The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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An interpreter, rather than subtitles, needed for national TV channels – Deaf People Association

Sabrina Zammit Sunday, 25 September 2022, 10:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Subtitles are excellent and very much needed but an interpreter would be better since sign language is deaf people's first language, Deaf People Association member Loran Ripard Xuereb told The Malta Independent on Sunday. 

Earlier this month, the Nationalist Party said that programmes on the national television stations should carry sub-titles to enable the hearing impaired to follow. There is EU funding specifically for this, and it is as yet untapped by Malta, the PN said. 

While the function is now a mainstay on Netflix, Disney and a growing portion of European national TV stations, subtitles on screen in Malta remain an elusive promise, the PN had said. The party contends there is an increasing demand among Maltese viewers, especially those with hearing impairment. The Malta Deaf and Hard of Hearing Association has been insisting for the last years on the need for an inclusive subtitling experience in the local media. 

But subtitling may not be the answer that people with hearing impairments are after.

Some deaf people find it hard to read and understand written Maltese and English mainly because its grammar differs from that of sign language. Additionally, some are illiterate and their level of education is not adequate as they did not have LSEs or they left school at an early age,said 30-year-old Loran. 

Referring to his personal experience, from when he was younger, Loran said that he was lucky enough that his parents introduced him to sign language at the age of 10 months as they already had deaf friends. 

Later on, at the age of five, Loran was encouraged by his medical team, together with his parents, to clarify his speech and start lip-reading by decreasing the use of sign language, to which he immediately refused. 

I realised that I felt more comfortable still using sign language when trying to clarify my speech,he said. 

Loran said that as much as his confidence grew in using this combination so did his confidence in communicating.  

Today, he works as a draftsperson, where despite all his colleagues being hearing persons, throughout the 10 years Loran has been working with them, they have managed to find a way to communicate. 

Back in the day, when Loran was still a child, cochlear implants did not exist, thus young children had to learn sign language. In contrast, nowadays hearing parents choose for their children to receive cochlear implants very early on in their young lives. In these circumstances, as Loran explained, medical staff encourages parents not to use sign language around these children, in an effort to develop their communication skills. 

Here just because you have cochlear implants they do not encourage sign language, which in my opinion is a missed opportunity, he said. 

He said that the older generation within the deaf community, has the best choice, as whoever is eligible for the medical procedure can choose between living how they are now or else go ahead with having cochlear implants. 

Unlike him, and after doing the necessary medical procedures, Lorans wife is eligible for cochlear implants. 

Loran explained how despite some youths having been given cochlear implants early on in life, they still choose to start learning sign language at the age of 16. 

Although deaf students had professionals such as LSEs to get them through their school years, when they leave they realise that the language barrier could have been decreased even further if they had used sign language, he said. 

It was explained that with sign language there is more access for full informationas with lip-reading only 85% or less is understood. 

Loran said that having to read lips is mentally exhausting, especially when deaf persons are expected to do so 24/7. 

Recounting a very positive experience, he said that while he was in Denmark for nine months to follow a course, the staff together with the lecturers and students were all deaf. Upon returning to Malta, although knowing fully what to expect, he was still shocked and found it hard to adapt in the beginning. 

There I realised how much Malta still has to achieve for the deaf community,said Loran.

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