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:

Friday, 20 April 2012

Disability and media

Yesterday morning (19th April), I attended a seminar on 'Disability and media' which was organised by the Disability Rights Coordinator of CBM, Dr. Duro Onota who is partially-sighted.

Quite a handful of the media/ press women and men came. I think that they were mostly from tv. And of course, some members from the disability community were present.

We all know the very influential role that media (be it tv, radio, newspapers,social media) play in shaping the perception of the public. When I say 'very influential', I mean exactly that. It does seem that some presswomen/men are making efforts to present Persons With Disabilities with a positive image rather than as objects of pity.

It was encouraging to see that they paid attention and participated in the group discussions. During the group discussions, we covered unacceptable terms or phrases used to describe PWD like ' deaf and dumb/mute, cripple/lame, invalid, handicapped, spastic, mentally retarded, deformed, polio victim, afflicted (by), suffering (from), mongol'. The list is inexhaustive.

We also talked about issues for media campaign like inclusive education, inclusive development, passing the Disability Bill into law and for the Nigerian film Industry aka Nollywood (to cast PWDs and for criptwriters to include PWDs in their scripts)s

Disability and media

Yesterday morning (19th April), I attended a seminar on 'Disability and media' which was organised by the Disability Rights Coordinator of CBM, Dr. Duro Onota who is partially-sighted.

Quite a handful of the media/ press women and men came. I think that they were mostly from tv. And of course, some members from the disability community were present.

We all know the very influential role that media (be it tv, radio, newspapers,social media) play in shaping the perception of the public. When I say 'very influential', I mean exactly that. It does seem that some presswomen/men are making efforts to present Persons With Disabilities with a positive image rather than as objects of pity.

It was encouraging to see that they paid attention and participated in the group discussions. During the group discussions, we covered unacceptable terms or phrases used to describe PWD like ' deaf and dumb/mute, cripple/lame, invalid, handicapped, spastic, mentally retarded, deformed, polio victim, afflicted (by), suffering (from), mongol'. The list is inexhaustive.

We also talked about issues for media campaign like inclusive education, inclusive development, passing the Disability Bill into law and for the Nigerian film Industry aka Nollywood (to cast PWDs and for criptwriters to include PWDs in their scripts)s

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Deaf people are left out......again!!!!

I have just sent an email to one of the researchers from my alma-mater (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) who is involved in a BIG project in Burkina Faso. It is a radio campaign to reduce child mortality. Why do researchers, media companies keep forgetting that deaf people cannot readily access radio campaigns for obvious reasons??!

It is a very good initiative as it is life-saving.....for those who can hear the messages because the project involve targeted 60second message on the radio and radio phone-in programmes. The project was launched in early March and will run over a period of two and a half years. You can see the issue here?

In the email, I politely requested that the deaf population be involved in THIS campaign in one way or the other. They just have to find a way of doing that. Not doing that means that the deaf community gets marginalised for 2.5years and unfortunately bear the sad burden of child loss if they don't or can't access these messages.

Here is the link:

And the article:

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Development Media International (DMI) have launched a cluster randomised controlled trial of an innovative child survival intervention.
The project is funded by the The Wellcome Trust and the Planet Wheeler Foundation, set up by the founders of the Lonely Planet travel series.
The campaign – launched on March 7 - involves the broadcast of targeted 60-second health messages on the radio and radio phone-in programmes that will run for the next two and a half years. 
The messages, developed by the School in collaboration with DMI and other partners, are designed to change the behaviour of pregnant women and mothers through increased awareness and information, and reduce the number of children dying before their fifth birthday in Burkina Faso.
The study represents the first time that the impact of mass media on lives saved has been either modelled or measured.
Lead investigator Simon Cousens, Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics at  the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “We’ll be measuring the impact using a robust scientific methodology: a cluster randomised controlled trial. It will be the largest, most rigorous evaluation ever conducted of a mass media intervention and it will be exciting to find out how many lives can be saved using this approach.”
The first radio spots will promote exclusive breastfeeding – a behaviour which reduces the risk of a child dying from diarrhoea or respiratory infections. The spots will be broadcast on seven community radio stations in the West African country of Burkina Faso which have partnered with DMI to deliver the campaign.
“The project is innovative in three ways”, said  Roy Head, Managing Director of DMI. “Firstly, we’re broadcasting messages on all causes of death, not just individual issues. Secondly, we’re broadcasting very intensively: ten spots per day, and two hours of phone-in programming every night on every station. Thirdly, we’ll be measuring the impact more rigorously than has ever been done before. We’re hoping to prove that we can change behaviours on a scale large enough to save a lot of lives.”

Here is the equation that many people do not get:

From tumblr website





Yes really!!