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'Being deaf has not held me back from my goals'

Tom Osano who is deaf and dumb, explains his statement in sign language during an interview at the West Kenya Deaf Development Organisation offices in Kisumu. (PHOTO: DENISH OCHIENG/ STANDARD)

Peter Osano, Coordinator for West Kenya Deaf Development Organisation was born without any hearing impairment. This however, changed following a bout of mumps.

My story

I was born in Rachuonyo, Homa-Bay County into a polygamous family 47 years ago.

I had a childhood like any other child and attended Sino Kagola Primary school in Oyugis. That was before I got mumps while in class 5 that left me deaf.

The realisation I would never hear again was terrible and I had to enroll at Kuja School for the Deaf. Even though I had gone up to class five, I had to start learning afresh because they were being taught sign language which I did not know.

I joined Kanga High school in Rongo which was a regular school and I struggled to keep up with the others.

My determination paid off and I attained a C grade in KCSE. I then transitioned to Kenya Institute of Business Training where I studied administration and also trained as a counselor for the deaf at the Kenya Institute of Professional Counselors.

I started my working life in Rongo as Secretary General of South Deaf Association before I was then appointed Regional Coordinator of Kenya National Deaf Association in charge of Nyanza, Western and North Rift Valley Regions from 1994 to 2004.

Pushed by my desire to ensure the deaf receive all the assistance they need to live fruitful, meaningful lives, I founded West Kenya Deaf Development Group, based in Kisumu, where I am the project coordinator.

The organisation offers sign language training, carpentry, and poultry farming training to the deaf. My vision is to expand the carpentry workshop and introduce tailoring training for deaf men and women.

From my experience as a hearing child who became deaf, I call on families to support their kin who are hearing impaired. These are individuals who have potential and if given the opportunity can be as productive as the hearing in society.

I have had that kind of support, first from my parents and then from my wife, who is not hearing impaired, and our four children.

We need to put a special focus on empowering the disabled in society.

I am convinced that when we have a bigger proportion of people conversant with sign language and the deaf and other disabled are empowered so they do not go to beg in the streets, Kenya will be a very good place to live in.