Hundreds of persons with hearing and speech impediments on Thursday took to the streets of Port Harcourt to demonstrate against what they described as stigmatisation by the public.
Protesting under the umbrella of Rivers State Association of the Deaf, the group which included those with hearing and speech challenges alleged neglect, exclusion by the state government.
The group made up of predominantly of youths were dressed in black attire and carried placards that captured their demands and grouse, as tunes from a sound system in an open van attracted the attention of passersby as they marched.
They marched through the major streets in Port Harcourt visiting the State House of Assembly, the City Council as well as the Government house to register their grievances.
They displayed placards with several inscriptions: “Please the deaf and hard of hearing employment, they have a future”, “Sign language for all, inclusion for all, leave no one behind,” “Sign language is equal in status to spoken language,” “My ability is stronger than deafness and hard of hearing,” and “Deaf and hard of hearing are human beings created by Almighty God.”
Chairman of the group, Adokiye Igburubo spoke to journalists saying, “All we are asking is for is equal opportunity for the deaf and hard in hearing in the state.
“We are neglected in all areas, our members are neither empowered with skills nor given employment opportunities like other members of the society.
“I am a graduate of Library and Information Studies, University of Ibadan, I am an indigene of this state, but I can tell you that I have been denied employment opportunities three times in my own state, even after meeting all the requirements for the job.”
He added, “The experience has always been that when at the oral interview stage they discover that I have a hearing impairment, they will say to me sorry, we don’t need this kind of person here.
“I passed through the same door others passed through and graduated with good result, I did not pass through the back door, but because I have a speech challenge, o am treated like an outcast, this is very unfair, nobody prayed to be deaf and dumb.”
Igburubo called on the Rivers State Government, and corporate organisations in the state to come to their aid by way of empowerment, skill acquisition training, scholarships, business grants, and more importantly, political appointments for their members.
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