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December 10, 2004

Deaf people want to be heard

From: Jakarta Post, Indonesia - Dec 10, 2004

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

For a deaf person like Aletta (not her real name), leading a full life has not been an option.

Until two years ago, Aletta, 32, was still unemployed. Back then, she said, life was difficult.

"I lived with my parents as I could not support myself financially," Aletta told The Jakarta Post through mobile phone short messaging service (SMS) on Thursday.

So, when a shoe manufacturer in West Java offered her a job in 2002, she did not think twice. "I needed the income. I was very ashamed about being a burden on my parents for 32 years."

Soon, however, Aletta had to face another bitter reality. Being deaf, she has to be content with a monthly salary amounting to two-thirds of the salary her fellow workers received.

"My supervisor said I might miss commands or make mistakes because I was deaf. I had no choice," she said.

Aletta is not alone. According to Dita Rukmini, managing director of the Indonesian Movement for Deaf People's Welfare (Gerkatin), some 1.8 million deaf people have registered as members of the group.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 16th meeting of the World Federation of the Deaf Regional Secretariat in the Asia Pacific (WFD RSA/P), Dita demanded that the deaf receive equal treatment with those who have normal hearing.

"Despite our hearing problem, we can concentrate as well as other people can. The same applies to our learning ability. Please give us a chance," Dita said on Thursday.

She said deaf people actually can use facsimile, e-mail and short messaging system (SMS) to communicate.

Many deaf people here are not able to get a job of their choice or one that has any connection with their study, said Dita, who is able to lip-read to communicate.

She also highlighted the shortage of interpreters of sign language here. "That might be one of the main reasons why most people think that deaf people are isolated."

Even for sign language, Dita said different languages were being taught in each school, making it difficult for deaf people here to communicate with one other.

"We need to have a standard sign language that can be understood by all deaf people here, so that communication will be easier among us," said Dita.

Separately, director of the WFD RSA/P, Takeo Ogura, told the Post through his interpreter that in Japan there was a national certification system for sign language interpreters.

"There are about 1,335 interpreters (at the national level) in Japan now and besides that each city has its own certification system. There are a total of between 11,000 and 12,000 interpreters in all cities in Japan," said Ogura.

He also said that Japan had a sign language study group for people who wanted to communicate with deaf people.

"There are a total of 100,000 people who can (use and understand) sign language in Japan, at different levels (of competency) of course," said Ogura.

Ogura also deplored the situation here, saying that there was no sign language book in Indonesia, making it almost impossible to make a standard sign language.

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