Liberia Makes Progress

Inclusive Sound Language Interpretation

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

MONROVIA-The Liberian Government and citizens seem to have put lots of effort into recent months to include sound language interpretation at significant public events.

This is intended to reach the underrepresented group, in particular the hearing-impaired individuals who may be present at these events or who may reside within the territorial jurisdiction of the nation.

Four sound language interpreters were present at the most recent conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) held at the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.

People who attended the three-day conference and had hearing impairments asked questions and voiced concerns to some of the speakers.

Last week a coalition of ten (10) Civil Society Organizations came together and hosted the first SRHR Conference under the umbrella of “Amplifying Rights Network,” with the aim of advancing sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) through the promotion of social justice, mainly evidence-based advocacy, and accountability.

Young people, adolescent girls, women, and those with disabilities are all represented among the 10 CSOs.

In an effort to be inclusive, the group enlisted the services of four local sound language Interpreters for the event’s three days (May 26–28, 2023): one female and three males.

Since initiatives to include sound language interpreting at public events started, this event has drawn the largest crowd of sound language interpreters. Most of the participants in the room found this weird; for others, it was their first experience seeing an event transformed into sound language and vice versa.

In February 2022, this paper published an article where people with disabilities particularly hearing impairment expressed frustration and disappointment in the absence of sound language interpreters at major public events. Months later, there were actions taken by the government and the people of Liberia to include these marginalized groups.

Like the SRHR conference, the signing of the revised Farmington River Declaration was on April 5, 2023. The Revised Farmington River Declaration is a commitment by political parties to non-violence and judicial means to resolve electoral conflict arising before and after elections. At that gathering, a male interpreter covered the event from start to end.

In 2022, the official celebration of Liberia’s 200th Bicentennial also took into account sound language interpretation to let the marginalized group feel a part of it as contrasted to earlier public events. This follows the publication of this paper on the lack of sound language interpreters at public events. The most recent actions speak loudly about Liberia’s efforts to bridge the nation’s enduring communication gaps.

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