Media should cater more for people living with disabilities

By Lynette Manzini

The High Court order granted last week instructing the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to disseminate information accessible to the  blind, the deaf and people with hard of hearing has allayed fears among representatives of people with disabilities who had been engaging without success over the past six years.

Almost a month after the government enforced a national lockdown to curtail the spread of the corona virus people with disabilities are still lagging behind as far as access to COVID-19 information from the government is concerned.

Sign language is among the 16 languages recognized in the country’s constitution.  Unfortunately, the government’s COVID-19 response strategy has not been inclusive thereby leaving a vacuum of the critical information.

The Deaf Zimbabwe Trust Executive director Barbra Nyanyaira told Radio VOP in an exclusive interview that the previous attempts to engage ZBC were negatively affected by the continuous leadership changes in the organization.

“Deaf Zimbabwe Trust took ZBC to court with regards to increased access to information to persons who are deaf and hard of hearing during the covid19 awareness campaigns after having engaged them since 2014 with no results.”

“As you know ZBC has been under leadership changes, there has been numerous CEO’s in acting capacity who always promised that something would be done,” Nyanyaira said.

The life threatening circumstances posed by the COVID19 pandemic forced Deaf Zimbabwe Trust to approach the High court on behalf of an estimated 300 000 members of deaf community inclusive of children.

“I think at this point we discovered that the lack of access to information for the deaf during COVID19 awareness is actually a threat to their own health and a threat to community health.”

“If a section of your population does not know what is happening and how to protect themselves then you are threatening the whole community. We kind of grew tired of being told we are working on it and not seeing any traction with regards to any change,” she added.

Nyanyaira bemoans the paltry five percent access to television content in the past, creating a conducive environment for fake news among the marginalized communities.

“Most of the television content is not accessible they would then rely on fake news that is coming on their phones and not relying on accurate information that the government is disseminating and so it is the duty of the government to provide information to all its citizens equally and that is the reason we went to court,” Nyanyaira said.

To date the country has recorded 31 positive COVID19 cases and 4 deaths.