A UNDP-supported web app is helping people who stammer to overcome the fear of speaking with confidence.
A digital solution that leaves no one behind
March 29, 2023
“In high school, I was prevented from joining my school debate team that I wanted so badly. This was just because my teacher thought I could not speak well. It still hurts me anytime I recall that incident,” narrated Firdaws Sadick, a Research Assistant at the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Ghana.
Firdaws recounted how stammering had become a stumbling block in her pursuit of living a normal life. This she said, has over the years, dampened her self-confidence, and created self-doubt about her capabilities.
Just like Firdaws, Douglas Mensah also described how he was often mocked by peers, and particularly at school by his teachers and classmates, which shattered his dream of singing.
“I wanted to be part of my school choir, so I went for audition which was opened to all students. When it got to my turn to sing, I started to pause for some time and the whole school burst into laughter just because I was stammering. I can still hear the outburst of laughter anytime it comes to mind, and this always make me very sad”, Douglas Mensah, who is currently an Information Technology (IT) professional stated.
Globally, about 2% of adults stammer, a condition that is characterized by sudden involuntary pauses, causing people to repeat, prolong or get stuck in the process of communicating. Speech therapy has been identified to be beneficial for persons who stammer. Despite its availability, many stammerers in Ghana are unable to access therapy for a variety of reasons including lack of awareness and the costs associated with securing therapy. To bring speech therapy closer to many Ghanaians, the Ghana Stammering Association (GSA) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), led by the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Ghana, is bridging the gap with a digital solution.
Through an istammer web-app, over 1000 persons who stammer like Firdaws and Douglas have now been able to access online speech therapy easily at a relatively low cost. To them, the joy of regaining their confidence is a dream come true.
“The therapy sessions have helped me to boost my confidence level and I am now able to speak in public easily at events. I have also gone a step further out of my comfort zone to create a YouTube account where I do videos now and share. This wouldn’t have been possible without the speech therapy,” said Firdaws.
Those who have so far benefited from the online therapy sessions, according to a survey conducted by UNDP and GSA, found the therapy sessions very useful. Lessons from the modules have liberated them particularly from spiritual myths as some of them stated they used to associate superstition to their stammering. The Speech Therapists are also happy to have so far increased their clientele base by 10%.
"As part of the therapy, there are exercises we undertake to help improve their conditions. We advise the stammerers to take therapy seriously because it helps them speak better and boost their confidence”, noted Emelia Ashiagbor, one of the Speech and Language Therapists, who is also a Tutor at E&T Training School.
It is important for society to respect everyone regardless of whatever limitation. Giving equal opportunities and respect helps every human being to build a sense of confidence. Forging more synergies to support and provide solutions for persons living with disability can ensure no one is left behind. We can all work together to unlock the potential of persons living with disabilities and make the world better for all.
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