Want to know about the Deaf community and the Sign Language Interpreter service in Malaysia? Read the article below!
他写道：“I would like to take stand for them…”，为听障者争取及维持公平与合理的社会待遇，促进听障者与健听人士之间互相尊重及了解，双方一同建设伤健共融的和谐社会。再者，“Time is not waiting for us.”
就像一般的听障者或健听者一样，张伟义（31岁）一向来都认为自己是一个普通人。在18岁就读中四那年，他获得马来西亚联邦听障者协会（Malaysian Federation of the Deaf，MFD）的邀请，成为小学激励营的全国推动者之一。透过参与该项活动，他用生命来启发生命，同时也为自己开启了一道门，迈向一个新里程。
报道： 游燕燕 （照片由受访者提供）
Thanks to my friends, Jonah and Woon for the translation
[English translation is available]
Have you heard, the Voice of the Deaf?
The Deaf has the right to speak out. In 2008, Malaysia officially accepted the OKU bill, BIM will be the official language of the Deaf, as if granting the Deaf the right to voice.
Born Deaf, Vee Yee, sent an English written email to Nanyang Siang Pau recently to publish his life as a Deaf person, the daily life challenges and in hope that he could make a stand and become the ‘voice’ for others, with the support from media, he hopes that their ‘voice’ would be heard, by the public.
He wrote: “I would like to take stand for them…” to fight for equality and to change the way public treats us, and also to develop a mutual understanding and mutual respect between the Deaf and the Hearing communities, therefore we could live together in a harmony and integrated society. He added, “Time is not waiting for us.”
Using life to motivate lives
Like any other person, Deaf or Hearing, Vee Yee (31) has been considering himself as an ordinary person. At the age of 18, which is equal to secondary school Form 4,he got an invitation to be the ambassador for a leadership camp for primary school students offered by MFD (Malaysian Federation of the Deaf). Through this motivational program he was able to motivate others to be achievers or turn into ‘new life’ and at the same time for himself, he had open another door to start his new journey heading towards his goals.
After completing secondary school education, he took the opportunity to participate in a Deaf conference in the USA, which was his first experience and would have been never seen in Malaysia otherwise.
He saw the huge crowd was signing and communicating in Sign Language, which made him puzzled as if so many Deaf people in the USA.
“I asked them if they are Deaf, like me. To my surprise, most of them are actually Hearing; they learn Sign Language because they want to communicate with the Deaf.”
Moving on, Vee Yee continued to help the local Deaf community by serving at various NGOs, he was teaching BIM/ MySL (Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia or Malaysian Sign Language) and in10 years time, he has worked in many organizations including REACH (a community church reach out program), MSFD (Sports Federation of the Deaf), SID (Society of Interpreters for the Deaf), MAC (Malaysian Aids Council) and Children Education Program (sexuality education).
“As much as I can do and contribute my time, energy and money, I wasn’t pleased with my efforts, because I didn’t see any improvement in the Deaf community; therefore, I decided to continue my studies to gain more knowledge and hoping to bring change to the community.”
After completing Master of Arts (MA) in Linguistics from University of Malaya (UM), he was offered by the World Deaf Leaders Scholarship to Gallaudet University to complete his next MA, in Deaf Studies.
While studying in the States, Vee Yee enjoyed the life and privilege there. On the campus, everyone ought to communicate in American Sign Language, hearing person is advised to learn American Sign Language to enable them to communicate with the Deaf.
By giving his personal point of view, becoming independent is much easier in the States than living in Malaysia.
To support that, he explained that in Malaysia, he still needs others to help settling his personal matters by making a call using the telephone. Whereas in the USA, you could easily sign to the screen of a television or monitor as to communicate to the SLI (Sign Language Interpreter) in Sign Language and deliver the message across to the person you asked to contact with, and this is done simultaneously.
“The Relay Service is helping the Deaf to communicate efficiently and effectively through the SLI who then communicate for us, we could see the SLI on screen and he/she will speak for us.”
When he visited the hospital for the first time, he thought of bringing a pen and papers, but then the receptionist told him that the SLI is provided and will be with him shortly. It definitely made his life much easier living in a foreign country.
Relying on others for Personal Matters
When he returns to Malaysia, his lifestyle will never be the same as in the States, our SLI service is very limited and it forced him to have to rely on others to run his errands.
MFD which is the only organization in the country to provide SLI service received the government grant amounting RM1.8 million to set up a training center in aim to train 100SLI in 5 years time to provide the services and benefits to the community, it was dated in year 2005 – 2010.
The 2007 Malaysia Budget has included a grant for MFD amounting RM12 million to further the development of the program for SLI and Sign Language classes for government staffs and also creating a certified module and course for SLI.
The need for different languages
Our country is a multiracial country; therefore different spoken languages were used to communicate, for instance Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Tamil and so on. However, most of the SLIs only know one spoken language (mainly Bahasa Malaysia), and there are only two SLIs who know two spoken languages.
Hence these two SLIs are always on demand and top choices when it comes to interpreting services. The rest of the SLIs will have to wait to be assigned or sometimes they don’t receive any interpreting job.
Hope for a better service
“Each and every Deaf person has different need for various languages, but most of our SLIs only know Bahasa Malaysia, they are not meeting our needs, to make things worse, the interpreting service is only provided during working office hours which is from Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5PM, if the service is requested out of office hours, additional charges will be applied.”
“Most of us (Deaf) are also working at the same time, who would request for the service at such time? In America, we do not need to pay for the SLI service and we could request it anytime as it operates 24 hours and seven days a week. However the USA has four different time zones and different work shifts. Malaysia has similar service but not comprehensive.”
Recently the organization (MFD) received RM1 million from the Government from the Malaysia Budget plan in year 2010 and 2013 to enhance the interpreting services of SLI. However those services still doesn’t meet the needs of interpreting services for the Deaf community.
With the issue arising of insufficient SLI, he begins to question himself, if the Government has contributed so much why would the service be limited only during office hours? Later he realized that even though the organization has been around since 1997, the service which is free of charge and can be doing through online were not made known to the Deaf community.
To conclude, Vee Yee hopes solutions and improvements could be brought to this issues and he has a few ideas he would like to share:
– SLI service should not limit only during office hour.
– Waive all charges for SLI service either it is via Relay Service (internet) or face-to-face as it is subsidized by the Government.
– To widely promote the free SLI service to the Deaf community.
– All the Deaf should have the right to access any information, communication and cultural events or submit complaints to Social Welfare Department in order to sustain our equality in the society.