Plea falls on Deaf Ears of Barbados Media – Late Prime Minister’s Funeral had no sign language like Evening News

On October 23rd, our nation was plunged into deep sadness and grief at the passing of our Prime Minister, the Honourable David Thompson. As we entered into a week of mourning, we struggled to come to grips with what we somehow expected, but hoped would happen sometime in the very distant future. With heavy hearts, we prepared ourselves for our final goodbye to our beloved PM and on that day, tuned into the funeral service to pay our final respects and to hear the many tributes showered on a man many had come to know and love.

Unfortunately, one section of our community tuned in but could neither understand, participate nor join in with the nation, the region and the world.

I started to receive phone calls from angry parents and text messages from irate deaf individuals demanding to know why something of such great national significance which was being televised, was not being interpreted for the hearing impaired community.

Our Deaf community sat in shock, anger and disbelief as the service started and NO ONE was there to interpret for them.

I let them know that I tried… But I have to say that I have NEVER experienced such frustration in all my years of interpreting and working with the deaf community. I spoke to everyone who I believed had the authority to give the green light to make this happen. I started making phone calls from October 25th until the day before the funeral. I left countless messages, left all my contact info, was put on hold for long periods, and one person even said he didn’t know why the deaf would be interested! Is he serious?

Can you imagine watching that service with no audio? Put yourself in the deaf community’s shoes. Think about it. What exactly moved Hartley Henry to tears? What did Paula Hinds sing? Why were people laughing and applauding during a eulogy? What were the commentators saying? Why were his daughters on a screen talking? AND THAT WAS ONLY THE FIRST HOUR!

Deafness is called the unseen disability, and understandably so. However, it is time that we become aware that there are those among us who can only receive information visually. He was my Prime Minister, your Prime Minister and THEIR Prime Minister. Let’s make sure that something of this nature never takes place again.

Bonnie Leonce
Interpreter for the Hearing Impaired

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