Quicklink: Disasters prove value of sign language interpreters

ABC Online video (there’s supposed to be a transcript, but the link appears to be borked (although maybe it just won’t be available until tomorrow?))

Natural disasters in Queensland and New Zealand have highlighted the value of sign language interpreters.

Categories: crisis, media, social justice

Tags: ,

5 replies

  1. the transcripts link is just a link to the page you’re already on. fail ABC.
    while i love that interpreters and the needs of the deaf community are receiving more attention, i can’t help feeling that this piece of reporting is a bit… i don’t know, condescending? like, look how fashionable sign language is now! it used to be just for deaf people but now everyone can join in the fun! sign up to teach your babies to talk with their hands!
    it’s a language. it’s part of a culture. let’s not lose focus on that.

  2. Reporting sign language classes for hearing toddlers as if it is just a “fashionable” pursuit for middle-class competitive parenting is condescending, definitely.
    Sign language is incredibly useful cognitive therapy for infants/toddlers on the autistic spectrum or with other conditions that result in delayed speech acquisition – I wish I’d known that/been advised of that when my own kids were very small. Also if there are lots of hearing kids who know speech sign language it might break down some of the stigma which currently prompts some hearing parents of Deaf children to not learn sign language with their children and just wait for them to be ready for implants (which don’t always work, and in the meantime they’ve deprived their child of any shared language).
    (this comment has been edited for clarity)

  3. “Fashionable” and having “great job security” … yes, just a little condescending. Making light, I think, of the complexity of the task of interpreting and the skill required to carry it out.
    Something the reporter missed – and we can perhaps forgive her, as she may unaccustomed to watching signers at work – is the capacity of signing to enhance the understanding of everyone who observes it, including those who do not have hearing impairment or delay in speech acquisition. While perhaps not its primary aim, this is a valuable benefit all the same.
    I share a class at college with some hearing impaired students, and there are two interpreters who share the task of signing on behalf of the lecturer for three hours. I’m struck by the way their signing includes more than hand actions, but also facial expressions and sometimes whole body movements, particularly when emotion is being conveyed. Very often the signing seems to convey a richer meaning than the verbal expression. At the school where I work we use Makaton to assist communication with children who have speech development delays, and I observe the same thing there.
    Signing is not merely something we able folk can “do for” the hearing or speech impaired (which I think is the tone of the news story above). It’s a communication tool of value to all of us.

  4. I can’t find it now but I read an interesting article a few week or so ago about how lack of language in the 2-5 year range causes other permanent developmental problems. Without that “inner voice” it makes it much harder for us to understand abstract concepts. So its very important for those babies who have hearing disabilities to be taught sign language as soon as possible.
    On the other hand, my parents used a lot of sign language with me when I was a baby (it was part of my mum’s job and so she just did it out of habit) but they eventually had to pretend to not understand my signing because I refused to talk. Signing was sufficient to communicate what I wanted.

  5. I nursed a child who had a syndrome that affected her throat/voice. Signing was extremely useful for her too. She taught me a few words (she was three, so it was “cupcake” “the wiggles” and “rainbow” – also “say sorry”), it made me want to learn because it would be pretty useful for me to build up a rapport quickly with kids I nurse who sign. But like Sheryl pointed out above, it would be useful for me – not just something I can “do for” someone else.

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