Tutu- a man very highly rated in my books.

I love the fact that this organisation, Kaos run integrated activities in which hearing children participate alongside deaf children. Of note is the Signing Choir which performed in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony.

To know/learn more about them, check their website at

Thursday, 26 July 2012

One day to the Olympics!!

Excitement is fully charging the air for those who looked forward to the London 2012 Olympics. Be s/he an athlete/sportsperson, sports enthusiast, it is really a thrilling time. It is no different for Rob Lowe, a deaf dancer, who has been selected to perform in the opening ceremonies of both Olympics and Paralympics Games.

An interesting article from thisislondon describes Rob Lowe's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

'A deaf dancer was shown a few steps by one of the most famous Hollywood film directors in rehearsals for the Olympic and Paralympics games opening ceremony.

Rob Lowe will be taking part in the star-studded event alongside 8,000 performers after surprising himself by getting through the auditions, which were held in November last year.

The 45-year-old, from New Malden, has always loved dancing but has never had any formal training and his only experience of performing was at a show for a deaf group he attended.

He said: "I was so surprised when my two auditions went successfully because I am profoundly deaf and I assumed that there was no possibility that deaf people could perform at the ceremony."
Mr Lowe admitted the auditions were nerve racking but was thrilled to meet Slumdog Millionaire film director and producer Danny Boyle who is artistic director for the ceremony.

He said: "He started chatting with me. I did not expect it because he was a famous star. He told me that I am a good dancer and showed me his dancing style briefly for fun. He was a great man.” Mr Lowe said he loved to learn new dances and especially enjoyed break dancing, hip hop, and dancing to Michael Jackson tracks with his four-year-old daughter.

The ceremonies, which will be held on July 27 and August 29, are top secret...'

Rob Lowe; photo courtesy of surreycomet website 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Deaf athlete (1)

Here is the month of July and 26more days to the Olympics and 59 to the Paralympics. I was curious to know how many deaf athletes have competed in the Olympics. Then I found out about Terrence Parkin, a top swimmer who holds the African record in 200meter and 400meter individual medley, 2world records and 6deaflympic records.

Parkin, a South African was born deaf and started swimming at the age of 12years old. He communicates with his swimming coach in sign language. To his performing credit, he won a silver medal in the 200meters breaststroke in his first Olympics outing: Sydney 2000. He also won 7gold medals in swimming and a bronze medal in cycling at the 2009 Deaf Olympics Games at Taipei.

In the past, he would rely on his coach to signify when the race is about to commence. Fortunately, modern technology in the form of light flashes has removed the need for him to look out for his coach's sign.

Photo credit: Supersports website 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Have you bitten 'nicely' by the Olympic bug yet?

Countdown to the Olympics is now 28days and 61days to the Paralympics. And it's now London's turn to host.

So far this year has been quite exciting for a number of people. In particular, some deaf people and sportsmen/women/athletes; one of whom is Matthew Sykes who happens to be an old primary school mate of mine. Matthew was nominated to be one of the Olympic torchbearers. He currently holds the record of being the only deaf canoe slalomist in the world.

Matthew has competed on both national and international levels for Great Britain. After the Sydney Olympics in 2000, he had a 10 year break. Now he's back!

Photo from

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Today I would like to give a big shout-out to a budding deaf politician, Umar Tukur. At the beginning of June, Tukur was appointed the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Disability Matters to the Governor of Adamawa State beating the incumbent, Abubakar Hosere whose tenure has been constantly awash with allegations of fraud and financial impropriety.

Tukur became deaf at the age of 6 following a bout of meningitis when he was in primary class 2. He then enrolled in Special Education Centre in Jada, Adamawa State. Tukur attended Plateau School for the Deaf briefly before returning to Special Education Centre in Jada to complete his O levels studies. He gained admission to study Special Education in which he graduated with a 2.1.  Upon graduation, Umar served at Kaduna. He completed his service successfully late last year and joined politics.

Tukur is very active in the deaf community in NGR and served in different capacities. He wishes to make a great impact in the lives of the PWDs particularly the deaf in his home state. Tukur has always believed that education is the key and strives to enable more deaf indigenes in his state to have good educational opportunities similar to which he has been fortunate to have.

He has the eye on the big political fish down the line...
Here is to wishing Umar Tukur a very successful tenure as the youngest SSA on Disability Matters in NGR and to make great milestones not only in his state but the country.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Then for the good news!

