09 May 2017
By LULWA SHALHOUB
JEDDAH: One of the things that stood out in the airing of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent interview was the simultaneous sign language interpretation on the bottom-right corner of the TV screen.
Faiza Natto, founder and director of the Deaf Club for Women (DCW) in Jeddah, commended the move, as it kept deaf audiences up-to-date regarding the important topics discussed during the interview conducted by host Dawood Al-Shirian. The interview was broadcasted last week on MBC and the Saudi state television.
Yet she said they did not get to follow all of the interpretation in the first part of the interview, as the news ticker covered the interpreter at the beginning of the show.
“Interpreting news in sign language makes the deaf up-to-date with events in their surroundings whether at a political, cultural, social or religious level,” Natto said. “They are part of the society and their integration is an urgent demand.”
On Wednesday, Saudi television channels started introducing sign language to their main news bulletins so that the hearing-impaired can follow events around them, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Ahmed Al-Fhieed, the sign-language interpreter featured during the Prince Mohammed interview, posted a video on Twitter saying — while signing — that Minister of Culture and Information Awwad Al-Awwad gave orders for the interview to be interpreted. “There is also another pleasant surprise. The main news bulletin at 9:30 p.m. will be interpreted the whole year long,” Al-Fhieed stated.
Natto said she has been pushing to spread sign language in several sectors in Saudi Arabia since she established the club.
“The deaf have complained that the (Saudi) TV does not present programs that are interpreted in sign language,” said Natto, adding that she was nominated to be in charge of sign language interpretation on TV yet she is fully committed to her work at the club.
Natto hopes to see sign language being introduced on all Saudi channels and taught in schools. She said the government has a major role in offering care to the deaf and providing them with the hearing aid equipment.
“There is also support to the Saudization project in the private sector which helped (in) recruiting 1,750 deaf people across the Kingdom,” she said.
The deaf community in Saudi Arabia exceeds 720,000 people, according to the latest available statistics from the Ministry of Economy and Planning, dating to 2010.
Natto said that there have been attempts by hearing-impaired people to reach out to the rest of the society to spread awareness of sign language.
“We have reached out to the government and private sectors throughout the previous years,” Natto said. “On April 2, we celebrated the Arab Deaf Week and we taught sign language to more than 290 people.”
Sign language varies from one country to another. The form that is used here is Arab sign language with some local variation.