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January 29, 2004

Crucial resolutions

From: The Star, Malaysia - Jan 29, 2004

NEW years are always a terrific and opportune time for everyone to work on new resolutions.  

The local deaf community of the Pusat Majudiri Y (PMY) and deaf service centre in the Kuala Lumpur YMCA in Brickfields are no exception to this rule, as I delightfully found out. 

Three vibrant deaf individuals and spokespersons of the PMY (who were deaf at birth) e-mailedWheel Power recently to proffer their views – loud and clear – to the hearing world.  

They are: Lee Tur Chung, 30, teacher for the deaf in Shah Alam who also has a deaf brother in the family; programme coordinator of PMY, 26-year-old Jessica Mak Wei-E (eldest of two other deaf siblings), and Master of Art in Linguistics graduate from Gallaudet University, United States, and currently PMY Foundation for the Deaf Executive Ho Koon Wei, 40. 

Their resolutions:  

Sign Language: Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia or BIM is the official and true language of deaf Malaysians with its own grammar, style and structure. The deaf look forward to BIM being recognised locally as a full and proper language for the deaf and that it be promptly taught as a language subject and used as a communication tool in classrooms in all schools for the deaf.  

There is an urgent need for teachers of the deaf to master skills and fluency in BIM in order to teach the language effectively. BIM should also be incorporated as a subject at tertiary level.  

The deaf also look forward to the setting up of a BIM research and development centre where there can also be further awareness and publications on BIM. 

Sign Language interpreters: Sign Language interpreters and their role to society should be taken more seriously than they currently are. There is an urgent need for them to be recognised as professionals in their own right.  

This is because they don’t only serve deaf persons’ needs alone, but also provide services for the hearing world by helping them to connect and communicate with the deaf. 

Sign Language interpreters must be provided whenever and wherever there are deaf clients present in a situation. 

Training centres need to be set up to train and equip both the deaf and hearing persons to become proficient sign language interpreters. 

Communication needs of the deaf: Captioning for TV programmes: Deaf people need to know what is happening around them and in the world via TV news just like hearing persons.  

They are, however, unable to do this currently owing to the communication barrier imposed on them by the lack of consideration for their communication needs.  

With captioning (text display of spoken words, sounds, movements, etc,) presented on a television or a movie screen that allows the deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers to follow the dialogue and action of a program simultaneously, it effectively removes such barriers. 

“Closed captions” are words and subtitles that are hidden in the video/TV signal that can be seen only with a special decoder as soon as it is in the switched on position. “Open captions” are those that have been already decoded, so they have become an integral part of the television picture, like the normal subtitles that we seen in our TV screens and in a movie.  

Relay service through telecommunication: Deaf people need to use the telephone service to communicate with others (for business and private purposes) as much as hearing persons do.  

Relay services are one way for the hearing and the deaf to come together to communicate. Relay allows people who cannot hear over the telephone to communicate with businesses and friends via an operator.  

This is done through a telecommunication device for the deaf or TDD (also called TTY or TT), which transmits a typewritten message to the operator who, in turn, verbally relays the message to the intended party or vice versa. 

There are essentially three types of relay services. TTY makes calls over standard phone lines by sending and receiving text and/or voice messages using a TTY and/or standard phone; Internet Relay Service uses the Internet through a web interface over a computer and Video Relay Service uses a web-cam on high-speed Internet connection, sending and receiving visual messages using sign language. 

Visual devices: Public announcements via audio are useless in keeping the deaf informed. Shopping complexes and all public places, especially public transportation areas should switch also to other people-friendly devices like visual ones that cater for the deaf.  

Equality in deaf employment:  

Deaf workers should be equally entitled to job learning opportunities and promotions as the hearing staff, with the extra provision of sign language interpreters by the company for deaf workers.  

Deaf workers should have communication access to equipment such as fax machines, computers, etc.

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