Imagine losing your ability to communicate. Completely shut off from the surrounding world. Alone, solitary with no ability to interact. Think about the impact on your life. The difficulty of completing basic tasks – to show you are hungry, to be aware of traffic, to speak to nurses in a hospital. Having no one to share your struggles, your successes, your hopes and fears with. Locked out of the world, with little or no support.
It sounds like the plot of a Kafka novel. Yet this is the plight of many deaf and hearing impaired children in Zambia. Hidden away by their families, many children never learn to sign, or are in households where no one else has the ability. They are trapped and isolated inside their minds.
This isolation is increased by the social stigma that accompanies all forms of disability. Deaf children are perceived as a financial burden, unable to contribute to the family income and superstitions regarding them as victims of witchcraft remain. As a result, they are denied access to the education, sexual health information and other services available to their peers. The perniciousness of this effect remains under-researched, but work by Hanass-Hancock suggests HIV risk may be doubled in the deaf community, attributable to the lack of HIV education1 .
Children with hearing impairments have the same right to education, to a safe and successful future, to a network of support as any other. By supporting the Cecily’s Fund Christmas Appeal this year, you will help us to reach many children who remain invisible to authorities. Every little helps, and whatever you give will make a big difference to a disabled child’s life.