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Deaf community accuses BTV of betrayal

CALISTUS KOLANTSHO
Botswana Association of the Deaf (BOAD) executive director, Shirley Keoagile
The deaf community has come out with guns blazing accusing Botswana Television (Btv) of hiring unqualified sign language interpreters. They are saying in some instances there is no interpretation at all. 

The complaints come during the coronavirus outbreak and just like other citizens, the deaf community relies on BTV for information, even more so in the lockdown.

On Monday, President Mokgweetsi Masisi addressed the nation without sign language interpreters. During his address, Masisi announced that he intends to request Parliament for a six-month State of Emergency extension. Botswana Association of the Deaf (BOAD) executive director, Shirley Keoagile told Mmegi that BTV must use qualified interpreters not just anyone learning the basics of sign language. 

“Learning the basics does not mean you are a qualified sign language interpreter. That is why deaf people are not given the high quality services we demand,” she said. 

Keoagile said Masisi is also their President and they deserve to understand everything that he says. She said after every news bulletin by BTV, a BOAD team corrects and clarifies the entire bulletin. She said it is painful because the situation unfolds at a bad time when the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc and some messages fall between the cracks due to poor interpretation. 

“The deaf community is still trying

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to understand the six-month State of Emergency proposed and the ongoing 28-day social distancing. We met with BTV last week and thought things would change but we were wrong,” she said.

The  World Federation of the Deaf has sent a letter to the World Health Organisation  (WHO), noting their obligation to ensure international sign access to their public video briefings and COVID-19 public health videos to the international community.

Director of Disability in the Office of the President, Thomas Motingwa explained to Mmegi that there are two groups of sign language in the country.

“BOAD is led by Keoagile and there is another one called Botswana Society of the Deaf, which keeps confusing BTV and government on sign language. I have been trying to mediate with BTV staff and we seem to have found a solution and implementation might take a few days. The other thing is that BTV has three interpreters and they are overwhelmed as we speak,” he said. 

Motingwa said they met on Friday with sign language associations and BTV leadership is consulting and they hope for the best soon.



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