Sign Language Interpreter Encourages Interaction with the Deaf Community

Berita Harian – 12 July 2017

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(Translated version)

Sign Language Interpreter Encourages Interaction with the Deaf Community

(Main picture caption: Sign Language Interpreter: Ms Amirah Osman has worked for four years as a Sign Language Interpreter with The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf). She is signing the word “interpret” in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL). – Photo NUR HUMAIRA SAJAT)

Her experience in interacting with students with autism, intellectual disabilities and Global Developmental Delay whilst volunteering with a Family Service Centre (FSC), had not only opened the eyes of Ms. Amirah Osman to their needs.

No one would have expected that it was also the starting point of her career today.

“While interacting with these children, I discovered that some of them were not able to express themselves using speech. As such, we explored other ways of communication so as to allow them to express their feelings,” said Ms. Amirah.

She added: “We used a lot of pictures during interaction and later on recognised that Sign Language could be an effective tool for communication.”

From then on, Ms Amirah, 27 years old, started learning Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN) while she was studying in Edith Cowan University. This was before she started learning Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) in 2011.

According to her, Sign Languages vary from one country to another as they have local cultural influences from their respective countries.

Presently a Sign Language Interpreter with The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), she not only acts as a bridge between the deaf and hearing, she is also an advocate for the Deaf Community in Singapore.

She often has to explain her role as an interpreter to members of the public whom she meets while on duty.

“I have interpreted in various settings and there are many persons who would enquire about my job. Some assume that I am either a friend or family member of the deaf client.”

“It seems that many are still unaware about the Deaf Community’s needs although they have existed here for a long time,” she said.

Asked about what could be the reason behind this situation, Ms Amirah explained that deafness is a hidden disability.

A deaf person cannot be identified as deaf based on their physical appearance alone, in contrast with persons of other disabilities who can be identified physically.

Hence, the reason behind why the needs of the Deaf Community are less known and less discussed could be due to the lack of awareness about them amongst the public.

“There are simple things such as hearing verbal announcements in the MRT trains, that are a given for hearing individuals. However, hearing people usually do not realise that there are others who are oblivious to the situation until they see other passengers rushing out and so on,” she said.

As such, raising awareness of the Deaf Community is one of the things that she does.
However, more importantly, she said, is the public’s acceptance of this community.

“I understand that many will tend to avoid interaction with the Deaf perhaps because they do not want to risk offending them.”

“But we need to be brave and treat them as we would anybody else.

There needs to be a change in attitudes and mindsets,” said Ms. Amirah, who has worked as a Sign Language interpreter for 4 years with SADeaf.

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