Lack of interpreters isolates deaf community

By Promise Dube

Members of the deaf community have complained that various service providers fail to meet their needs due to a lack of sign language interpreters, hindering their ability to access services.

Mbiko Nxumalo, director of the Sign Language Interpreter Trust (SLIT), stated that the community struggles to express their needs because they lack knowledge of their rights, often not available in sign language.

SLIT, through its “Amplifying Deaf Performances” program, trained 20 sign language interpreters in Bulawayo to support deaf drama groups and artists during performances.

Nxumalo explained that SLIT received sponsorship from Culture Fund Zimbabwe and the European Union to address the significant gap in the interpreting community.

“Deaf people don’t know their rights not because it’s their fault, but because access to information in sign language is limited,” Nxumalo said.

He emphasized that one of the trust’s core principles is to provide sign language interpretation in legal, medical, educational, and business settings.

“While interpreting services are often available in emergencies like hospitals and courts, the social aspects of life, such as music, dance, weddings, and other activities, have been neglected,” Nxumalo noted. “This gap prompted us to focus on training theatre interpreters who can interpret music and drama, catering to the social lives of deaf people.”

“The need for more awareness is crucial, especially in the arts sector,” Nxumalo stressed. “Many groups require interpretation because of the high demand, but they often aren’t invited to events due to a lack of interpreters.”

Nxumalo concluded by acknowledging their limitations, “We are just a drop in the ocean, and we eagerly await having more interpreters in the program.”

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