By Michron Robinson
The mother of a hearing-impaired son feels at her wit’s end in finding gainful employment for him and is blaming the education system for what seems like a huge roadblock.
Alison Batson, mother of 17-year-old Jahiem Sealy Wharton, is questioning what her next step should be.
“Now that my son has finished school, what is the next step? … He went to the Irving Wilson School and came out like a five-year old. There is no other option for him to work or go and learn a skill,” she complained.
The mother who works in the food industry said there are not many options even at the tertiary level for hearing-impaired youth locally.
“I called the polytechnic (Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology) and they said they don’t have an interpreter to work with him. Even Skills Training said they don’t have a teacher to teach him who does sign language so he basically has to be home.”
Batson says that her son who has the ability to go into information technology spends his days playing his playstation at their Pine St Michael home.
She has many suggestions on what she would like to see done for other teens within the deaf community.
“He is just at home playing his playstation but there is nothing for him to do. He is 17 now so I would like others who are coming up to have job opportunities and not to have to do things on their own. I don’t like the other children who are coming up to face what he has to face.”
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey said that he has been rallying on behalf of the disabled community, calling on Corporate Barbados to include them in the hiring process.
“I know that persons with disabilities, unfortunately, have great difficulty finding work. I’ve made several pleas to the private sector to employ more persons with disabilities, I’ve insisted my Ministry give greater consideration to hiring persons with disabilities too,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“In many cases, businesses do not have the infrastructure to accommodate persons with disabilities and we need to do better as a society. Maybe retrofit some buildings [to help the disabled] but different equipment is needed depending on the disability, so we have to get serious.”
Humphrey promised that change is coming to include the disabled community more.
At 18 months old, Sealy-Wharton was diagnosed as hearing impaired but Batson said that the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust helped him to this point of partial hearing with a cochlear implant.
“When he got the cochlear implant it helped out a lot because he can hear but he signs a lot and he doesn’t speak fluently.”
She wants to see more done for her son who is also passionate about learning to drive.
“He would just go on the road with me or stay home. I even tried calling the Challenor School to see if they can take him on but they said they don’t have anyone that can interpret for him,” she added.
The young mother ,who also has a daughter, said this situation has impacted her mental health significantly.
“This puts me in so much anxiety and depression because when I am at work and I can’t look after him, who will? He doesn’t speak fluently and just calls out words. I think his next best option is going to Canada.
“I don’t think here [in Barbados] is for him. There is a dead end. Here, he is not only hearing-impaired but also, special needs,” Batson reported.
She is knocking on every door just so that her son has a chance at a normal life.
“If someone is out there and willing to help us, we would take the help. I am not only doing this for him but other children who have disabilities. They shouldn’t leave school and the next step after graduation is home…”
She has a suggestion for the Ministry of Education where the hearing-impaired community is concerned.
“I think everyone in the world should know sign language. When he gets older and I’m not here how will he relate? He can’t relate without someone being there for him. Just like a foreign language is mandatory at some schools, I think learning sign language should be.”
Batson is hoping to set up a Go Fund me for her son in the near future and she doesn’t want to rely on handouts but to have her son find gainful and meaningful employment.