Title text reads as: “Access Work, Deaf Interpreters”. Screengrab video recording of Deaf and Hearing interpreters interpreting in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) for the GE2020 Constituency Political Broadcast speeches.

“Six minutes turned out to be a few hours till late night.”

Watch our in-depth BTS interview with our Deaf interpreters, Jessica and Andrew, including their funny anecdotes, on how they work behind the scenes to bring the Deaf and Hard of hearing communities full access to information!

Let us all put inclusivity and fairness into action, as we all continue to advocate the importance of equal access of information to the State as part of the official protocol. Our work doesn’t end here.

Because, #LeaveNoOneBehind.

Video Description and Transcript:

Video is 11.19 mins long and is in SIngapore Sign Language (SgSL) with English subtitles. The video format includes several screengrab recordings of the Deaf interpreters at work, and a close-up interview with Jessica and Andrew, both Deaf interpreters. 

[Video Starts] 

Opening frame shows a green and white pattern background with a screengrab video recording of Deaf and Hearing interpreters interpreting in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) for the GE2020 Constituency Political Broadcast speeches. Title is in white text that reads as: “Access Work, Deaf Interpreters”.

(Background sound of clock ticking is heard)

Video shows Jessica walking to the door at her home and Andrew sitting in the armchair, sipping his smoothie drink as he watches on his mobile phone.

Video then cuts to Jessica opening her laptop with a ring light perched.

Video then fades to black screen before showing Andrew sitting at a table, with his laptop, and he was seen discussing with his daughter over the information on his laptop. Both were signing in conversation. Video panned to Andrew adjusting his mobile phone in the stand holder, with both the mobile holder and ring light perched over the laptop. On the laptop, the video of a GE speech was seen. Both Andrew and Jessica were seen interpreting in SgSL while being recorded on their mobile phones. 

Frame then cuts to a screengrab video recording of Deaf and Hearing interpreters interpreting in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) for the GE2020 Constituency Political Broadcast speeches. 

Video then zoomed out to an extract of SgSL interpretation to the Ministerial 6-part series, with Andrew signing to SM Tharman’s speech. 

Video then zoomed out to an extract of SgSL interpretation to the Ministerial 6-part series, with Jessica signing to Minister Chan Chun Sing’s speech. 

The video then panned to 2 frames: Andrew on the left, and Jessica on the right. Both shut down their laptops and look at the camera, smiling. 

(Background sound of clock ticking ceased)

There is no voice heard; both the interviewees are signing throughout. 

(Interview with both Deaf Interpreters, Andrew and Jessica begins)

Q: Introduce yourself. 

Andrew: My name is Andrew. *sign name* I am a Deaf interpreter. 

Jessica: Hello! *sign name* My name is Jessica. I am a Deaf interpreter. 

Q: How do you prepare for the assignment? 

Jessica: First of all, I will read the script and try to gain an understanding. I will check with my team on the signs for certain words. We will discuss on the meaning to make sure that the information is conveyed correctly. Then I will set up the equipment and get ready to film. 

Andrew: I will start to prepare by watching the CNA video. I will read the subtitles and think how to convey the information into sign language. I would wait for Equal Dreams to send me the transcript and video. Then I’ll prepare to get ready. 

Q: What is the process like? 

Jessica: It is a lot of work. First, set up the laptop and make sure i can be seen clearly because i have no support team and can only rely on myself. During remote interpreting, a laptop will be set up. If the video is long, text-cue sheet will be used to make sure everything is in sync with the sound. I make sure the lighting is good and bright. No distractions. I make sure to be dressed in appropriate clothes in contrast with my skin colour so that I can be seen clearly. 

Andrew: First, Nix from Equal Dreams will message me that the material is ready. A copy of the transcript will be sent to me and I’ll open it on my laptop. It’s easier to view it on a bigger screen on the laptop instead of the phone screen. I will read it through over a few times. Then if i am not familiar with some words, i would discuss with my team in a group chat which is set up especially for that purpose. 

*An insert of part of a telegram group chat popped up. Jessica is seen explaining how to sign a word.”

Andrew: I would ask for help and we will discuss. I would also ask my daughter who is a writer – she does articles on various topics including politics. She will analyse and explain to me. I would check with my wife as well to see if my signing is understandable. After that, I’ll practise to make sure all is good. My wife will cue and start recording. I start doing it. 

Q: From your POV, what is the current situation with regards to accessibility? What can be improved? 

Andrew: Singapore have proper access needs provided? I don’t think so. Now Mediacorp has gone digital, it will be easier to improve things. I could use the remote control to switch on the interpreter window, there will be Deaf accessibility. Now everything is digital, Mediacorp should be able to use technology to be able to provide access on public TV. Imagine Deaf using remote control to switch on the interpreter window, then we can watch both signing and the news at the same time. That’s my hope. There have been recent interpreting videos [Channel 5] however, it’s small and at the bottom. That layout is very hard because we have to move our eyes constantly between the two screens. Big TV is fine but not for smaller TV. My TV at home is big so it’s fine but imagine watching on a laptop screen. 

Jessica: How can it be improved in terms of access? We can encourage proper training of interpreters because Singapore does not have a dedicated training curriculum for that. There is interpreting from spoken language to spoken language but not much sign language interpreting. We don’t have a strong foundation in sign language interpreting yet. The university have the material for spoken language interpreters so I hope the team can work with them to develop a curriculum for sign interpreting. Don’t forget that Singapore has already signed the UNCRPD. The full name is UN Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities. 

*An insert of UNCRPD website popped up, shown scrolling up.”

