The lack of a sign-language interpreter at former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral was discriminatory against the deaf and hard of hearing, deaf groups complained Tuesday.
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The issue of sign language at national ceremonies came to the forefront after late South African president Nelson Mandela’s funeral, where a hallucinatory impostor simply making odd hand gestures was on stage.
For Sharon’s funeral ceremony at the Knesset, translating devices were distributed for English and Hebrew. But no interpreters were provided for the deaf.
“When there is a national event open to the entire public, everyone must be able to take part,” said Yael Kakon, director of the Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Israel. “Deaf and hard-of-hearing people were excluded.”
Israel has signed UN charters requiring accessibility, and these specifically prohibit discrimination against the deaf.
“When they make events accessible, they keep forgetting us, but we do not have the privilege to give up trying,” Kakon said. She added she didn’t think the organizers of the funeral purposely omitted a sign-language interpreter due to the events in South Africa.
“What happened in South Africa only showed that a serious, reliable interpreter was needed,” she said.