Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Malawi needs many, many more sign language interpreters

From Nyasa Times:

Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD) says the country needs more sign language interpreters to abate challenges deaf and speech impaired persons are facing in their day to day livelihood.

Speaking to Nyasa Times, officials from the deaf community in the country disclosed that currently, estimates show that Malawi has over 50,000 hearing impaired people against only eleven sign language interpreters.

Betty Wisiki, an interpreter and sign language trainer at MANAD said deaf persons in the country are facing a lot of challenges in various areas more especially as they want to access public or any other basic services.

"The deaf communities in Malawi are facing a lot of challenges in accessing different daily essentials at places such as hospitals, markets, schools, police offices, courts, banks, churches and many other quarters of the society.

"The main reason is that many Malawians are not conversant with the sign language, there are only eleven sign language interpreters against over 50,000 deaf people throughout the country," said Wisiki.

On the other hand, Wisiki said with assistance from Deaf Action Scotland and Deaf Action Malawi, MANAD brought together at least 20 people from different backgrounds and professions in the country to equip them with sign and oral language skills.

According to her, participants at the workshop included doctors, teachers, church pastors, businessmen and other individuals from different places where the deaf go for basic services.

She admitted that the number was extremely small taking into consideration that 31 [plus the eleven] interpreters were just a tip of an iceberg as compared to the current estimates, which needed more resources to train additional interpreters.

"In hospitals, we need medical personnel who are conversant with sign languages for easy communication with patients that are deaf. A doctor or a nurse should interact direct with a deaf person, and this could help in saving lives of deaf patients who die with illnesses doctors could have treated if they were able to communicate with them," she said.

On another critical sector, the association further revealed that research has shown that deaf people are the least educated in Malawi.