A series of general election-related sign language videos has been produced by the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) for voters who are deaf to better understand and follow speeches and information put out by the Government and political parties in the lead-up to and during the next polls.
SADeaf deputy director Alvan Yap said 109 videos have been produced and uploaded on YouTube. This is in response to feedback and a noticeable growing interest in politics from the community.
"We were able to gauge (interest) from casual conversations and feedback," Mr Yap, 38, said in an e-mail response to The Straits Times.
The association has been aware of such interest since sign language interpretation was used for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's past three National Day Rally speeches.
The video project, which started in January, aimed to create a standardised list of sign vocabulary on political and election-related terms and to avoid confusion given that terms such as "Act", "Bill" and "party", for example, have multiple meanings. The list was based on common words in past general elections and took into account terms unique to Singapore, such as Group Representation Constituencies and Non-Constituency MPs, and included signs for nine political parties.
Social media is SADeaf's main platform for reaching out to its 5,100 members, the majority of whom are eligible to vote. The next general election must be held by January 2017 but political watchers expect it to be held sooner.
SADeaf intends to expand the list to categories such as transport and finance, and to terms that are specific to government ministries and agencies. It also plans to offer sign language interpretation services to political parties for rallies and other communication platforms they use.
The People's Action Party (PAP) engaged sign language interpreters for election rallies at the last by-elections, Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua said, adding that she encouraged the use of interpreters. "Glad it happened and I trust it will continue," she added.
Other communities such as those with visual or physical disabilities have also been better catered to. The Elections Department (ELD) said that since the 2011 Presidential Election, plastic stencils have been provided to voters with visual disabilities so they can mark ballot papers unassisted. Stencils were also used in the 2012 Hougang and 2013 Punggol East by-elections.
A spokesman for the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped said that the assistance of electoral officers and use of stencils have been effective.
The Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) has some 3,000 registered members eligible to vote, as of March 31 last year. In May last year, SPD provided two days of training to ELD officers who, in turn, train those who assist voters at polling stations.
Nominated Member of Parliament and SPD president Chia Yong Yong, who has peroneal muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, said it was important to make rallies accessible. She suggested the continued use of sign language, and ensuring easy access for those with mobility issues by having grab rails or planks over muddy areas, saying: "For enlightened voting, it is important to facilitate and encourage attendance at election rallies."
Members of the disabled community appreciate such efforts. Recalling his experience at his first rally in 2011, Mr Yap said his friends helped interpret the speeches: "It was an illuminating experience to see and 'hear' the speakers live."