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Lack of sign language education hinders disabled’s integration in Moroccan society

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On the occasion of the International Day for People with Disabilities, the Faculty of Education (FSE) organized on Friday a study day, the first of its kind in Morocco, on sign language interpretation, shedding light on its current state and the challenges encountered by interpreters in the Kingdom.

Under the title, “Sign Language Interpretation in Morocco: Current Status and Future Prospects,” the event was held in partnership with the Moroccan Association of Sign Language Interpreters and the Inclusive Education master’s program, bringing together experts from Morocco, and other Arab countries.

In this regard, Abdelaziz El Arsi, a University professor at FSE and researcher in Deaf studies, highlighted the importance of university involvement in the development of this sign language interpretation.

“In Morocco, there is an urgent need for competent interpreters who value professionalism and are sensitive to the needs of the deaf community,” said Al Arsi, adding “this community is entitled to accurate translation that goes beyond the superficial way frequently seen in media.”

Unfortunately, he noted that most experts in the Kingdom learned the language only from schools of the deaf, and received diplomas only from associations.

For this reason, he called for the establishment of comprehensive training programs that can provide academic diplomas and help meet the market’s growing need by preparing highly skilled interpreters.

“Universities in Morocco should offer in-service training in the field of sign language, as well as providing courses that would enhance interpreters’ skills, and most importantly forge collaboration with international institutions specialized in the field.,” suggested Al Arsi.

In this context, the expert indicated that the faculty of Education stands as the pioneer in this field, as it dedicated some modules of the Inclusive Education master’s program to sign language and works actively towards the integration of deaf individuals.

FSE will also launch a program dedicated to sign language interpretation in partnership with the University of Tennessee, USA, announced Al Arsi. In addition, the faculty’s English department plans to dedicate a module on this language.

He also shed light on the importance of including the deaf community in those training programs and decision-making processes.

The researcher in deaf studies underscored that “sign language interpreters must abide by the ethical code of this profession, by respecting deaf community’s privacy, their cultural and personal identities, and most importantly avoiding labeling.”

Mohamed Chakri, President of the Moroccan Association of Sign Language Interpreters, welcomed this initiative of launching the first-of-its-kind event within an Academic sphere, calling it an achievement.

“Translation in sign language, like any profession, requires training and qualification, which is currently lacking in Morocco,” said Chakri in a statement to Hespress EN.

He emphasized that what we see now is only the personal efforts of individuals interested in the field who try to improve their skills by seeking opportunities domestically or abroad.

“So far there has been no governmental efforts in this field. We hope that our association will be able to provide concrete proposals so that the government can support the qualification and training of sign language interpreters,” said the President of the Moroccan Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

Unfortunately, the number of professional interpreters in Morocco does not exceed 50 individuals, noted Chakri in his interview with Hespress EN.

As to the contribution of his association, he mentioned that it aims to raise awareness about sign language, advocate for its development, and train and qualify professionals in this field to provide quality interpretation services to an important segment of Moroccan society.

The event was also attended virtually by Mohamed Alramzy, the President of the Kuwaiti Interpreters Association, KhaledAldakir, the President of the Saudi Association of Sign Language Interpreters, and Wael Karmasi, President of the Maghreb Association of Sign Language Interpreters from Tunisia.

Alramzy, in his part, emphasized the importance of training experts in sign language to fight against the peril of literal and mechanical interpretation that dramatically hampers the scientific advancements in this field as well as the progress of the deaf community in terms of writing and reading.

It is worth mentioning that over 300,000 Moroccans suffer from hearing disabilities, including including 30,000 children aged 5 to 15.

A lack of sign language professionals presents a big obstacle in the classroom for people with hearing disabilities, limiting their full participation in secondary schools.

In 2016, the United Nations Development Program granted 7 million dirhams to the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality, and Family for a project of standardization of Moroccan sign language and training of interpreters.

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