By Lucky Isibor
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has pledged his administration’s commitment to support people with special needs in the state, assuring that policies are being formulated to accommodate their rights to express themselves, so that they can lead better lives.
The governor said this in a message to people with speech impairment during the commemoration of the maiden International Day of Sign Languages marked by the United Nations this year.
He said that the state government has set up a committee to streamline the needs of people with disabilities with a view to ensuring their inclusion and participation in development.
According to him, “The committee we have set up is currently working to streamline the concerns of people with special needs and will eventually provide recommendations on adequate structures to enable them live life to the fullest.
“However, at the basic education level, we are remodeling the sub-sector to improve access for every child, which includes children with hearing disabilities.”
“On this day, it is imperative to reiterate the need for inclusion of people with special needs in policy design to allow society tap from their wealth of talents in driving development. At the same time, we recognise the need to promote sign language which will ensure that children with special needs pick up these essential skills to better function in society,” he added.
Obaseki said the theme for this year’s event, “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!,” speaks to the need for inclusion, noting that reforms in basic education accommodates the peculiar needs of persons with special needs, which include people with hearing disabilities.
He added, “We will ensure that children with hearing disabilities who learn through sign languages have equal access to quality education and benefit from the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme.”
The governor decried the vandalisation of Schools for Persons with Special Needs, urging members of communities to do more in protecting public schools.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, “there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide, with more than 80% of them living in developing countries.”
The United Nations (UN) describes sign languages as fully-fledged natural languages, which are structurally distinct from the spoken languages. The UN makes clear that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages and obligates member states to facilitate the learning of sign language and promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community.