This past Thursday, the 3rd of March, 2016, Andrew Holness was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Jamaica. And, fortunately for the Jamaican Deaf community, there was a JSL interpreter made available through picture in picture, so they could understand what was going on.
This is good. Most broadcasts on Jamaican television are not accessible to the Deaf (or deaf) and hard-of-hearing. There are no closed captions. No interpreters. Deaf people remain largely disconnected from the goings on of this country.
So, I’m happy that this is happening. I really am.
But. Yes, there is a but. The broadcast showed me how far we as a people have to go before the Deaf are truly included, before they have full access. It showed me just how much the media has to learn.
In the first few moments (minutes?), during the welcoming address, the interpreter was not (I repeat, not) fully visible:
That’s just poor. For the starting moments of what may be one of the most significant television broadcasts of the next few years was not accessible to the Deaf.
But it didn’t end there.
At various times, the interpreter was again obscured as messages popped up, telling the viewer who was speaking:
And every single time a song was song was played or sung (the National Anthem and Nesbeth’s “My Dream”, for example), the interpreter’s little box was removed:
Even music and song should be visibly accessible to the Deaf through interpreting.
It’s a good move to have an interpreter there at all, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad this was done. But there needs to always be visible. Even if “nothing” is happening, the presence of the interpreter, visible to the Deaf, is an assurance that, if something were happening, it would indeed be made available to them.
And there are micro-things that hearing people take for granted like the cheering of a crowd, laughter, etc, that the interpreter can bring across that the Deaf might otherwise miss.
So, as good a move as this was, and as glad I am that it was there, I hope there will be improvements, and as someone involved with the community, I hope I speak for all of us when I say we will not be satisfied until it is.
News broadcasts need interpreters and closed captioning. Political campaigns, advertisements, TV shows… everything. (Except radio, though if that could be made accessible, that would be awesome, too!)
Media people, please let this happen. It’s your responsibility.