Students call for better access to information for deaf community
Judana Murphy, Gleaner Writer
Two deaf students are advocating for closed captioning or the provision of interpreters on national television to accommodate Jamaica's deaf population, which is estimated at 60,000.
Makaela Fitzgerald and Adriana Ramsay made the appeal today during the 10th annual Institute of Jamaica Junior Centre’s HUSH children’s symposium.
Fitzgerald, a student at Lister Mair Gilby High School for the Deaf, expressed that she is “so happy” that there is a sign language interpreter on television when there are updates about COVID-19.
However, she bemoaned that there is still a lack of access to information carried on the news and Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) classes being aired on television to supplement distance learning.
“How are we expected to learn?” Fitzgerald questioned through an interpreter.
“As deaf persons, we still try to learn and study for our exams but when we see extra help that we are not able to access because there is no sign language interpreter for their programmes, it’s disappointing,” the student lamented.
Ramsay echoed similar concerns, noting that the absence limits the participation of deaf Jamaicans and can expose them to undue risk.
She cited the imposition of the islandwide nightly curfew to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“I don’t want to be on the road if I’m not supposed to be. If there is no closed captioning on the news, that’s exactly what will happen,” Ramsay said.
Executive Director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, Dr Christine Hendricks, said the views expressed by the students are real issues for the deaf community.
“We have been talking with the Broadcasting Commission, the various television stations and all the partners that put out information. It is a matter of the will to do so. There is the matter of equipment that will enable them to do the captioning and for some, it is the cost of interpretation,” she explained.
She argued that if station operators understood the importance of information and the gap that exists in the deaf community, they would invest in the services.
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