Deaf News: Severe lack of interpreters impacts on Hong Kong deaf community

Posted on October 13, 2013

Here in Great Britain, we’re all too aware of the shortage of BSL interpreters; nearly everyone has found themselves in a situation where suitable support was just not a possibility due to the lack of qualified translators.

Spare a thought, then, for the 100,000 deaf people living in Hong Kong, who have only 10 registered sign language interpreters between them! A recent article for the South China Morning Post highlighted the need for more training opportunities and for sign language to be incorporated into mainstream education.

Adam Ng Ying-yung, executive director of the Hong Kong Association of the Deaf, stated that around 9,200 of those people are profoundly deaf, but have only 10 full-time translators to support them.

He said, “Without sign language, deaf people cannot survive. It’s a way to communicate, to express and to learn.”

Mindy Lai Man-chung, who has worked as a sign language interpreter for 15 years, said, “The acute shortage of translators is a big problem for [the deaf community], who may need translation for the simplest of daily tasks, like seeing the doctor or going to a parent-teacher meeting.”

Mindy herself had stepped in at the last minute to prevent a deaf wedding being called off due to lack of translation. She has also traveled huge distances to perform only a few minutes of translation support.

She continued, “I sincerely want to encourage the public to learn basic signing. Whatever job you’re in – could be a salesperson – it would help deaf people feel much more welcome and included.”

Ng feels the lack of official assessment for translators does not help the situation; The Hong Kong Council of Social Service launched an assessment proceddure in 2007, but funding was swiftly withdran, leaving only the 10 people who had already passed the assessment to be accepted as court translators. Lai is one of them

There is currently no recognised sign language in Hong Kong; Ng feels this must change, as it would give the language legitimacy. He feels the lack of research and support severely limits the deaf people who rely on signing and translation.

“It’s a mess actually. In the meantime, deaf people can only queue up and book available translators for their needs.”

Taken from an original post by Jennifer Ngo

Photo by Edward Wong

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