Jessica: Singapore signed the UNCRPD in 2012 and ratified the convention in 2013. It means Singapore must provide full access as per the UNCRPD. And PWDs have rights to live equally as any others. And that includes accessibility as well. The government needs to make sure there is full accessibility. The Deaf will have access to information such as news, announcements, Covid, General Elections. Access will include interpreting and captioning. 

Q: What is the role of a DI? Why is a DI needed when there are hearing interpreters present?

Jessica: Deaf and Hearing interpreters have a similar role. But it differs in the way they convey information. As a DI, I have more signing vocab because it’s my natural sign language. My LANGUAGE. Hearing interpreters learn sign language from us, the Deaf community. In important settings, such as court, medical, police, a DI should be deployed. They know the best when it comes to communication modes. The DI can assess the client and match their preferred communication mode, not they match ours. 

Andrew: I will explain why there should be a DI. Deaf clients may not be able to understand the hearing interpreter. But if an Deaf interpreter signs, the client will feel connected to the DI because both are Deaf and have a mutual understanding. “Our cultures are the same!” 

Andrew: The client may not be able to understand the hearing interpreter’s signing 100%. But with a DI, the client is able to gain full understanding of the conveyed information. 

Q: What are some important traits that a DI must have? 

Jessica: As a DI, she/he must be fluent in sign language. She/he must interact with various groups of Deafs. One needs to have experience with Deaf kids, Deaf adults, Deaf illiterate and elderly, Deaf foreigner travellers. She/he has to be able to match their communication modes. A DI needs to have linguistic knowledge as well. At least know two languages. 2 or 3.. I know Bahasa Melayu and English so I am able to translate to sign. 

Andrew: I think the person should have a strong self identity as a Deaf, be open to mingling with the community and learning their ways. The person needs to be knowledgeable. A DI should have good literacy skills in English and sign language so he/she can code-switch easily. It’s a very important skill. Patience is needed as well, a fast thinker when it comes to signing. A DI needs to be able to multitask e.g. memorising the whole script without needing to stop to check it. It requires a large memory.

Q: Challenges interpreting during Covid/General Elections?

Jessica: Wow, it was very challenging. There were many new words, medical and political, new words which we had to think what signs choices to make. Like “circuit breaker”.

*An insert illustration of a girl with a thought-speech bubble: ‘Circuit Breaker?’ popped up at the bottom of the frame. Another insert illustration of a boy with a thought-speech bubble: ‘Electricity??’ popped up afterwards.”

Jessica: The meaning is actually a break in electricity. But in this Covid-19, it means an entirely different thing. We may opt to sign “CB”. We don’t literally sign “pull the circuit to cut electricity”. This will be confusing for the viewers. 

Andrew: It was translating from English to sign language. The English language can be complicated. With Deaf, it would be direct and to the point, but with Hearing people, their words can have underlying meanings. For example, a political speech may use complicated words with implied meaning. I was shocked. I asked my daughter, “how to phrase this in a clean and concise manner…?” 

*An insert with messy circles and lines in the speech bubble popped up at Andrew’s head, to imply the confusion of the state of the mind.*

Andrew: “How can i translate it?” It gave me a headache sometimes..yes. Some words cannot be expressed in sign as they are arbitrary, so I had to express them in English and continued on in SgSL. 

Q: Any funny moments you had during assignments?

Andrew: My memory… no.. more of an experience.. I was doing the sign language interpreting. My wife who was checking the transcript and monitoring had a frown on her face. She looked as if she wanted to say something. 

*A text pop-up appeared next to Andrew: What?*

Andrew looked away, with a questioning facial expression. Andrew then smacked his forehead as a text pop-up appeared next to him: Be focused!

Jessica: My memory is… a funny one. When I was filming a video, it happened that a delivery guy had come and rang the bell. The light was flashing on top.


*An insert of blue round doorbell picture popped up, with its text: visual doorbell for the Deaf*.

* There was a red blinking crown illustration above her left head. *

Jessica: I had to stop filming and open the door for the delivery. *laughing* The light was bright blue! I had no choice but to stop everything. 

Andrew: I was discussing with my wife about breaking up into several videos. So it’s easier for me to tackle bit by bit. It’s difficult for me to remember the whole script from start to end. That’s why we decided to do this. We proceeded and finished the work. We made sure each video was recorded and saved as per the plan. I packed up all the equipment and checked the videos. 

Andrew let out an exclamation with eyes wide open, as he gestured with his hand to show a video. 

*A yellow exclamation mark pop-up appeared next to Andrew: ‘!!’ 

“Ehhh this part is missing!” 

Andrew: I asked my wife where was it. 

Andrew sighed with a big heave through his hands, with a text pop-up next to him: Urgh.

Andrew: We had to start all over again from start to end. 

An ghastly apparition illustration popped up, moving away from his torso, as Andrew heaved a heavy sigh. 

Andrew: Six minutes turned out to be a few hours till late night when we finally submitted them. That was quite an experience. 

The video then cut to a black screen with white text.

Our work doesn’t end here.
Behind these videos is our continuous advocacy
For better Deaf accessibility. 

The frame then moved to a white background strip with “Thank You” in colourful moving-animatedly text and a yellow star decorating the text. On the right of “Thank You” is the black text that reads as: Jessica and Andrew for all your hard work! 

Last frame shows the following text:
Produced and Edited by Hina
Supported by Equal Dreams

Like and Follow us at:
(FaceBook icon) equaldreams.sg
(Instagram icon) equaldreams.sg 

[Video Ends]