It is no secret that deaf people particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa have low access to (good) education at all levels. Having no/poor educational qualification in this part of the world is like having a one-way ticket to poverty and a miserable life.
Deaf people face numerous and huge challenges in their pursuit of gaining education from lack of good quality special schools with no qualified teachers to lack of accomodation for hearing in 'normal' learning institutions. Very few governments make (good quality) education for Deaf People a priority.

Gallaudet University in the USA is the only university in the world that offers tertiary level education to deaf people. So the good news as shown on the Daily Trust newspaper is (

'Plans are underway by Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State to replicate the Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. in the United States in the state, Comrade Abubakar Hussaini, the state’s Commissioner for Education said yesterday. Hussaini, who noted that Gallaudet University specializes in undergraduate liberal arts education, career development and outstanding graduate programmes for the deaf, said Nasarawa is the first state in the country to seek the cooperation of Gallaudet. “The driving philosophy of Gallaudet is that no human being, no matter how physically challenged, is a waste. Gallaudet has provided the platform for the deaf and hard in hearing as well as persons suffering from other physical challenges, to play a role in our modern society, by equipping them with knowledge. That is what we want to replicate back home,” he said. He said the Al-Makura-led delegation met with the management of Gallaudet and extracted a commitment to collaborate with the administration in the establishment of the school. “We were challenged with the development of the students when we visited the university. They are good with modern technology, and we can have exactly that in our state,” he said.'

Now, isn't that cool? I had already mentioned on this blog that I think that this governor means well for deaf people and is working hard to make a real difference.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sad news...

** Edited as I noticed that the original post was not published as intended- my apologies**

More than 3weeks ago on the 3rd of June, a Dana plane crashed in NGR which claimed the lives of all 153 onboard and an undetermined number on ground. I happen to know 4 people who sadly lost their lives in the disaster. A couple who made a lot of meaningful contributions in the lives of Persons With Disabilities (PWD). Ayodeji and Ngozi Cole were the officiating pastors of the Utako branch of TREM Church in Abuja.

Rev. Ayodeji and Ngozi Cole 

 I first met the very pleasant Mrs. Cole when someone directed me to her church  to carry out my project on sexual and reproductive health. It has the largest number of deaf members on their membership roll (over 150people) in Abuja and one of the largest in Nigeria. She was very excited and welcoming when I explained to her what I wanted to do. As she shared her passion for Special People which her church describes PWDs, was impressed with her empathy and vision which enabled  her and her husband oversee an organisation called 'City Shakers' Initiative' where they offer practical help to people. She not only encouraged me but also supported me by offering the use of the building facility to do the interactive sessions.

The last time that I saw Rev. Ayodeji Cole was at the Easter Christian Camp for Deaf People held in late March at Abuja where I volunteerred my medical services. He sponsored the program in which well over a 1000 deaf people attended.

The Coles are just among the handful of people in NGR who impacted the lives of PWDs particularly deaf people positively.

They will surely be missed.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Another story shared by parents of a deaf child

As part of the Deaf Awareness week in the UK, some parents share their experiences in raising a deaf child. Here Paul and Ruth Neesham tell their story to Sunderland Echo.

Being told their beautiful baby is deaf plunged Paul and Ruth Neesham into a frightening world. In Deaf Awareness Week, this Sunderland couple are doing their utmost to inspire others. Women’s editor Linda Colling reports.

IT’S severe to profound deafness. I can remember sitting there and thinking ‘I don’t want to cry’ but then I just sobbed. I couldn’t stop,” says Ruth Neesham, of the moment she and husband Paul were told that devastating diagnosis about their newborn son, Jack, who was just three weeks old.

“It’s so hard to explain. I didn’t understand,” says Ruth, 33, who like Paul was totally unprepared and plunged into a frightening and unknown world.

With no deafness in their family and a son with perfectly normal hearing, Adam, four, Paul, says: “We literally cried for a month, dark days.”

They struggled to take in the crippling news that hit them like a sledgehammer. It was heartbreaking and Ruth recalls how hearing a song or a piece of music and she would break down at the thought that Jack would never hear such beautiful sounds. “It just broke my heart,” she says.

