MANILA — An organization of sign language interpreters has asked the public to be more aware of their work and the Deaf community after some netizens questions the use of insets during television newscasts.
“As service providers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing we are disappointed to see the memes and posts that are being circulated on social media about sign language interpreters,” the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI) said in a statement.
Over the weekend, some netizens started posting about how the sign language insets during news programs, especially those of ABS-CBN News, reminded them of the video app TikTok. Some joked about it and the others seemed to believe that the sign language interpreters were “doing Tiktok.”
On Facebook, sign language interpreters and members of the Deaf community questioned the posts.
Aimee Gabrielle, a sign language interpreter, posted about how it is “not a laughing matter.”
“We serve the Deaf Community and we do this because they need access to information of what's happening especially in this time of pandemic. If you think it's funny, it's NOT FUNNY at all,” she posted.
Her post has since received 30,000 shares and hundreds of comments of support.
PNASLI said that it wants to now take the opportunity to educate the public.
“We do not want to inhibit your freedom of expression especially at a time when we need some occasional levity, but with these freedoms, there are also shared responsibilities,” the group said, addressing netizens.
It explained that their work aims to ensure that the Deaf are able to practice their basic human right to information through Sign language Interpreters.
“We serve as interpreters because we want to ensure that the Deaf are in the know especially in this time where communication and access to information is crucial to the well-being and survival of humanity,” PNASLI said, referring to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We ask that you do not mock us as our job is already difficult enough without having to deal with people that spread negativity or misinformation because of our role in the public eye,” the group said.
The group invited the public to share their advocacy by learning Filipino Sign language (FSL).
“We encourage you all to learn FSL and Deaf culture from Deaf people as it is a language that belongs to them and is generously shared to us sign language interpreters, signers, and other allies in the Deaf community,” it said.
People who are interested in learning more and being involved in the Deaf and Interpreting community can send them a message at email@example.com.
Despite decades of pushing for its passage, it was only in 2018 that the Filipino Sign Language Act was enacted into law.
FSL was recognized as the National Sign Language and the medium of instruction in schools.
The law provided for the use of FSL in work places, courts, health facilities and other places where communication for the Deaf is crucial.
It also required the use of sign language insets for news media.
Despite such gains, there are still instances of discrimination against the Filipino Deaf and other persons with disabilities.
Deaf groups have also asked for bigger sign language insets to better understand the signing.
Deaf people are dependent on sign language to understand the news. While some can understand closed captions or subtitles, signing is more accessible to them.