At Nelson Mandela’s memorial, there was a fake Sign Language Interpreter.
While dignitaries were addressing the crowd in the 95,000-seat Soccer City stadium, the young, suited man with an official security pass round his neck produced a series of hand signals that experts said meant absolutely nothing. – Reuters
I have a lot of questions about this situation – but the first one is this – why the FUCK wasn’t there a legitimate interpreter there?
Apparently people are already making jokes about this on the internet. This isn’t funny. I remember when SNL made a joke about the sign language interpreter for Bloomberg during Hurricane Sandy – and I remember why. Because she was incredibly expressive. Her expressions were INCREDIBLE. That being said, that’s what we expect of people who sign. We expect them to give emphasis where it is needed, without the use of sound.
Was the Bloomberg ASL sketch hilarious? Yes.
Because the reality of the situation was that it was a GOOD interpreter.
Nelson Mandela had a history of supporting the disabled community, and by not giving the Deaf community access to the words used to mourn him, the organizers of the memorial delivered a blatant slap in the face to that community.
By not having an actual interpreter, by not actually checking credentials, it shows the disregard and the lack of care put into accessibility.
Yes, they’re looking for him now, but what will they do when they find him?
And to make things worse, people seem to think it’s funny – this seems to be another case of “Lets make up sign language!” for the comedians of the world. It’s happening now. A twitter account has already been made for @memorialsigner, and the Today Show’s producer did fake sign language during the segment on it this morning.
Am I saying that disability can’t be funny? NOPE. Deaf humor is great. Blind humor is great.
But when humor is used at the expense of people being able to understand leaders of the world speaking about the loss of a great man, that’s not funny. It’s disrespectful, and it shows the glaring divide between able bodied and disabled in the world. It shows that there is little respect for the way in which Deaf people communicate, and that people still think it’s just people waving their hands around.
Intent is everything. The intent in these jokes isn’t to draw attention to what is humorous about living a Deaf life, it is about pointing at the reality of being Deaf and laughing at it. There’s a difference, and if you can see it, then you shouldn’t be laughing.
Confidential for my regular readers:
WHAT THE BLOODY FUCKING HELL WERE THESE PEOPLE THINKING? DID THEY THINK WE WOULDN’T FUCKING NOTICE? It would be SO EASY to get the right people to do the job. HOW DID THEY THINK WE WOULDN’T GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING NOTICE?