Then there was breaking the news to the family. Paul, 36, a sport’s sub editor at the Echo says: “It just brought it all back. It was such a raw wound.” And Ruth adds, “They wanted to stay strong for us but they needed time to digest it. It was totally out of the blue and you just don’t understand how this happened and how you are meant to deal with it. Ninety per cent of deaf children are born to hearing families like ours. And you have no idea of this world or how to cope with it.

“You grieve for the baby that you thought you were getting. I wouldn’t change him for the world, apart from I would love his ears to work. You are sad and praying for what your family life is going to be like. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t wish it was different.”

At nine months, Jack is a joy. A beautiful blue-eyed boy who radiates happiness. He’s progressing normally and it’s amazing how far Paul and Ruth have come in their determination to give their son the very best chance. From the day they were told that heartbreaking news, they have been supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

When Jack was just 10 weeks old they went on a family weekend to a hotel in the area where they met others who had travelled the same road and were an inspiration to them.

Ruth says: “We met people who had been in our position and you can see how far you can come. It was very well organised by the NDCS. They shared experiences and what their children had achieved.” And Paul adds: “It was very inspirational to hear their stories, knowing that there is light at what was a very dark tunnel in the early days. And from all the help we have had from NDCS, friends and family, it’s all positive.”

They left heartened that nothing was going to stop Jack.

Playing on the floor at their home in Lutterworth Road, Tunstall, Jack is as bright as a button, watching everything, his facial expressions responding to their smiles and his parent’s total commitment to communicate with him. They talk to him as if he could hear and use baby signs to help him develop his communication skills. Big brother Adam makes him laugh a lot. And Jack is very much a daddy’s boy.

Paul goes to a British Sign Language course at Bede Sixth Form Centre for two hours every week with his sister and mother-in-law and then passes on to Ruth what he has learnt.

She will soon be returning to her job with Sunderland City Council and talks of how she struggled in the early days with stares, nudges and whispers from people as they noticed the baby with hearing aids.

She says: “It was really difficult taking him out. I wanted to protect him from it. You can see people looking. It’s alright for an older person to have a hearing aid but when it’s on a baby some people don’t know how to react. It’s ignorance and people don’t know how to deal with a baby with hearing aids. But recently, when I took Adam to nursery one of the mothers spotted me and said ‘Oh, your little boy has hearing aids. My little girl has them too!’” In nine months Jack has had a staggering 79 hospital appointments. He’s there every two weeks having impressions taken for new moulds for his hearing aids as he’s growing fast and also having hearing tests.

Ruth says: “Everyone at Jack’s hospital appointments have been wonderful, especially the Audiology Department at Sunderland. Ed Brown and his team are doing an amazing job.”

They don’t know what has caused his deafness – it could be a gene called Connexin 26 – which means that as a couple they have a one in four chance of having a deaf child. But nothing has been confirmed yet.

Ruth has just helped launch a playgroup for parents of toddlers and pre-school tots with a hearing loss. They meet in the Fingerpaint Nursery, Ryhope every fortnight on a Monday 1pm-3pm. The next meeting is on May 14.

Ruth can’t believe how far they have come since that bleak diagnosis and says: “It’s one of those things that will never change. However much technology can help Jack, whatever kind of hearing aids or if he gets cochlear implants, he is still going to be deaf. It’s not like anything can fix it at all.

“But there is hope and it gives us strength hearing how well other people’s children have done which just shows anything is possible for Jack. In the future he can do whatever he wants to do. We will make sure that he gets all the right support.”

In gratitude of all the support they have had and which is still on-going from NDCS, Paul is doing the Great North Run in September and the Great North Bike Ride on August 26 cycling 60 miles from Seahouses to Tynemouth to raise money for the charity.

Ruth says without NDCS they would have been completely lost. She says: “I wouldn’t know where to start. I wouldn’t have met any other families and wouldn’t understand what appointments we have to go to or what his future prospects are and what support is available to us. They do wonderful work.”

And in this touching appeal for sponsorship, Paul has written: “On the 24th August 2011, I was told the devastating news that my baby boy Jack was born profoundly deaf. He was only 23 days old. My world completely fell apart. He can’t hear my voice, he can’t hear music, he can’t hear the birds sing. Every little thing that we take for granted. It breaks my heart.

“However, if it wasn’t for the help and support of the National Deaf Children’s Society I don’t know how I would have begun to cope. They have helped me and my family deal with Jack’s deafness, providing advice and support.

