The Deaf Community Demands More
While millions from around the world tuned in to watch the memorial service for iconic South African president Nelson Mandela and were treated to eloquent and memorable eulogies by world leaders and Madela’s family alike, those within the deaf community were left with confusion and frustration regarding the inadequacy of the interpreter during the event. Though a major scandal in its own right, writer, ASL interpreter, and advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community Lydia Callis believes this incident can create a dialogue for public discussion about the current injustices those in the deaf community face and how they can make their voice heard.
Though the Mandela interpreter affair created a stir within the deaf and hearing community alike, Callis says this is not the first time that those who are deaf or hard of hearing have been exposed to such preventable injustices.
An example of one particular incident that Callis cites is one involving the Seattle Men’s Chorus where deaf patrons posted an open letter online asking for an ASL interpreter who could adequately communicate the remarkable performances put on by the chorus for those within the deaf community; a feat the current interpreter could not deliver for the chorus’s deaf audience.
With those in the deaf community facing challenges of unqualified interpreters and intelligible text on Closed Captioned TV on a daily basis, Callis says those within the deaf community have taken to Internet platforms to voice their discontent with the everyday challenges they face. A noteworthy example Callis uses is when Deaf South African Parliament member, Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, tweeted her outrage over the incompetency of the interpreter during Mandela’s memorial.
With many others echoing Newhoudt-Druchen’s displeasure, Callis believes through the power of the Internet, deaf communities worldwide will be able to connect and expose the often embarrassing lack of standardization within their own governments.
With the Mandela interpreter incident serving as a catalyst, Callis says that people around the world are taking notice of the issues that deaf and hard of hearing people face and it’s now imperative that those within the deaf and hard hearing community demand changes and proper standardization that they for too long have been denied.
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