Forum: Campaigning must account for those with hearing loss

I tuned in to a live broadcast on Nomination Day, and saw that journalists on site were wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus.

I was disappointed that there were no subtitles or alternative forms of communication to reach out to the hard of hearing and deaf community.

The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) estimates that there are around 500,000 people in Singapore with hearing loss.

Yet, election content that is supposed to be targeted at all Singaporeans is not accessible to them. In this information age, we have no excuse for excluding such a big group of people from accessing public information.

In New Zealand, a local TV channel broadcast all of its government's Covid-19-related announcements and press briefings with New Zealand Sign Language interpreters on the main screen, and the actual footage of the speakers on the smaller screen, as well as with captions.

During this crucial time, the New Zealand government understood the importance of ensuring that communication was accessible to everyone in its community.

In Singapore, SADeaf has had to arrange for its own transcribers and interpreters for the live screening of political debates and the political broadcasts.

The responsibility for accessibility fell to people in the community.

Our leaders and our media must be ready to create an environment to engage all Singaporeans, regardless of their abilities.

Pavarne Shantti Sivalingam

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