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Complete ability

For years the deaf in this country have sought to pursue education to the highest level. They have constantly been given the run around, empty promises and just plain old disrespect by the powers that be.

Many of them have come to a point where they have thrown their hands up in the air and by those actions have made their feelings known as they have truly grown weary of this Barbadian atmosphere of “talk”.

Some have opted to leave these shores — and those are the ones who have family living overseas so it’s easier. But the reality is that many are stuck here and just hoping and praying for the opportunity to present itself where they are on par with their hearing counterparts or if that doesn’t happen, have resigned themselves to depending on their families and doing menial work for the rest of their lives.

However, having said that, I want to celebrate and highlight a young lady I wrote about just over two years ago by the name of Toni Wharton. She was given the opportunity to be mainstreamed in the public primary school system for a couple days a week and then went onto secondary school at Graydon Sealy.

She just sat her CXC’s where she received six at her first sitting and to say that I am proud of her is an understatement. Toni has shared a lot with me about what she wants to achieve and where she wants to go in her life but is also concerned about how she will achieve this.

I hope that the powers that be are taking note and beginning to see that she is not going to get to that next level “just so”. Having said that, it should be somewhat easier, but in Toni’s case the main thing would be for her to have an interpreter with her like she had in secondary school.

While Toni is special because of her “disability”. There are many like her who only need the chance; and I really don’t want to hear about how only a handful of deaf have the ability, because if we used that formula then at least half of the children in our “normal” classrooms would be deemed “incapable”.

Some teachers across the board treat their students like that anyway, and hence this is maybe why we have such problems across the board since the “high flyers” are given the most attention when ironically it should be the other way around. But that’s another story for another time.

It’s clear that teaching the deaf is not as difficult as some believe; the issue is the one who is teaching. Having said that, what is needed is more opportunities for mainstreaming, which would mean more interpreters. We have to understand that there is a need for them now more than ever and we really need to show that it is indeed a profession and very much needed here and throughout the wider Caribbean.

I applaud her mother Marcelle and her sister Melissa for believing in her from Day One. Not only that, but they clearly supported her to the point where she had a “not giving up” attitude. Congrats to all those who saw past Toni’s “disability” and saw her desire and willingness to succeed as well as her abilities. I have to say that I have read quite a lot of her poetry and she is very good. I want to share with you the same one I shared two years ago, because maybe now it would make a lot more sense to you.

There are so many more Toni’s out there and I pray that we find a way to make their dreams a reality. Lots more educating need to be done to create more awareness on deaf education and all that it encompasses; in addition to making sure that we don’t deprive individuals of a good and sound education because of ignorance.

There isn’t a soul on the planet who cannot be educated. We just need to find the right tools and methodology for this to take place. I will go to my grave saying that some of our best minds are on the block. However you spin it, education is a right that should be afforded everyone. Sure, some waste that right and opportunity, but they are in the minority.

We need to make sure that people with all types of abilities are given the opportunity to learn and succeed. As Toni says in her poem, “You would be sensitive and patient when you see “un-normal ones”. Here is the poem below:

Only if they had a Heart

The heart never wants to listen…..

It wants to have its own way

You put forward your mouth so quickly then to shut it

You’re not listening

Only if they had a heart……

You would be sensitive and patient when you see “un-normal” ones

You think we are different and weird

Yes we are different but not weird! Ha!

But there is something really good about us

How could you be so mean?

How could you let your evil play?

Only if they had a heart……

They would look deeper

They would try their best to be good

Now you and I know the world that we live in

It is not perfect and in need of God’s salvation

How could you be a hater?

How could YOU be deaf AND blind?

All you have to do is change!

Only if you had a heart……

I’m sure you would!

* Barbadian Deaf Poet

Toni Wharton

As I said before in my previous article, the inability to verbally articulate has led to the power of the pen for Toni. She is so incredibly gifted! To all the Toni’s out there, don’t give up. It’s indeed possible!

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