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Deaf community excluded again

Lionel Smith

Deaf community excluded again

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A FEW YEARS AGO, I sent a letter to this media house regarding the fact that there was no sign language interpreter present for the live telecast of the late Prime Minister David Thompson’s funeral, thus leaving us, the deaf community, excluded from an event which was of great national significance. It never made the papers.

There has been a lot of planning for our 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations and so when we found out about the launch we asked one of our interpreters, Bonnie Leonce, to call and find out if an interpreter would be present especially for the formal part. She did so and was told by the lady that she would get back to her to confirm if one would be present. When she called back, Mrs Leonce was told that there would definitely be an interpreter present in addition to other events related to the celebrations.

I would like to say that when we saw that there was no interpreter present on the day, it was no surprise to us. We have been overlooked and given promises over and over again and nobody is listening when we speak.

I am a part-time student at the Hospitality Institute and received a WhatsApp message in our group chat inviting us to attend the launch so we could not only experience it but discuss our thoughts in class. Well that is a discussion where I could not give any input.

Not listening

How hard is it to provide an interpreter at a national event? Everybody talks about equality but nobody is listening to the deaf. Why? People talk about wheelchair access and sidewalks being widened but something as simple as an interpreter is either a problem or overlooked.

On that same day a deaf gentleman from Canada was here and I was giving him a tour of the island and when he got back to his hotel and turned on the TV, he saw our celebrations but was unable to understand anything because there was no interpreter.

We have to understand that deaf people from all over come to these shores or watch Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) from their home country and so it is just not the Bajan deaf who want information. Aren’t we a tourist destination? Don’t we want all types of people to visit our shores or is it only for those who are not disabled in any way?

I know that gentleman probably wondered if the disabled are thought of as a joke in this country. I don’t believe the authorities care about us. They never think about us. We weren’t thought of when plans were being made.

We have a right to be able to understand what is happening on a national level just like anybody else.We are Bajans too. Stop burying your heads in the sand. We are here and we are not going anywhere. All we ask is that you include us. We continue to wait.

– Lionel Smith


Editor’s Note: Lionel Smith is the president of the New Life Deaf Club.

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