A Sign of the Times

The PM's efforts to learn Auslan has prompted me to ask a question that I have privately pondered. Perhaps you can provide the answer .

A Sign of the Times

This week, the PM showed off his newly minted Auslan skills.

For those of you who don’t know, Auslan is Australia’s sign language and the PM displayed his skills this week by thanking the interpreters for their work during the Coronavirus crisis.

Here he is in action :

Try Auslan!

During this COVID crisis, Auslan – Australia’s sign language – has played a crucial role in getting important information out to those who are hearing impaired. Today on International Day of Sign Languages, I’d like to say thank you to all our Auslan interpreters for everything you’re doing. To show my support for our deaf community, I’ve had another go at trying #Auslan. I still need more practice but today is all about having a go – I’d encourage all Australians to learn some Auslan and give it a try. Thank you also to the Deaf Society and Deaf Services for the great work they do and for organising the Auslan Leaders’ Challenge. #AuslanCommunityLeadersChallenge2020 #InternationalDayofSignLanguages

Posted by Scott Morrison (ScoMo) on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Good on him I say for learning a new skill and good on him for communicating personally with a section of the community who are often overlooked.

However,  the PMs efforts, as noble as they are, causes me to raise a question that I haven’t been game to raise publicly…until now.

That question is:

Ever since I saw the farce  at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, where the sign language interpreter proved to be a fake and simply made it all up, I have wondered why we need sign translaters for televised events?

The hired sign language 'expert' is making it all up!

They are now a feature of almost every political press conference.

Let me assure you these interpreters aren’t there for the benefit of the people in the room. Rather it is supposedly an outreach for the 6500 signing deaf people in our community.

If these 6500 individuals are as interested in politics as the rest of Australia seems to be, I’d guess only a handful (at most) are actually watching political pressers at any one time.

Of course I don’t want those people to miss out on important information but I simply question how we are going about it.

It’s not like technology can’t provide real time live broadcast subtitling on the TV screen.

That is what enables every one of us, including the hearing impaired, to know what is being said on a program, even if there is no sound.

You can get real time closed captioning of this show, right now, simply by clicking one of the buttons on your remote.

Now I realise that this is a sensitive area for those that cannot hear or have severe hearing impairments but I am genuinely interested in why this relatively new phenomenon has come about.

I’ve asked MPs and ministers who just say ‘don’t go there’ or mutter something about ‘inclusiveness’. I’ve asked event co-ordinators who tell me they haven’t got a clue either.

One brave political soul, who spoke on condition of anonymity,  simply said it was a good look for politicians and no one would dare ask questions.

No one except me clearly!

I even checked the official Auslan website which didn’t provide an answer to my question.

It did tell me that there are 302 active Auslan interpreters across Australia, with 257 of them accredited to the National Authority. They do a mighty job facilitating the deaf and hearing impaired with work, education, health and the community.

I just don’t know why one of them needs to be at every political press conference or public event.

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