Thursday, August 11, 2005

Gazeta Po-Kievski reported yesterday (in Russian) that Natalya Dmytruk, the brave sign language translator from the UT-1 state TV channel, might soon lose her job:

[...] They've decided to get rid of the sign language translation at the First National, the country's main channel that reaches the largest audiences nationwide. This way they are depriving those who can't hear of their only source of information. They believe sign language translation affects their ratings negatively, though with the audience like this the ratings can only grow: there are about 60,000 registered members of the Ukrainian Society of the Deaf alone. Natalya Dmytruk and her colleague, a sign language translator Lada Sokolyuk, have been sent on vacation till autumn, without an explanation of what awaits them later. No one has apologized to the viewers, either.

Says Marina Liferova, sign language translator of the Ukrainian Society of the Deaf:

- At first they moved the newscasts with sign language translation from 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to an earlier time - 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The unofficial explanation for this was that people who can hear well come home from work in the evening, turn on the news and don't feel good watching the newscast: they are annoyed by the sign language translation.

But there's also a theory that they decided to get rid of the sign language translators because they remembered Natalya Dmytruk's brave action, when she, during the election, informed the people who couldn't hear that the election results had been falsified. Like, who knows what you are moving your hands about over there. What if you have something of your own to say? I remember that certain media people in Russia considered Natalya's action a "violation of the translator's code of ethics." [...]

Says Natalya Dmytruk:

- No one gathered us to inform us about anything when the rumors began to spread that the sign language translators would be dismissed. Then we learned that from July 18 there'd only be left two newscasts at the channel - at 6:30 pm and at 9 pm. Both without sign language translation. When I got to see Andrei Shevchenko [vice president of the National TV Company of Ukraine, formerly a Channel 5 host], he told me: "You've got only one thing to do - a vacation. Take a vacation - you've accumulated so many days off - and leave. I'll tell you honestly: your future is very uncertain. Because newscasts with sign language translation are, in our opinion, inefficient. A sign language translator in the corner of the screen is distracting. That has a bad influence on the ratings. And one more thing. You are getting a salary from the channel. I understand that it's not too high (580 hryvnias - editor's note, [$116 a month]), but, little by little, it'll allow us to save money. We spoke with the Ministry of Labor and Social Politics, and they told us that 95 percent of the deaf would like to see a crawler, not sign language translation."

This is extremely cynical and it's also a violation of the individuals' right to obtain information. Even the Constitution says that "sign language has an equal status with other languages used in Ukraine." Most people who can't hear fail to read the crawler. Many miss the meaning of a story when they have to focus on reading instead of on the picture. Many miss the text while watching the picture.

I remember feeling happy when Shevchenko joined the channel. I watched nothing but Channel 5 during the revolution and I admired his work. Together with him we paced around in the snow at Maidan - and here's what we've got now...

My parents are deaf and my husband doesn't hear well. You should've seen their faces when they learned that there's not gonna be news with sign language translation anymore. And I just burst out crying when they asked me why. It took us a lot to be able to have news with sign language translation at UT-1. But, it turns out now, the worst part of it is that during the old regime it was easier to achieve this.


Here's a nice story about Natalya Dmytruk in the Washington Post - As Ukraine Watched the Party Line, She Took the Truth Into Her Hands, by Nora Boustany, April 29, 2005:

Natalia Dmytruk did not have to learn sign language at school. Her first words had to be mimed. Both her parents are deaf.

The baby was crying. Big sister Natalia, then a 20-month-old toddler, alerted their mother by cradling an imaginary baby in her arms and tracing invisible tears down her cheeks. These were Natalia's first words, her mother would later tell her.

Her mother, a soft and loving woman, made the best Ukrainian cookies and the tastiest borscht. Her father bought his daughters a cheap record player so they could learn to appreciate classical folk songs. When Dmytruk was older and her parents needed medical care, she accompanied them to give them a voice. Her eyes talk when she expresses herself.


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