“This charity is very dear to my heart and I can’t begin to imagine what I would do without it. Please give all you can to help this invaluable support continue for deaf children and their families.”

•To sponsor Paul go to or text Jack97 £5 to 70070

•For more information on the Hearing Impaired Playgroup contact

EVERY year five or six babies are born in Sunderland with a significant hearing loss in both ears.

And this is being picked up at between four and eight weeks of age through the Local Newborn Hearing Screen Programme (NHSP) provided by City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. This covers about 7,000 babies born across Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead.

Ed Brown is a Consultant Clinical Scientist (Audiology) and Local Director of NHSP. And he is in the front line of breaking the news to parents, like the Neeshams, that their child has a significant hearing loss.

Before the introduction of NHSP in 2006, significant hearing loss was typically not identified until about 12 months of age. The earlier the detection means that there are much better outcomes for the child and family.

High quality Digital Sound Processing hearing aids are designed specifically for young children. The Royal also has the benefit of its own earmould laboratory which means that specialised earmoulds can be made quickly for babies and young children.

About three children a year might be referred for assessment for a cochlear implant usually to the North East Cochlear Implant Programme based in Middlesbrough. A cochlear implant is not appropriate for everyone and is for severe-profound hearing loss, where assessment has shown that there is limited benefit from conventional hearing aids.

Most children who are accepted for cochlear implantation will usually receive an implant in both ears. The cost of one cochlear implant, including surgery and followup is about £30,000.

Mr Brown and his team work very closely with colleagues based in local Education Service (Sensory Support) and many of the early appointments with the family are held jointly. He says: “We also have excellent links with medical colleagues in the Ear Nose and Throat Department, children’s doctors, speech and language and other health care professionals. We try to make sure that we communicate effectively with families and other professionals. All our reports are written to parents, carers with other professionals copied in as appropriate.

“We are committed to improving services and have engaged with national quality initiatives in audiology such as the Quality Enhancement Tool (QET) and Improving Quality In Physiological Diagnostic Services (IQIPS). However, we know that we may not get things right all of the time and we hope that by having an open an honest approach families feel able to contact us and discuss any issues with us.

“The local NHSP is subject to a national quality assurance process every 18 months. The last assessment was in March 2011 and we were highly rated (our overall score was 4.24 out of 5).

“The challenge is to ensure that the through high quality services, support and good communication between professionals that a child with hearing loss has the very best chance of developing communication along the same pathway as their normally hearing peers.

Mr Brown has 23 years experience in clinical audiology. He is a lead examiner for the British Academy of Audiology and has also contributed to the development of national protocols for children’s audiology and various quality assurance activities for both adult and children’s audiology services.

Article from Sunderland Echo.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Deaf Awareness Week in the UK

...started yesterday (7th May) and ends on 13th May.

I wrote briefly on hearing dogs and I still have a lot to learn about them! Here is another brief article about them and the role they play in the Deaf community.

"James Cheung from Derbyshire is part of a pioneering project placing hearing dogs with deaf children. His is one of only 12 placements of its kind in the country.

Now James and his hearing dog Kurt have become the poster couple promoting the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People charity, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

It takes around £45,000 to train and place a hearing dog. Kurt helps James in all aspects of his life, including getting ready and walking to school.

James and Kurt have already been on show at Crufts in Birmingham, and have also met the Prime Minister who helped celebrate the charity's anniversary."

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The latest on the Disability Bill in NGR

I wasn't sure what to make of the passing of the Disability Bill by the lower chambers of the country's law-making assembly-the House of Representatives. It was sponsored by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a vibrant female member of House of Representatives (a truly nice compliment- not because she's female but because she is really making impact both within and without her constituency unlike the vast majority of her counterparts.)

Courtesy of Africanexaminer website
Apparently there was some really stiff resistance from the other members. About two years ago, the current president passed the Bill which went through lots of hassles in his predesessor's time-more than 7years!The President refused to sign it into law before he was sworn in.

Which now means the process has to start all over again. Who knows how long it will take this time?

*sigh sigh*

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Ted Evans- Deaf filmmaker

Recently I posted about a Deaf filmmaker who was embarking on a project on role models for deaf people in London. Good news! He has finished that project which is called 'From us to you'.

And with his expressed permission, I'd like you to have a look at it through this link:

And also pass it on to others.

