About Me

“Basic Sign Language Training Course for Health Professionals”

VISION: Equitable provision and delivery of quality healthcare for all patients
despite hearing impairement in Zimbabwe.

MISSION: Improving communication and quality of health care received by deaf and hard of hearing patients living in Zimbabwe through basic sign language training for medical care to all health professionals.

RECOGNITION: The project was selected for the MCW Global Young Leaders Access Program and awarded the Roberta Ritch in Award for showing great potential for impact in patient care and management.

A Bit of Our History

One morning during our Internal Medicine clinic hours we had an elderly male patient who came in. A good minute passed with the doctor trying to communicate with him in English, Shona and Ndebele, which are the three main languages in Zimbabwe but the man was not responding. He starting shuffling through his bag until he produced a laminated card that informed us he was deaf. We all felt embarrassed for not having realised this earlier, and unfortunately no one in the room knew sign language.

Eventually a pen and paper were sought and luckily for us, our patient could write. He was diagnosed with heart failure at the end of that consult, a serious condition which could have been missed due to lack of communication. Thankfully he got the medical attention he needed, however the incident had a significant impact on me. There is an estimated 1.5 million deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals living in

It shocked me to realise that such a large number of people face the same difficulties when accessing health care like our patient did that morning. Access to Healthcare without barriers is a clearly defined right of people with disability, as stated by the United Nations.

And the main barrier to access in the Deaf Community is lack of or poor communication between health professionals and the hearing impaired. Access for Primary Health care for hearing impaired individuals is still lagging behind in high income countries, let alone in low income countries like my own.

Some health professionals have admitted that they feel less comfortable when consulting a hearing impaired patient. Furthermore many health professionals are unaware of deaf culture and health needs of deaf people. This may lead to assumptions and misconceptions about deafness that undermine professional health care. For example, some practitioners believe that lip-reading, speech-reading or note- writing provide effective health communication but in reality studies show that deaf people who have practised lip-reading or speech reading for many years only understand about a third of the English vocabulary.

 Also, note writing is constrained by deficits in health literacy and a native signer who is not fluent in the written language faces serious communication barriers. Available studies showed that there is poor reading fluency among hearing impaired individuals, most reading at a Fourth grade level, and hence this leads to miscommunication between patient and healthcare provider, posing serious threats to health when issues of dosages, and drug-taking frequency are not communicated properly.

Stay In Touch