Nigerian TV news to include sign language interpreters for the first time

GTMP and case studies in Gurage zone, Ethiopia with Sightsavers and partner Orbis. January 14-16, 2016.  Pictures by Peter Nicholls
GTMP and case studies in Gurage zone, Ethiopia with Sightsavers and partner Orbis. January 14-16, 2016. Pictures by Peter Nicholls

Sign language interpreters will be a permanent feature on the Nigerian national news, meaning COVID-19 information and other bulletins will be more accessible for people with hearing impairments. The interpreters first appeared in late June 2020 and going forward will be on all primetime news programmes.

The inclusion of interpreters comes as global charity Sightsavers has been campaigning for more accessible ways of sharing information to ensure people with disabilities are not left behind during the global response to COVID-19. The Nigerian government has promised to carry forward the interpreters with permanent contracts following a pilot in July.

The interpreters will be employed initially through Inclusive Futures, a new UK aid funded global partnership of 16 development bodies led by Sightsavers. The organisations are collaborating to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities across healthcare, employment and education.

Rasak Adekoya, Sightsavers’ Programme Officer, based in Nigeria, said: “I’m really excited to see this development and the commitment the Nigerian government has made. It shows the power of collective action and our ability at Sightsavers to advocate and make a real impact for people with disabilities.

“We’re always focusing on how to make our impact as sustainable as possible, and with the support of the government hopefully this will be a long-lasting change. It’s sending lots of positive signals about the importance of inclusion – one action leads to more. We hope that this will inspire more progress in the country toward including people with disabilities.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of people with disabilities are being put at greater risk because they are missing out on vital information that is not provided in accessible formats. Few materials are produced in signed languages, braille, pictorials or plain language, making it difficult for people with disabilities to receive the potentially life-saving health information they need. This is on top of the existing inequality and barriers to participation that many people with disabilities experience on a daily basis.

The Inclusive Futures consortium is advocating for an inclusive response to COVID-19, one that does not leave people with disabilities behind. The initiative is working in partnership with people with disabilities and the organisations that represent them, as well as the public and private sectors, in seven countries (Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kenya, Jordan, Tanzania and Uganda).

In Nigeria, the programme is focusing on better long-term prospects for jobseekers with disabilities and employers, improving inclusive primary education, developing an inclusive health approach to improve  equity in access to eye care services, and tackling stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities using the media and radio.

Sightsavers is working with 15 other international development organisations, disabled people’s organisations and country partners to ensure people with disabilities are able to access quality education, health care and work without facing stigma and discrimination. The programme is working with public and private sectors in Nigeria, Bangladesh, Kenya, Jordan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Sightsavers has campaigned for disability-inclusive global development since 2013, and in that time has seen significant recognition of disability as a priority issue.

Sightsavers has worked in Nigeria for over 60 years.

  1. Sightsavers is an international organisation that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent avoidable blindness, treat and eliminate neglected tropical disease, and promote the rights of people with disabilities. 
  1. Globally 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment and of these, at least 1 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed. This burden weighs more heavily on poorer countries, and on marginalised communities. And projections show that global demand for eye care is set to surge in the coming years.
  1. In the seven decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has:

–          Supported more than 1.2 BILLION treatments for neglected tropical diseases

–          Carried out more than 7.7 million cataract operations to restore sight

–          Carried out more than 196 million eye examinations

–          Dispensed more than 4.6 million glasses


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