Brian Foran, a Timberlea resident with hearing disabilities, finally got fed up waiting for a sign language interpreter to appear during Premier Stephen McNeil’s coronavirus briefings.
Foran had gotten used to a sign language interpreter present at COVID-19 briefings broadcast on the Nova Scotia government’s Facebook page.
But Nova Scotians with hearing disabilities don’t get the same service for the premier’s typically twice-monthly scrums with the media, which are also posted on the Facebook page. The same is true for several videos posted to the province’s social media containing important information for Nova Scotians, the
“I felt like a second-class citizen, to be honest,” said Foran, who posted on the province’s Facebook page last Thursday asking that an interpreter accompany the premier’s solo scrums with the press. The response: interpreters are available only for COVID briefings.
“To me, they’re saying, I’m not important,” said Foran.
“Any broadcast made by the government should be accessible, and closed captioning should be made available to all citizens of Nova Scotia.”
He said it shouldn’t be an either/or option. While closed captioning needs to be an option, an interpreter is invaluable in helping viewers follow along, conveying the speaker’s emotion and adding emphasis where needed.
“Sometimes in captioning, words get lost in translation, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter paints a clearer picture of what the speaker is trying to say,” said Foran. “Some Deaf people struggle with their English and use ASL, some prefer the other way around. Some Deaf people are not fluent in sign language and prefer captioning.”
“The province is consistently exploring ways to enhance its ability to communicate with all Nova Scotians effectively and has consistently relied on sign language professionals to help deliver information during the pandemic and other times where public safety information must be delivered,” said Chrissy Matheson, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia government.