Deaf blindness is a combination of sight and hearing impairment that affects how you communicate, access information and get around.
Though this disability is not known in Rwanda compared to other types of disability, currently more than 160 persons have been registered as members of Rwanda Organization of Persons with Deaf Blindness.
Based on the fact that this category is not much known in Rwanda, this leads deafblind people to struggles of exercising their rights as their disability requires additional aspects to help them for their daily living.
In additional to this, deafblind people have been suffering an issue of being marginalized and discriminated in the community because of lack of suitable communication for them, as explained by Furaha JMV, the president of Rwanda Organisation for People with Deafblind (ROPDB).
He says:” There is a big issue of ignoring deafblind people especially at the family level, where people with this disability are always hidden from the Public. Many families feel that it is a shame to have someone who is deafblind and they choose to hide him or her”
Furaha JMV – ROPDB President
Furaha also continues by saying that the main reason for these struggles is that tactile sign language used by deafblind people is not commonly known by many and there is not even a single school that teaches it in Rwanda, an issue which forces deafblind people to live a loneliness life.
ROPDB says that this should be settled if the government of Rwanda considers deaf blindness as a special category instead of being listed in the fifth category (others), as there are many things they fail to get due to that fact.
“What we request is that deaf blindness should be considered as a special category as there are other categories.” Says ROPDB president.
“We have more than 160 members across the country and we already have our association. So being listed in the fifth category makes us hurt as there are many opportunities we fail to get due to that fact.” He added.
The National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) admits that deaf blindness should be granted a special category but there are some steps that are still under process like disability law reform and once it will be finalized this category will be also confirmed as explained by Niyomugabo Romalis, the Chairperson of PWDs in Rwanda
“Having their own association and leadership shows that they are about to get their own category. Currently we are working on disability law reform process and I’m sure that once the process is finalized their category will be confirmed, and this will be done with the new NCPD board mandate that is to be elected in coming months” Says Romalis.
Niyomugabo Romalis – Chairperson of PWDs in Rwanda
Currently Rwanda recognizes five disability categories including Physical disability, visual impairment, deaf disability, mental disability and the fifth category which is called “other disabilities”.
Once deaf blindness is confirmed, categories will turn to six.
By Kanamugire Emmanuel236