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SignTalk Foundation Addresses AIPAC's Lack of Inclusivity of People with Disabilities

NEW YORK, March 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Following on the heels of the global sign language interpreter fiasco at the Nelson Mandela Memorial service, SignTalk Foundation recently learned that another higher profile event was marred by the exclusion of the Deaf community.

AIPAC, at it's annual policy conference which is  "the largest gathering of Jews in America," reportedly failed to provide either captioning or Sign Language interpreters for its many presentations, including that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before an audience of 14,000.   Certainly, AIPAC lost an opportunity to take a step forward and be more inclusive of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. 

Ms. Mizrahi, the President of RespectAbilityUSA.org, a non-profit organization working to empower people with disabilities, who attended the conference, penned a blog for 'The New Normal' section of The Jewish Week's website, where she noted that none of the giant 40 screens set up throughout the conference included captions or sign language interpretation to enable individuals with a hearing impairment to follow the speeches. Ms. Mizrahi indicated that she spoke with the CEO of AIPAC, who admitted that it was an oversight.

The SignTalk Foundation recently conducted a survey of Jewish Deaf members of Our Way division of the Orthodox Union, a third of whom responded that Jewish cultural and religious events tend not to have appropriately qualified interpreters to provide full accessibility.  At the AIPAC Conference, a national event, no interpreters were provided at all.  Unfortunately, this problem is not unique to AIPAC or Jewish organizations, but is rather endemic and universal to many organizations, including world governments and events. 

SignTalk was recently consulted by CNN, Fox News, and other national media outlets in regards to the Mandela Memorial fiasco and agrees with Ms. Mizrahi that AIPAC squandered an opportunity. Organizations that enjoy influence and reach, such as AIPAC, shoulder a responsibility to publicly communicate the message that they promote inclusion.  Sign Language interpreters and/or captioning at all events should be automatic – a resource that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can finally take for granted. And it's not enough to merely bring an interpreter on board – proper vetting procedures must be in place to ensure their competency and professional qualifications, something that was a massive failure on the secret service's part at the Nelson Mandela Memorial.

SignTalk Foundation's mission is to promote, foster, and advance public awareness of the use and standards of sign language interpreting services, protect the interests of the Deaf community and educate the public to the need for Sign Language Interpreting.  It offers free of charge in-services to educate organizations on Deaf culture and the appropriate utilization of interpreting services to best meet the needs of their Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers and participants. 

SignTalk Foundation has also initiated a series of Deaf forums where Deaf community representatives have an opportunity to comment directly on issues that affect their community.  For example, our Mandela coverage includes a 'Can it happen here' discussion and most recently, Frank Dattolo, Community Representative, discusses the concept of Audism as it relates to Mamoru Samuragochi, a "deaf composer" who confessed that a ghostwriter had composed many of his most popular pieces.  It had also been revealed that Mr. Samuragochi may actually not be deaf.

Attached is a sample segment. Others can be seen at our SignTalk YouTube Channel.

Distinguished venues utilizing SignTalk LLC's services include educational, corporate and medical interpreting.  Conferences and platform interpreting include the 2007 Presidential debate between Obama and McCain and, more recently, the acceptance speech of NY Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.  SignTalk follows the standards of the RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) and the mission statement of the SignTalk Foundation.

For more information about SignTalk Foundation, please visit www.signtalk.org or contact Leah Schlager at +1-718-382-2020/ +1-917-655-0869 or Dr. Joseph Geliebter at +1-917-855-7578.

Other recent press releases:

SignTalk Responds to Fiasco at Mandela Memorial 

Vetting Process of Sign Language Interpreters Underscored Following Fake Interpreter at Mandela Memorial

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