By Ibrahim Tukur
As we enter the last week of September, I am compelled to pick up my pen and continue writing as usual.
September marks Deaf Awareness Month, a time when the deaf community comes together to shed light on their unique culture and the challenges they face in their interactions with society.
Although I am unable to organise a learning event this time for personal reasons, I intend to celebrate this month by raising awareness about the various challenges faced by the deaf community.
One of the most significant issues that must be addressed is the pervasive problem of stereotypes that persistently plague the deaf. These stereotypes are prevalent across many societies, especially in Africa, where individuals hold negative misconceptions about the deaf. Some wrongly view the deaf as cursed, insane, mad, aggressive, or even unintelligent.
These harmful stereotypes give rise to discrimination against the deaf. When people harbour negative beliefs about the deaf, they often treat them unfairly. In some families, deaf individuals are treated like slaves due to the unfounded belief that they are mentally unstable. Some parents deny their deaf children access to education, erroneously believing that they have no promising future and won’t contribute positively.
Despite many deaf individuals proving these stereotypes wrong by excelling in higher education, they still face discrimination. Deaf graduates struggle to find good job opportunities, and even deaf schools, where they should be employed, are often staffed primarily by hearing individuals.
Stereotypes also result in stigmatisation. Many people avoid socialising with the deaf, assuming they are prone to madness or aggression and quick to engage in conflict. Personally, when I became deaf, I lost numerous friends who began avoiding me, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Moreover, stereotypes expose the deaf to mockery solely because of their inability to hear. People often make fun of them, use derogatory terms, and speak negatively about them. I personally experienced ridicule and mockery when I lost my hearing at the age of six, which frequently led to conflicts, ultimately forcing my family to relocate.
Thankfully, there are ways to combat this issue. Eliminating deaf-based stereotypes can begin with increased awareness about the nature of hearing impairment. Workshops and seminars on sign language should be organised, enabling better communication and understanding between the hearing and deaf communities. Additionally, introducing Deaf Studies into school curricula can familiarise students with the experiences and capabilities of the deaf.
It is crucial to recognise that deaf individuals are sane; they are not “mad” or “cursed.” They possess the same potential as anyone else and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Let us work together to break down these harmful stereotypes and promote inclusivity for the deaf community. They deserve it, without a doubt.