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Deaf hawkers find niche in selling eggs, smokies

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By Judith Gicobi

Mr. Christopher Simiyu has demonstrated that even with hearing and speech impairments, one can live a full life.

The 32-year-old hawker, who was born deaf, is one of Kakamega’s few disabled but aggressive hawkers.

Mr. Simiyu has been selling boiled eggs, sausages, and samosas at Muliro Gardens, a recreation area in the middle of town, for two years despite his hearing and speaking difficulties.

Many hawkers with similar infirmities work in the same business and have learned to manage with their difficulties while fending for their families.

They set up shop in strategic locations throughout the garden, which is situated along the bustling Kakamega-Webuye highway, where they draw customers.

“I chose this place because pedestrians can easily see what am selling I don’t have to call out in them,” Mr. Simiyu said.

We are capable of conducting this interview with the help of a sign language interpreter, who translates Mr. Simiyu’s words for me.

Residents, on the other hand, are full of praise for the hawkers, with many claiming that they have never had a poor encounter with any of them, even when it comes to giving the right change.

Other clients interviewed indicated they prefer to buy from the dead hawkers since they are trustworthy and adhere to strict sanitary standards while dealing with food.

Mr Simiyu claims that, despite his impairment, he struggles to get work like any other Kenyan.

A seller with the same impairment, Mr. Francis Walanda, went from selling eggs to riding a motorcycle. For a long time, Mr Walanda communicated with his customers using a pen and paper.

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He had to jot down everything in order to know his client’s destination and the necessary charges. “We can also operate like any other person so long as we learn how to read and write. Many clients prefer my services and I have made many friends through my Boda boda business,” Walanda told a local daily.

Walanda, who rides a motorcycle, says he focuses on the side mirrors to guarantee his safety on the road because he cannot hear.

“Even though we are deaf, we have to fight for our space by contributing positively to the growth of the economy” says Mr. Walanda.

Ms Mary Varaga, a sign language interpreter stationed in Kakamega, said counties in Western Kenya must set aside monies in their annual budgets to support sign language interpretation training and employment in public institutions.

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