Muscat: Oman’s deaf community overcome language barrier to join forces with the huge clean up operations a week after Cyclone Shaheen ripped through the country.
Using sign languages among themselves and at the same time overcoming difficulties communicating with other relief workers and victims, a group of young deaf people dip into the mud to do their part.
“Sometimes, people think that the deaf people cannot grasp what is going on around them. So, we are here to prove that we are aware of the suffering of thousands of people and we can help, too,” Azza Al-Mabsali, an official sign language interpreter for Al Amal Club for the Deaf, told Times of Oman.
Cyclone Shaheen has killed 12 people across the country.. Widespread damage from the storm forced more than 5,000 people into temporary furnished accommodation set up by the government.
Most of the damage is in Oman’s Al Batinah region, in the towns of Al Musannah, Suwaiq, Saham, Khaburah and Sohar, which were hit by winds of 110 kph and 12-metre-high waves.
Azza urged employers to give deaf people a chance because not many of them are employed.
“We are often overlooked when it comes to employment just because we are deaf. We are here to promote deafness and demand equal opportunities. We are participating with everybody in this cleanup but why we cannot work together with everybody in workplaces?” she added.
Qassim Al-Asfoor, one of the victims in Khabura, one of the towns effected most by the flood, paid a special tribute to the deaf community who turned up in his area.
“What I don’t understand is that why the deaf people in Oman don’t get equal employment opportunities? If they are here helping us then they can work competently in offices if given the chance,” Shidhani, told the Times of Oman.
Oman’s labour laws say that, as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), both public and private organisations must employ minimum two per cent of their workforce people with disabilities.
There are no statistics available in Oman to show how many disabled people are in the workforce but some schools and higher education institutions provide sign language classes for deaf students. But some deaf people find it a challenge to find jobs.
“I am still looking for a job four years after I completed my secondary school education. My colleagues with no hearing disabilities all work but I am still looking for a company who can offer me a job,” hard of hearing job seeker Shamsa Al-Shehi, 22, said.
Al Amal Club for the Deaf is registered under the Deaf Oman Sports Committee registered in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
It has a social club that provides sign language services such as translations. It is fully equipped with sport facilities and arranged trips abroad for cultural exchanges with international deaf communities.