As an interpreter, what would you do?

In my interpreters’ circle of friends, one of them posted this question in her Facebook status,

A sign language interpreter was asked by the deaf group/audience to go on stage so they could see him better. The organizers approved but the government officer-speaker asked the interpreter to get off the stage because “he distracts her”. If you were the interpreter or one of the deaf audience WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I was the first one who replied. I answered,

I will politely ask the speaker that there are deaf people in the audience. But if she still insists on not distracting her, then I have no other choice but to request the entire deaf audience to walk out.

I received two “likes” in my reply. But there were other more bold and strong answers. Now to my deaf and hearing readers, may I throw the question to you? What would you do if you are caught in this uncompromising position? 🙂

Hearing the women who suffer in silience

This is a re-post from a Manila Bulletin newspaper article appeared last January 16 written by Genevieve Rivadelo.  The two women featured here are Rowena Rivera and Maffy Gaya, the two remarkable deaf ladies I was with during our recent trip to Sydney, Australia.

Members of AusAID and Philippine Commission on Women peforms the ceremonial 'whistle blowing' that symbolizes the 'Blow the Whistle on VAW' campaign, which aims to end violence against women with disabilities.
Members of AusAID and Philippine Commission on Women peforms the ceremonial 'whistle blowing' that symbolizes the 'Blow the Whistle on VAW' campaign, which aims to end violence against women with disabilities.

MANILA, Philippines — A woman with a disability is more likely to face the threat of being a victim of violence, may it be sexual, physical or emotional, than most other women and persons with disability.

Inequality due to gender differences and the presence of a disability may prevent women with disabilities from recognizing their real worth and exercising their right to be treated with equal respect and dignity as the rest of society.

Last November, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) organized “Eliminate Violence Against Women with Disabilities” participated in by mostly persons with disabilities (PWDs), government representatives, PWD advocates from non-government organizations, and other stakeholders. The highlight of this event was the viewing of digital stories of two deaf women, students of the University of the Philippines, who bravely shared their stories growing up deaf in a hearing world.


As these two deaf women “speak” through their hands, it was clear that they were oppressed in ways that challenged how society views violence, which happens even in our own homes and inflicted by people closest to us.

When people who are supposed to believe in them judge them as inadequate; when they are made to believe that their only value is to be of service to other family members and not as part of the workforce in spite of their skills and competencies; when they are taunted, rejected and simply ignored — these are tantamount to violence against their person and their worth, their feelings of significance in a world that is deaf to their plight.

When the deaf speak, we should listen. They only shout in silence if we refuse to hear their message that rings loud and clear — any form of violence against women with disabilities should not be tolerated.

Sam Chittick, governance adviser of AusAID, reported that in one study of 245 women with disabilities, 40 percent had experienced abuse, 12 percent got raped. This statistic is higher for women without disabilities where only 20 percent experience abuse, and only one percentwould be related to sexual violence.

There may be many other cases of abuse among women with disabilities, but these are not reported. In the case of the deaf victim, aside from the emotional, physical and psychological trauma she has undergone, she may not be able to communicate and express what she has gone through in a hearing world that is most of the time apathetic to the plight of deaf women.

We can choose to hear the deaf speak by supporting AusAID’s campaign to end violence against women with disabilities.

In cooperation with the Philippine Commission on Women, AusAID launched “Blow the Whistle on Violence Against Women (VAW),” an advocacy campaign, both symbolic and practical, to end any form of violence against women with disabilities. Everyone is entitled to a life free from violence and a voice to speak, even if that voice can only be heard if we choose to listen.

Deaf Filipinos March to Support Caption and Sign Language Mandate Bills

On September 12th, approximately 150 deaf people marched to the House of Representatives in the Philippines to push for the passage of two bills mandating the use of sign language in court (HB4631) and on televised news programs (HB 4121). Many of the people who marched were members of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center. The Center gathered over 100,000 signatures calling for the enactment of the bills. The Center expressed in a letter to the House Speaker, Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., that the “120,000 documented deaf … Filipinos will definitely benefit from such practices, making it possible for [the deaf] to [comprehend] timely and relevant information.”

