When Mr George Lim attends lectures at the National University of Singapore, he is usually accompanied by someone who is not a fellow student – a sign language interpreter.
The undergraduate, in his 30s, is a member of the Singapore Association for the Deaf, and he uses its sign language interpretation service regularly.
The association said on Monday it will hire three more interpreters, thanks to a $144,000 donation by Marina Bay Sands.
Members of the association can engage an interpreter for free for up to 20 sessions a year. The maximum duration is four hours a session.
Interpreters can be used when they need help with communication, for example, at a medical check-up.
After their 20 free sessions, members have to pay $10 an hour. Non-members also have to pay $10 an hour for this service.
Currently, there are only two full-time interpreters and 20 volunteers helping with interpretation.
The association says with three more full-time interpreters it can reach out to more people from the deaf community.
It receives about 80 requests every month from deaf individuals and tries to fulfil all their requests.
The association’s president, Dr Low Wong Kein, 52, said: “We are very grateful for the donation. Effective communication is the key for deaf people to get by, and with more interpreters, we can benefit more people.”
Dr Low, who is an ear, nose and throat specialist, told The Straits Times about an incident when a deaf patient was choking on a fish bone but could not explain it to him.
That was before Dr Low picked up sign language in 2000.
He said: “This was just one of the many situations where an interpreter is needed.
“In the case of a medical consultation, someone who is deaf with no oral language can’t verbalise to explain his medical history. As a result, treatment may be compromised because they have difficulty communicating with each other.”
The deaf community welcomes more interpreters, acknowledging that the sign language service is an important one.
Mr Lim, who requests an interpreter up to three times a week, said: “The concepts being taught at university level can be quite challenging for my interpreter and myself… But it does help to narrow the communication gap between the lecturer and me.”
He added: “Having trained interpreters in an academic setting will surely benefit the hearing-impaired students in the long run.”
Mother of four Zainab Saini, 48, whose two daughters – Shariffah Faddillah, 21, and Shariffah Faaiqah, 12, both have hearing impairments, said: “When they gofor activities, it’s good to have an interpreter because some people don’t understand sign language.”
“But it’s also important for us as parents, and the siblings, to know sign language,” added the housewife.
Source: The Straits Times