Deaf make a difference in 2nd PNoy SONA livestream

Guys, it’s SONA (State of the Nation Address) time once again! And for the second time, I was joined by other very skilled Filipino sign language interpreters in covering all the bases (TV coverage, cable news and Internet live streaming). Here is a repost from GMA News Online website.

Me and Dr. Therese Bustos of University of the Philippines
Interpreting the SONA for the second time at GMA News Online, interpreter Jojo Esposa gestures the president's speech, as alternate interpreter Therese Bustos waits for her turn.

Whenever the President makes the annual report to the Filipino people live from Batasang Pambansa every July, the deaf can only guess the government’s plans.

But that ended last year, when the State of the Nation Address (SONA) was simultaneously streamed online and delivered in sign language for the first time on GMA News Online.

Ensuring that all Internet users, including the deaf, will understand President Benigno Aquino III’s second SONA, GMA News Online featured real-time sign language interpretation of the speech once again on Monday.

Interpreting the SONA for the second time at GMA News Online, interpreter Jojo Esposa gestures the president’s speech, as alternate interpreter Therese Bustos waits for her turn. Roehl Niño Bautista

Deaf in the audience, Weng Rivera and Moises Libot
Deaf in the audience; Weng Rivera and Moises Libot

Giselle Montero, Partnership and Development Director of the College of St. Benilde’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS), stressed the importance and advantage of streaming the SONA online.

“It is a good venue for Filipinos everywhere, especially the deaf, to know the president’s reports,” said Montero. “Also, students are able to study the speech since the online stream is recorded and can be shared easily.”

Re-delivering the president’s report in hand gestures were Jojo Esposa from Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf, and Therese Bustos from the University of the Philippines.

“It was harder to sign the SONA last year,” said Esposa, who previously interpreted PNoy’s first report in July last year. “Since more graphs and charts were used this time, communicating the concepts in the president’s address was easier.”

For Bustos, the president’s “fast-paced” speaking was a challenge during the live re-delivery. “We process the speech as we hear it. At times, the president is already discussing a new topic while we were still signing the previous one,” said Bustos.

Live at the studio, interpreters perform the gestures in the presence of two deaf persons to check if their re-delivery can be understood.

“Facial expression is important in this form of communication,” said Montero. “Like in this speech, it can really stress the important parts.”

Members of the Deaf community are present in the studio to observe the sign language interpretation of the SONA and inform the interpreter if any signs are not easily understood. Roehl Niño Bautista

Knowing the government’s plans is just as important for the deaf as it is for people with normal hearing, according to Weng Rivera, president of the Filipino Deaf Women’s Health Crisis Center, communicating in sign language.

Rivera shared that since she was young, she never understood the president’s report clearly until the signing of the SONA started last year.

“It is disappointing though that there was no mention of persons with disabilities (PWD),” gestured Rivera, in reaction to the president’s address this year.

According to Montero, around 10 per cent of Filipinos have physical disabilities. Half of this number are Deaf, the proper term officially recognized by the United Nations.

“This number is probably an underestimate, since most families won’t admit in a census that they have members who are deaf,” added Montero.

The sign language interpretation of the president’s SONA, Montero shared, adheres to the terms set in the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Article 21 of the convention encourages “the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities,” as well as “recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages.”

Going beyond the SONA interpretation, Montero hopes that the activity can be sustained and extended to newscasts.

“Other countries already accommodate captions in their newscasts,” shared Montero. Bustos also cited Rivera’s experience in Japan where deaf people are delivering the news in certain time slots.

“It was a long struggle for them,” commented Montero on Japan. “Hopefully, Philippine media can find a similar way to keep the deaf informed. It is their right as much as it it ours as well.” – YA, GMA News

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