A call has gone out to financial service providers in the country to promote inclusivity by training their staff in sign language to enable them to communicate well with people with hearing impairment.
The call was made on Saturday October 28, 2023, when over twenty frontline staff from all Old Mutual Malawi branches across the country, received certificates after completing a two-month training in sign language.
Speaking at the event which was held at Old Mutual Malawi offices in Blantyre, Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) spokesperson Harriet Kachimanga while commending the financial services provider for the gesture, encouraged companies to emulate the gesture saying people with disabilities should not be left behind when it comes to accessing financial services.
Kachimanga said the council has been encouraging companies to incorporate sign language in their daily services but reported that very few companies are implementing the policy despite more companies expressing commitment.
“This intervention by Old Mutual Malawi is a very good initiative, we do not take it for granted, it shows there is really commitment and dedication towards inclusivity in Malawi. As MACOHA we have been asking people, organizations and companies to incorporate sign language in their daily services.
“Most companies and organizations do not have sign language interpreters and this has been a challenge to people with deaf impairment because it means communication breakdown. So, we are encouraging the general public to emulate the example by Old Mutual Malawi which has trained its staff in sign language,” said Kachimanga.
Concurring with Kachimanga was the sign language trainer from Sign Language Inclusive Development (SILID) Joseph Sagawa, who expressed optimism that the gesture by Old Mutual Malawi will address communication challenges which people with deaf impairment have been encountering when accessing financial services.
Sagawa further mentioned that some people with hearing impairment have been avoiding financial institutions in the country because of past experiences relating to communication breakdown.
“Sign language is very crucial and we wish to encourage all financial service providers in the country to as well train their staff in sign language as what Old Mutual Malawi has done. As people with hearing impairment, we are always excited to meet people who know sign language but this has not been the case in most banks and other financial institutions where we do struggle to communicate with their staff,” explained Sagawa.
According to Old Mutual Group Customer Experience Executive Linda Poya, the company arrived at the decision to have its officers trained in sign language after noticing communication gap between their officers and people with hearing impairment when accessing financial services at their offices.
Poya said the development will help to create space for every person to participate in financial activities as people with deaf impairment will now be able to successfully communicate with Old Mutual officers on any financial service they would want to access unlike in the past.
“At Old Mutual it started with identifying a gap that our custom experience team had noticed. We know that our customers are diverse and we did think of inclusivity. As we said one of our values is exclusivity, so what we did was just to try and identify a skill that we can also include to make sure that all our customers are saved fairly.
“So we did identify t“““““““““he team from Sign Language Inclusive Development (SILID) to help our officers to learn sign language so that we can serve customers that are hard of hearing. So, all our frontline staff have been certified, we have about twenty, and they are all from our branches; Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre. Be assured that if someone who is hard of hearing visit an Old Mutual branch, will be assisted because there is going to be someone who is going to speak their language,” said Poya.
Poya further said in making sure that no any group of people is left behind, the company is committed to training their staff with other skills that will see people with other disabilities including those with visual impairment, being assisted when accessing financial services.