President Obama Inspires Young Deaf Ambassador of Change

Written by Zam Naqvi

Paul Ntulila dreams came true on April 23rd 2016 when the US Embassy and the White House asked Lingoing to provide British Sign Language interpreters to attend an event where President Obama was speaking.

“When I found out that I would have an opportunity to attend President Obama’s speech and Q&A with young leaders and ambassadors of the future, I felt very excited. Barack Obama has been a huge inspiration and a very influential role model for me. He exemplifies the breaking down of social barriers in that he is a Black man and was elected to be President of the United States. This has encouraged President Obama Town Hallme to pursue my own political ambitions. Who knows, maybe one day I will become the first Deaf Black Prime Minister of England!” – Paul.

When Lingoing’s offices received the call to make such an important event accessible for d/Deaf people it was an honour and top priority for the company. “It is opportunities like these that create change and inspiration for our young deaf people, who carry the baton forward for the future of our community” – Sadaqat Ali, CEO Lingoing Ltd.

Lingoing has a network of interpreters, and we found two very trusted members of the Interpreting community to represent us. Brett Best, who is qualified as a BSL and ASL Interpreter and Sharan Thind.

Brett and Sharan recalled meeting Paul and his desire to pursue a career in Politics, and so arranged for him to attend the event. It is this type of initiative that we are so proud of, as Sharan explained “the Town Hall event with POTUS is unique. The impact that the event had for the Deaf BSL user was monumental.”

FullSizeRenderBrett, rightly states that “participation in the political process is fundamental for democracy. Members of the British Deaf Community have struggled with getting linguistic access to political information, and I hope that the British government will take note of this.”

Brett continues that if events like “these are made accessible to all members of society this ensures a diversity of perspectives and participation” which we are all passionate about.

This opportunity did draw an insightful contrast between a government that provides access as a matter Obama greetingof course at public political events and the lack of interpreters present at such broadcasted opportunities in the UK. This sheds further light on a question Paul wanted to ask, but didn’t get to do so “Do you think that the U.S. could serve as a role model for facilitating employment opportunities and access to society for Deaf people?”

A memorable experience for all of us involved and one that has opened more questions in our pursuit of equality.

What do you think? Please comment, share and discuss.

Interview with David Hall – ”the Deaf Man from Norwich”

A couple of weeks ago, one news story really hit the Lingoing team. Eastern Daily Press appealed for a BSL interpreter for the “Deaf Man From Norwich” who could not find an interpreter for his father’s funeral. This truly had an impact on us, as here in Lingoing we believe that every deaf person should always have an interpreter when they need one, especially with such a personal event. We contacted David Hall to find out whether or not he was able to have access at his dad’s funeral and we learnt about his story. Although full of sadness, it also had a powerful impact on us to learn how a person’s selflessness allowed for another person’s closure. We would like you to read it and share to raise awareness on the deaf experience.

Ovais: Could you tell us what happened when the article went viral? What kind of responses and support did you get from the community?

David Hall: When my father died of lymphoma cancer on 1st June, my mother and me were heartbroken. Two days later we contacted the agency that provides sign language interpreters in our local area of Norwich and asked them to find an interpreter for my dad’s funeral. I waited 8 days for them to get back to me! The day before the funeral they called us up. My mother spoke on the phone with them. She hung up the phone and started crying. I kept on asking her ‘’what happened’’? But she couldn’t stop crying. It made me cry too, it was very emotional. Finally she was able to tell me that they could not find an interpreter for the funeral. I could not believe it! I thought: “The funeral is tomorrow!” We were so frustrated that we didn’t know what to do! We decided to approach the local newspaper and told them about the situation we were in. That was the best idea – the article showed up immediately on the Internet, and it went viral very quickly! It spread on Facebook and people started to talk about it. One interpreter from London, a lady called Gemma, contacted us and she travelled the whole way up to Norwich on the night before the funeral. She arrived very late at night and I met with her to brief her for the ceremony.

Ovais: The fact that you had an interpreter for your dad’s funeral, what did it mean to you?

David Hall from Norwich

David Hall: Oh, it was wonderful! It was such a relief! It took the weight of my shoulders… I finally could say goodbye to my father with peace in my heart. The fact that the interpreter was there made such a huge difference. The vicar was standing too far away from me for me to be able to lipread what she was saying. It would be impossible for me to be part of the ceremony. Thanks to Gemma being there I could look at her and read the signs. The vicar read out loud about my father’s upbringing and his life story – some of the details I did not know before. It was written by my mother and it was beautiful that the interpreter could sign it for me. I was very grateful, the ceremony felt complete. It really meant a lot to my mother and me, and I am sure it was important for my dad too. After the funeral, I expressed my gratitude to Gemma and I asked for her fee for the service. I was so surprised she did not want to accept the payment, she did not even want me to reimburse her travel fare! She said ‘’I did it voluntary, that’s from the kindness of my heart’’, but I did not want to hear about it, so she told me to give the money to the charity instead. The same day, I transferred £200 to the charity that supports people affected by lymphoma cancer.

Ovais: What would be your message to hearing people who wouldn’t really understand the situation you were in?

David Hall: It is very sad that people do not understand how important it is for a son to attend his father’s funeral. It is so hard for a child to lose their parent, and for a deaf person not to be able to participate in the funeral ceremony would just add to the suffering that they’re already going through. I wish it never to happen again to any family. Deaf people should always be able to have an interpreter for emergency situations. A funeral is so important. It is just once in a lifetime when you can say goodbye to the ones you loved once they have gone.

If there has been a death of an immediate family member and you need support, please get in touch with us. We’ll do our best to help you find an interpreter!