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Journal of Health Policy and Management

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Privacy and confidentiality in health care access for people who are deaf: The kenyan case

Author(s): Jefwa G Mweri*

At the international level, Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It signed and ratified the same on 30 March 2007 and on 19 May 2008 respectively. At the regional level Kenya is also a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Kenyan constitution 2010 and the persons with disabilities act 2003 all offer guarantees on the rights for persons with disabilities (PWDs). PWDs in most countries are part of groups that, have traditionally been victims of violations and thus they may require special protection for the equal and effective enjoyment of their human rights. Despite the fact that these human rights instruments set out additional guarantees for persons belonging to these groups over and above the universal declaration of human rights, PWDs in general and the deaf in particular continue to face challenges especially in the health sector. For people who are deaf their main challenge is communication. Since they normally have no access to their auditory faculty, their main means of communication is Visual through Kenyan Sign Language (KSL). Majority of people are hearing including majority health practitioners thus creating a communication barrier that interferes with the right to access quality medical care for people who are deaf. This paper examines the challenges that people who are deaf in Kenya face in accessing medical care. First they are more often than not forced to use KSL interpreters a fact that may interfere with their privacy and confidentiality. In the absence of qualified interpreters, people resort to writing under the false impression that all people who are deaf can read and write. Then sometimes relatives of the deaf are used as interpreters just because they may have some knowledge of KSL forgetting that they are not interpreters. The paper also looks at some initiatives that have tried to teach medical practitioners KSL so that they can communicate with people who are deaf directly and argue that though not adequate in terms of the numbers trained so far but this is the way to go.