A lack of Maltese sign language interpreters at COVID-19 press conferences has caused dismay within the deaf community. Concerns have been raised about the inaccessibility of COVID-19 information for deaf and hard of hearing people.
Deaf People Association member Petra Wettinger said that deaf people have been contacting responsible authorities regarding the issue, as it seems they forget to book the sign language interpreter at press conferences for no reason.
The services used to be available at COVID-19 and other press conferences, but lately there haven’t been sign interpreters whatsoever.
Without these services accessible to the deaf community, they have to wait days for the sign language interpreter to take the time to translate the conference and make a video of what has been said.
All the while COVID-19 regulations are rapidly changing, and a few days of delay may cause serious misunderstanding and risks for the community.
Another member, George Vella, took to Facebook to flag his concerns on behalf of the deaf community.
“Why aren’t they booking a Maltese Sign Language interpreter on time? The language is an official language, just like spoken Maltese and English.”
“Or don’t we exist as a minority?” he continues. “Enough is enough. We have the right to know what is going on regarding the pandemic situation.”
“This inaccessibility has been a problem for a long time, and it seems that nothing has happened despite the efforts made by the Association of Deaf People.
The authorities have apologised, but that is simply not enough, Wettinger adds. “Their response to us is apologising for forgetting. Apologising alone is not enough – we want them to book the sign language interpreter.”
By simply apologising for the issues without taking action, it shows that they do not care about their deaf audience, she says. “It is our right to have sign language interpreter services.”
Frustrated, she adds: “It’s a quick solution – why can’t we get to know what is being said to the hearing people?”
After reaching out to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the Commission for the Rights of the Persons with Disability (CRPD), the deaf community was told it is “not technically possible to have interpreters present when conferences are streamed instead of on television.”
The deaf community is still trying to find out what exactly makes it technically difficult to book a sign language interpreter at streamed press conferences.
The Ministry for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing remains silent on the issue after Lovin Malta reached out several times.
Do you think the deaf community is being discriminated against by being excluded from COVID-19 and other press conferences?