Signing at memorial shocking

FURTHER to the recent world news about the signer at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, I wanted to write, as the largest charity in the UK working with deaf people, to express our shock at the quality of sign language interpretation at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial – if it could be called interpretation at all.

The controversy highlights how appropriately qualified communication support is crucial to ensure that the estimated 25,000 British Sign Language users – and, by extension, the 10 million-plus people with some form of hearing loss – can engage with and access the same opportunities as hearing people.

Our interpreters, for example, are governed by the National Registers of Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) who are responsible for monitoring and development of professional standards.

More information is at /supporting-you.

Sign Language, be it British, international or South African, is a visual and expressive language, yet the limited number of signs used by the interpreter at Mr Mandela’s memorial, the amount of repetition, the lack of facial expressions and huge gaps in translation meant that deaf or hard of hearing people across the world were completely excluded from one of the biggest events in recent history.

Paul Breckell, Chief executive of Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID)


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