Challenges of sign language interpreters

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The movement towards inclusion of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing emphasizes the use of Sign Language Interpreters (SLIs) who translates all verbal languages into visual languages. Sign language interpretations is a process of translating a spoken language using hand shapes, signs, body gestures and speech to an individual or group of individuals whose organ of hearing is nonfunctional. This process involves the dynamics and interactions between the individual with hearing loss, the speaker and the environment. The activities SLIs are challenging with the receiving, processing and relaying of information processes which occurs in milliseconds and its associated burnout and occupational risks. However, these risks and its associated psychosocial related stress affect the output of the SLIs and the optimum benefit to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Acknowledging the various challenges of sign language interpretation, this paper projects the prospect and benefit of effective and all encompassing sign language interpretation to the psychosocial well being of the deaf and hard of hearing population in Nigeria and the entire Africa when Sign Language Interpreters are given optimum attention and priority by the government, society and even the deaf/hard of hearing community.

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Challenges of sign language interpreters

  1. 1. Olufemi T. Adigun Department of Special Education University of Ibadan, Nigeria and Oladipupo ‘Wumi Omobosola Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, Oyo State, Nigeria
  2. 2. The ability to respond to the auditory-verbal stimulus is an important phenomenon with a great implication on the existence of human being and on the interpersonal relationship that exist among members of the society. The sense of hearing is one of the indispensable sense organ but when it is defective; communication becomes difficult via oral-aural mode and therefore, poses a great danger to the psychosocial development of an individual. Conditions associated with hearing disabilities according to Oyewumi (2013) is referred to as hearing impairment. Hearing impairment is a generic term that includes the deaf and hard-of-hearing whose hearing loss ranges from mild to profound.
  3. 3. Peer rejection and some difficulty while attempting to develop some necessary social skills; rejection or subtle denials by parents, family members or the community at large; hostility from their counterparts with normal hearing; suffers from both inherent and interpersonal malfunction and; are more likely to experience adolescence related problems far much more than that encountered by his/her hearing peers.
  4. 4. Due to communication limitation, deaf and hard of hearing suffer relatively more when compared to their hearing peers because they lack the ability to fully integrate themselves into the world of hearing. For the deaf and hard of hearing, his or her hearing classmate, the teacher (regular or special) and other members of the society, choosing the most effective and acceptable communication medium is perhaps the greatest hurdle to crack, hence, there is need for a Sign Language Interpreter (SLI) who will enhance effective communication between the hearing society and individuals who are Deaf/hard of hearing.
  5. 5. Sign Language Interpreters (Professionals, Skilled, Certified, conveys information to the deaf and hard of hearing through total communication) ‘Hearing’ society (Uses spoken language) Deaf/Hard of hearing (Uses visual language)
  6. 6. 1 •Negative societal attitude towards persons with hearing loss 2 •Lack of Sign language education and training 3 •Stress and burnout 4 •Oral-manual controversy 5 •Cultural diversity and language differences
  7. 7. Over the years, researchers such as Bat-chava (2000); Scheetz (2004); Ademokoya (2008) and Oyewumi (2013) have advocated for inclusive society, proper education and all round development for the deaf/hard of hearing. It is quiet unfortunate that such call may not be effective without the impact of Sign Language Interpreters who will bridge the communication gap between the deaf/hard of hearing and the non-sign language users. The Sign Language Interpreters are no doubt an intermediary and a best friend to those individuals who communicate via the visual language approach.
  8. 8. Public awareness and enlightenment Sign Language Interpreter Education and Training Recognition of Sign Language Interpreters
  9. 9. This slide have summarily present the situation around persons who are deaf/hard of hearing in Africa using the Nigeria context and also revealed the challenges faced by Sign Language Interpreters. It has also itemized three (3) major ways by which the challenges can be curtailed and eliminated so as to give need assistance to the psychosocial need of persons with hearing loss.

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