Well done Ted!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

'Deaf and dumb' 'Deaf and dumb'

If I was to be paid a tenner for hearing that phrase (along with 'deaf and mute') since the beginning of the year, I tell you that I'll become a thousandairesS.. o joke!

Seeing that many people are not able or fail to connect the necessary dots between hearing and speaking ab nitio, I have had to ask them to imagine what it means to speak the way they do. Did they imagine it into existence?  How do they know the 'I' in words should be pronounced as an 'ee' or an 'ai' without looking at a dictionary or hearing someone say it.

Using the word 'dumb' is a no-no. Dumb in today's speak means 'stupid' and deaf people are certainly not that!  I have come across the usage of 'speech-impaired' as a politically correct term but I do not think that it is accurate. Simply because many deaf people CHOOSE not to speak or prefer to use sign language. Another word 'unvoiced' brings up some varying reactions as is the word 'silent'.

The word 'deaf' is enough and acceptable by for many deaf. There is no need to waste ink or carbon dioxide to add '...and dumb'. Really.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Deaf discrimination

Yet again, I received another complaint about deaf people being discriminated against. I just cannot help but wonder if it is deliberate. I will recount and you can make up your mind on that.

Yesterday, I was told that in Adamawa State 105 Persons With Disabilities got employed by the state government (laudable effort in itself). But can you guess how many out of the 'fortunate' 105 were deaf? Guess? Guess again... Just TWO! Believe me, Adamawa State has a high proportion of deaf people and a number of them are educated. To make matters worse, none of the educated deaf was hired/appointed. Now don't get me would be nice for an uneducated deaf to work in their state Civil Service. What would they be working as a result of their illiteracy? I won't answer that questi
on but I am sure that you'll have a fairly good idea. My take on this is the 2deaf people who were hired should go back to school to improve their literacy so they stand a better cchance in life than being consigned to a miserable life down at the lowest rung of the Civil Service.
It is totally unfair that the Special Assistant to the Adamawa State Governor on Disability Matters not to have consulted first with each disability group. And extremely unfair of him to do the pickings himself and not pick the deaf graduates.

So you can see why I earlier asked if the deaf discrimination is deliberate.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sad passing of UK's first deaf MP

Yesterday, the first deaf MP Lord Jack Ashley passed away at the age of 89 years old..

courtesy of the huffington post website
Disabled rights campaigner Lord Ashley of Stoke, the first deaf MP, has died aged 89, it was announced on Saturday.
The Labour peer passed away last night after a short illness, according to his family.
BBC presenter Andrew Marr, who is married to the peer's columnist daughter Jackie Ashley, said: "Lord Ashley of Stoke, the former Labour MP Jack Ashley, died last night, April 20, after a short illness at the age of 89."
Jack Ashley won the seat of Stoke-on-Trent South in 1966, but lost his hearing less than two years later after an unsuccessful ear operation.
He recalled in his autobiography that the last voice he heard was that of the late rugby commentator Eddie Waring.
After initially fearing he would be forced to give up politics, Ashley learned to lip-read.
Other MPs, including political foes such as Prime Minister Edward Heath, turned towards him during Commons debates so he could get a clear view of their mouths.
Lord Ashley also worked hard to modulate his speaking voice, which he could no longer hear.
However, his deafness never affected his combative attitude.
"Early on when I first lost my hearing, I think people were a little fearful about attacking me. But as I re-established my confidence, that soon fell away," he said.
As his fame as an advocate for disabled rights grew, Lord Ashley became president of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
He also played a major role in the campaign for better compensation for children disabled by the drug Thalidomide, which was given to mothers to treat morning sickness during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1993, a year after he was made a life peer, Ashley's hearing was partially restored by a cochlea implant, an electronic device which stimulates the nerves in the inner ear.
Lord Ashley worked in a factory after leaving school at 14, becoming a shop steward and a local councillor.
He studied at Oxford and Cambridge on scholarships, and worked as a producer for the BBC before entering parliament.
Andrew Marr added: "The campaigner for the rights of the disabled, who had been the first ever deaf MP, won major victories for the victims of the drug Thalidomide, for victims of army bullying, and for victims of domestic violence.
"He is survived by his three daughters, Jackie Ashley, Jane Ashley, and Caroline Ashley."
Jackie Ashley paid tribute to her father on Twitter:
Ed Miliband led the tributes from politicians and peers: