According to the General Authority for Statistics, 700,000 people with hearing disabilities in the Kingdom lack services and support to integrate them into society.
Among their urgent needs is sign language interpreters who can support them navigate many government and private sector institutions to conduct their affairs. This gap forces some of them to make notes on paper to communicate with others.
A girl with hearing impairment complained to Okaz/Saudi Gazette about the suffering she and her peers are experiencing because of the lack of interpreters at airports, government departments and hospitals, which hinders the process of completing their transactions and makes them feel embarrassed in front of others.
She criticized some of the interpreters who exploit their sign language skills and said that they are unable to communicate clearly, pointing out that some of the interpreters on TV do not convey the right information and their translations are often poor, loaded with errors and inaccuracies.
She stressed the importance of evaluating these interpreters when they are employed by a sign language expert to make sure they are capable of delivering information correctly to people with hearing needs. She noted that only people who have a relative or a friend suffering from hearing problems can understand the sign language properly.
Deaf and Sign Language Specialist Khaloufa Al-Shihri said there are some institutions that employ incompetent sign language interpreters. She hoped to spread awareness about these issues and provide the community with qualified and caring sign language interpreters.
“The most prominent issue the deaf people struggle with in Saudi Arabia and the Arab countries is a lack of trained sign language interpreters,” said Walaa Al-Barakati, a member of the Arab Federation of Organizations Working with the Deaf. She called for increased efforts to employ qualified interpreters so they can facilitate communication between deaf people and other members of society.