Currently, major news programs in the capital city, Manila, do not use subtitles or sign language insets. According to the Center, “although some regional stations have started utilizing sign language insets with the help of non-government organizations, this practice is unfortunately not carried out by their mother stations.” Lawmakers also cited data from the Center that demonstrated a need for interpreters during investigative and judicial proceedings due to the high incidence of criminal cases that involve deaf persons. The authors of the bill also stated that it is the responsibility of the State to provide interpreters during any government proceedings including police investigations and court or public hearings.
Full Story:
1. Deaf People March to Demand Sign Language in Courts, TV News, Disability News Asia, Sept. 15, 2011, available at 232189/deaf-people-march-to-demand-sign-language-in-courts-tv-news

2. Gerry Baldo, Bill Seeking Presence of Court Interpreters for Deaf Pushed, Sept. 13, 2011, available at metro/20110913met1.html

Sign Language in Europe Under Threat?

pictures of 2 sign language interpreters worki...
Image via Wikipedia

In my country, we are still patiently lobbying, protesting and persuading people both in the government and private sector to recognize that there exists such a language as Filipino Sign Language for the past two decades. Now here comes a distressing news that Europe is threatening the very existence of sign language? This is discouraging, very discouraging indeed.

We have always looked up to Europe and USA as a good role models when it comes to protecting the rights of deaf people and their strong advocacy in the use of sign language as their mode of communication especially in schools for the deaf. But now, we are doubtful as to the future of this very special language. I just hope they would find a win-win solution on this.

I reposted the news article here taken from the World Federation of the Deaf official website as reference:

WFD – EUD conference attendees noted with alarm that the status of sign languages is under threat in Denmark and the Netherlands. Recent developments in Denmark have led to the adoption of an educational philosophy which denies deaf and hard of hearing children any visually accessible communication, including the right to education in sign language. At the same time the Netherlands is undergoing debates over sign language’s place in the education of deaf children.

World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and European Union of the Deaf (EUD) together with the Ă…l Experiential College and Conference Center for Deaf People and with financial support from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry are organizing a conference from 6th to 9th November in Ă…l, Norway. The conference titled Sign Languages as Endangered Languages brings together deaf community leaders, academics and educators to debate the status of sign languages and emerging trends in sign language education.

Monday’s keynote presenter, professor emeritus Stuart Blume, from University of Amsterdam discussed the globalisation of technology and the start and spread of cochlear implantation programmes. According to Blume, deaf community leaders do not seem to have the same networks and access to politicians and media as the advocates of the cochlear implants. He also introduced idea of learning from the indigenous peoples’ experience in promoting their rights and suggested deaf communities to build coalitions and look for allies in anthropologists, sociologists and researchers on a national level.

President of the Danish Deaf Association (DDL) Ms. Janne Boye Niemelä presented the alarming situation in Denmark where 99% of all newly born children are offered cochlear implants; yet at the same time the provided support services do not include sign language but instead concentrate on auditory verbal therapy. With the number of deaf schools decreasing the recent developments in the Danish society would seem to aim at promoting speech to the detriment of Danish sign language. Furthermore, according to Ms. Corrie Tijsseling the deaf community in the Netherlands is currently dealing with a similar debate on sign language’s place in deaf children’s education.

The president of the Swedish Association of the Hard of Hearing (HRF) and the former president of International Federation of Hard of Hearing (IFHOH) Mr. Jan-Peter Strömgren highlighted that both hard of hearing and deaf children should have the right to bilingualism and give them the opportunity to choose later their linguistic identity. He also recommended good cooperation between associations of hard of hearing and deaf people pointing out that also many hard of hearing people use sign language.
The conference will continue on Tuesday concentrating on laws and best practices in promoting and protecting sign languages.