UNDERLYING SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CONSTRAINTSThe hearing impaired and hard hearing persons have similar motivations to travel as the rest of the population. But several tourists and locals with hearing impairment face peculiarly embarrassments to tourism participation particularly in the physical, cultural and social settings. Virunga Community Program recognises that it is the disabling environment together with hostile social attitudes which create disability as opposed to underlying hearing impairment. We also recognise that tourism is a key part in the wider social and economic relation in each country. It also has its own set of sectoral responses to hearing impairment which must be understood in the country’s cultural context. There is therefore a need to develop strategies for these people.
AIMS OF VIRUNGA COMMUNITY PROGRAMS
- Development of African sign language in relation to culture, social and international standards to promote technological and social development.
- Encourage hearing impaired visitors/ tourists to participate in community development and social interactions.
- Development of sign language for easy translation, interpretation together with inclusion to enable easy communication and participation between visitors and locals.
- Acquisition of assistive learning devices for hard hearing locals and tourists.
- To train tour guides to act as sign language translators for visitors to national parks and other tourist attraction sites.
- Provide assistance to deaf schools of Goma School of the deaf in DRC, Kisoro School of the Deaf in Uganda and Nyange School of the Deaf in Rwanda through purchase of scholastic materials.
- To provide material assistance to hearing impaired children between the ages of 5 and 16 years to go to school.
- To provide health insurance to hearing impaired kids.
- To demystify the stereotype that hearing impaired individuals are not able to fully participate in societal activities to avoid peculiarly embarrassment and ridicule.
- To promote the common saying that disability is not inability and provide them with means to fully participate in social, cultural and economic sectors in the society.
- Encouragement and promotion of enrollment in aural rehabilitation classes- sign language knowledge.
CHALLENGES FACED BY HEARING IMPAIRED INDIVIDUALS
Both sign language and people who use it has had to fight for survival. People who have hearing impairment are viewed as lesser persons than others. Virunga Community Program is dedicated to promoting hearing impaired individuals and sign language. For many centuries, the hearing impaired individuals are viewed as incomplete due to their impairment. Because of a lack of speech, people were viewed as deaf and dumb. Some people mock sign language by ignorance in front of hearing impaired people or tell them how sorry they are since they cannot hear the phones ringing or the birds singing. Others are so rude as to talk about hearing impaired individuals right in front of them as though they are not even there.