Sunday, September 20

Sign language interpreters attract attention during Covid-19 live telecasts

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Wan Zuraidah says the role of sign language interpreters has been crucial during the imposition of the MCO, to ensure individuals with hearing disabilities are kept up to date on the current Covid-19 situation. – Bernama photo

KUALA LUMPUR: Ever since the Movement Control Order (MCO) effective March 18 was announced, Malaysians have been on the alert for the daily live press conferences on the Covid-19 situation in the country, aired on television.

Personalities providing such briefings and announcements have included Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as well as Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Among the watchful audiences have been individuals with hearing disabilities who have been able to follow these telecasts thanks to the provision of sign language services provided in real time.

Viewers would have noticed during these telecasts, the presence of a sign language interpreter in the bottom right-hand corner of television sets, avidly ‘signing’.

According to Wan Zuraidah Abu, the president of ‘Persatuan Jurubahasa Isyarat Malaysia’ (Malaysian association for sign language interpreters), the role of sign language interpreters has been crucial during the imposition of the MCO, to ensure individuals with hearing disabilities are kept up to date on the current Covid-19 situation. There are some 48,000 individuals with hearing disabilities who are registered with the Social Welfare Department.

“Most certainly, the community of individuals with hearing disabilities has been waiting to hear the live updates from the government. They have been waiting for current information which they can comprehend immediately,” Wan Zuraidah told Bernama TV (which can be viewed on Astro channel 502).

Hand movements are insufficient, she said, explaining that the interpreter’s demeanour and body movement also function to convey the emotions and intonations of the individual delivering the particular briefing or announcement.

Wan Zuraidah stressed that the expressions displayed by the interpreters serve to guide the hearing disabled on understanding the actual meaning articulated during the briefing or announcement.

“There definitely are challenges in terms of understanding and conveying such information very quickly and accurately,” she added.

So how do sign language interpreters get the stamina to deliver such services given that live telecasts take up to 40 minutes to 1 hour on average?

They ensure they get sufficient rest and sustenance, she said.

There are currently 30 sign language interpreters under the association who are serving across the country. In this connection, Wan Zuraidah also encouraged members of the public to take up sign language to help them communicate better with individuals with hearing disabilities. – Bernama