Muscat: Oman has the second largest number of hearing impaired population in the Gulf Cooperation Council region after Saudi Arabia and has just six sign language interpreters to aid them, officials from the Oman Association for the Hearing Impaired (OAHI) said.
“Saudi Arabia has a hearing impaired population of 88,000 and we have 15,000 according to our test survey. There could be more in the far away villages, where we haven’t reached yet,” Yahya Al Barashdi, member of OAHI told the Times of Oman (TOO).
He said most of the hearing impaired population is concentrated in the Al Batinah region in the north (5,000) and Muscat (4,000).
In April, Oman hosted the 41st Arab Deaf Week under the slogan “Make the Pen and Book the Deaf’s Friends” during which a number of programmes were organised.
Sign language interpreters
OAHI, which was established in 2013, has also announced the launch of Oman’s first sign language training centre.
“The Communication Institute of Training will train normal people, including bank executives, school authorities, employees of many departments for interpretation and sign language,” Hassan Ali, a sign language interpreter and special needs coordinator told TOO.
Ali, who is associated with OAHI, also confirmed the presence of a mere six interpreters in Oman and said “we must create more such teachers to address the needs of this huge population of deaf.”
He said some employees of Bank Nizwa have received some training and “we look forward to training more employees.”
“It’s very difficult for them to get jobs. Problem is they can’t communicate and the normal people aren’t trained to handle them,” said Ali, who also teaches at the Al Amal School for the Deaf.
He added, “In the schools too, they don’t have hearing equipment. If they don’t have hearing aid, they fail.”
The association has sought public support and called for public interaction with the hearing impaired.
“Otherwise they feel ignored. They feel cut off from the rest of the population,” OAHI’s Al Barashdi added.