Sign language manuals presented to QEH

Officials speaking in one voice.
Officials speaking in one voice.

The Barbados Council for the Disabled is embarking on a partnership with health institutions that will see persons with disabilities having better access to health services.

This morning the council handed over Medical Emergency Sign Language Guides for the Deaf to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Ministry of Health for local polyclinics, after Council directors noted that often the hearing impaired or deaf had problems accessing health care because of the communication barrier.

President of the Council, Senator Kerryann Ifill told of a case recently where a friend who was a doctor called for assistance with a deaf patient who was complaining of pain, but with whom they could not fully communicate to assess the situation.

She said it was situations like this that underscored the importance of closer collaboration with the disabled community.

“Luckily in that case the situation was not a life threatening one but it very well could have been. Over the years we have heard of similar circumstances of persons trying to communicate their needs to other members of the community. Sometimes they give up in frustration, sometimes other persons treat them as if they are simple, as if they are unable to talk and they dismiss them, but like all of us the deaf and hearing impaired community are people, people with needs, rights and abilities,” said Ifill.

The president said this was what brought them into discussions with the QEH, adding that over the past years the organisation had been trying to meet with key members of society towards creating a more inclusive atmosphere by getting these institutions to understand their responsibility to the disabled community.

That inclusiveness, she said, meant that when persons with disabilities approached institutions, the services were more easily accessible.

“The communication cards that we will distribute this morning are by no means the end of the scenario. They are merely the beginning. They provide a little bit of information and hopefully they will encourage others to realise the gaps in their knowledge to help them understand what more they are expected to do,” she added.

The guides are essentially cards with pictograms and words that will enable the doctors and health care providers to communicate using basic sign language with patients who are deaf or hearing impaired.

Ifill said they recognised the eagerness of the QEH to take their recommendations on how to improve the services, and they were pleased such facilitation could be provided to the polyclinics as well as another starting point for such communication and collaboration. (LB)

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