#KINGSTON, Jamaica – April 27 (JIS): President of Deaf Sports Jamaica, André Witter, is commending the Government for providing sign language services during the regular press briefings on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He noted that the presence of an interpreter at these sessions has enabled thousands of persons in the deaf community to learn more about the virus and, thereby, protect themselves.
Mr. Witter, who was part of a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Jamaica Diaspora Behavioural Health Task Force recently, is calling on other entities to offer similar services to the deaf community.
“There are many programmes on television and radio, but the information is not being accessed by the deaf community because, obviously, we can’t hear it,” he pointed out.
“We are left to have to write back and forth with hearing individuals, and it’s very difficult for us to communicate that way because English is not our first language,” he said, noting that Jamaican Youth Deaf Advocacy is often called upon to provide signing services for children and schools.
Mr. Witter said that COVID-19 has highlighted the need for greater access to interpreting services for the deaf community.
He said that the wearing of masks, as a safeguard against the virus, has also affected the ability of deaf persons to communicate effectively.
“Since many of us are wearing masks, this is also a problem for us because we can’t see the mouths when they are covered with the masks that we have to wear,” he said, adding that facial expression is a crucial part of the Jamaican sign language.
“Imagine a hearing person speaking with no tone, just a monotone voice; that’s what it’s like for us when our mouths are covered,” he added.
Mr. Witter said he would like to see interpretive services provided more regularly for the deaf community, especially when persons have to visit their doctors.
He argued that these services should be free of cost as the interpreter is serving both the deaf and hearing communities, including the physician.
“So without interpreters there is absolutely no communication between the two parties,” Mr. Witter said.
The virtual panel discussion, under the theme ‘Coping with COVID-19’, was moderated by Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network, Leo Gilling, while interpretation was done by Diane Black and Jessica Hoffman of Deaf Empowerment Abroad.
JIS NEWS BY E. HARTMAN RECKORD