CAIRO: Friday prayer and sermons were interpreted into sign language for the first time today at Al-Azhar Mosque for worshippers with hearing impairments.
“Today is just the beginning, and within the next weeks, all preaching lessons, Eid and Friday prayers at Al-Azhar mosque will incorporate sign language interpreters,” Essam Abdel Rahman, media advisor for the National Council for Disability Affairs, told The Cairo Post.
The council has contacted the Azhar Chiefdom in order to target people with hearing disabilities, who are facing “marginalization and religious illiteracy,” Rahman said.
Citizens with hearing disabilities constitute a large segment in the Egyptian society ranging between three-four millions, he added.
There have been individual efforts to translate sermons in sign language at other mosques, Rahman said, adding “but we are now trying to institutionalize the efforts through Al-Azhar Authority to guarantee continuity.”
This Friday’s sermon discussed the rituals and virtues of the annual event of Hajj, meaning pilgrimage, which is to begin Sep. 22.
“Attendees with hearing disabilities expressed their delight after they understood and interacted with today’s sermon for the first time in their life, as some of them used to attend without interpreters,” said Rahman who also prayed at the Azhar Mosque.
Egypt is one of the signatories of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which focuses on the “right to accessibility and to live independently.”
According to Ahmed Isaac, a specialist in Disabilities Affairs, Egyptian citizens with hearing impairments face difficulty in interacting within the society for the absence of their right to accessibility.
“Graduates of the pre-University education for special people cannot write and read,” Isaac told The Cairo Post, adding “while for Egyptian universities, they all lack technological accessibility for the disabled.”
Dalia Atef, an activist and a physically challenged person, said that the lack of accessibility for people with different disabilities in our society “increases their disability,” in a statement to The Cairo Post.
“The metro station in front of my work place is totally unequipped [for disabled people] although the area includes a governmental institution that serves people with disabilities. I do not understand where the problem is; whether is it the state budget or failure of officials,” she continued.
Accessibility does not only mean roads and public transportation, said Atef, but it also includes preparing all public facilities starting from the person’s house, hospitals, toilets…etc.
Approaching the parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in October, Isaac said that an operation chamber at the National Council for Human Rights will follow up on the voting process for people with disabilities.
Posters designed to describe the voting procedures, as well as allocating ground floors for physically challenged voters are among the to-be-requirements from the High Elections Committee (HEC.)
During May 2014 presidential elections, there were several complaints reported regarding difficulties for physically challenged voters, including “absence of posters, social assistants, placing ballot boxes at unsuitable height and presence of some polling stations on higher floors.”