A non-governmental organisation, Seems Interpreting Consults in collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos, has called for the inclusion of deaf persons in society.
The Executive Director, Seems Interpreting Consults, Mr Samuel James, made the call at a news conference ahead of the All Africa Deaf Art Festival on Thursday in Lagos.
James said the two organisations were making plans to hold the All Africa Deaf Art Festival designed to showcase and recognise the talents and abilities endowed in deaf persons.
According to him, deaf community comprises of artistic deaf people in the community who use body languages and movements (dance) which are form of arts to appreciate their heritage, history, literature and culture.
James lamented that the deaf people have not been fully included in the African society particularly Nigeria, as they still suffer series of discriminations.
He said that deaf dancers possess talents that could support their seamless integration into the society, yet the society continually neglects and excludes them, due to their disability.
He regretted that their exclusion over the years led to loss of human potential thereby affecting economic growth.
“Deaf dancers are currently not at the core of the society, due to social vices, baseless superstitions and discrimination against persons with disability.
“I am afraid this will render most talented deaf performers useless, making our society more vulnerable to abuses.
“Hence, there is a need for accessibility of arts in the deaf community as it will not only help the deaf community get together but as well help them to earn and sustain a living.
“The All Africa Deaf Festival is designed to unleash the talent and potential in deaf people.
“The audience will witness more than 25 professional performances by deaf artistes from several African countries from Dec. 1st to 4th at the National Stadium, Lagos,” he said.
James added that the first three days of the event would be for practical focused creative workshop, while the last day of the event would be a showcase of visual and performance artistic works.
Also speaking, an Inclusion Advocate, Mrs Akhere Akran, said that real inclusiveness of deaf people and persons with disabilities generally required collective efforts of the governments, leaders and all stakeholders.
Akram, also a Co-organiser of All Africa Deaf Art Festival, said there was a need for a collaboration of all stakeholders and sectors to design how to give back to the society without leaving anyone behind.
“It is time for the Nigeria to stop all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities. There is no reason for not having at least one person with disability in every office.
“In setting up infrastructural facilities, persons with disabilities should be put into consideration as adequate provisions be made for them.
“I see no reason why a person with disability will arrive at the airport and there will be no wheelchair to convey him/her. And this is so because from the time of building the structure, there was no imagination that someone with disability will access the facility.
“Most of us always pity; to pity them is not sustainable, we don’t have to wait until it happens to us before we begin think of how we can help.
“It is time for us to work the talk; we have been talking for long. Let the leaders and stakeholders have a shift of mindset where they change their thoughts about disability.
“And until we have leaders that have transformative mindset, because decision comes from the leader; even if the person in the office decides to do it and the leader does not approve; it will not work,” Akran said.
Also, the Chief Choreographer, All Africa Deaf Art Festival, Mr Olakunle Omotosho, urged the society to develop interest in learning and understanding sign language to enhance the level of interaction and relationship with persons with disabilities.
Omotosho emphasised the need for giving those with disability an enabling environment and sense of belonging to express and expose their talents.
“Giving persons with disability the opportunity is imperative because it gives room for them to be independent and shift them from becoming nuisances to the society
“Who said a deaf person cannot become a terrorist, robber or kidnaper. Therefore, being engaged can shield them away from getting involved in social vices,” he said. (NAN)