I am 24 years old. I went to primary School in Rugunga . When I was a kid I wanted to be a journalist . I went to University in Butare to study Journalism. In my final year I did my research project titled: ‘’ How Rwandan media serves people with disabilities’’ I didn’t know what to expect really. I chose that subject because I wanted a subject that no one else has worked on before. I met people who were born deaf and mute for the first time. I didn’t know any sign language. I had to go with a translator so we can communicate. It reminded me of the dark room experience where people are put in a completely dark room to experience what blind people experience everyday. You can’t see anything, they tell you to find a chair to lean on and while looking for the chair you bump into other people or bump into a wall. It made me realize how life for them is difficult. They are not informed about what is happening around them except when somebody who can use signs explains to them. They never listen to the radio; they can only watch news at TV Rwanda. It is the only TV station with a sign language translator for information coverage. Some of the people I interviewed told me that people could lie to them about what is happening they would not even know.
When I got my bachelor degree, I started to work for TV 10 and Radio 10. Later, with friends we started an organisation called ‘’ Media for Deaf’’. Our first achievement was to raise awareness with a campaign we called ‘’ Sign Your Name’’. The aim was to raise awareness that sign language is for everybody. We used public figures for that campaign. Our association wants deaf-mute people to have access to media programs produced entirely in sign language. We want them to have a voice and to participate in the development of our country. This experience changed me. I stopped taking for granted the gift of speech.
We need funds to be able to create programs in sign language. We need cameras, computers and we need to train people living with disabilities in communications, because they are the ones who are going to play an essential role in this project.
Photo: Alice Kayibanda