Monday, May 21, 2012


Another case of daily discrimination

Today I met a Deaf friend at the passport office to interpret for her during her application process. A security guard (you Americans wouldn't understand this, but every Jamaican business, office or government location has security personnel) came up to me and informed me that I was not allowed to be inside without a number. I informed her that I was the interpreter. She said, "it doesn't matter, if you don't have a number relating to an application you are not allowed inside, you will have to wait outside." I informed her that I couldn't interpret from outside (maybe a bit sarcastic) and she replied that one of the passport office staff would take care of her. I told her that it was my friend's right to have an interpreter with her and by denying me entrance she was discriminating. The woman was kinda caught by the word discriminate but immediately refused that claim saying, "no way, dumb people (Jamaican's still use century old words to label Deaf persons as being "dummies") come here everyday and they deal with them, blind people come her, and they deal with them." I was getting really frustrated, especially that she called my friend "dumb" and so I corrected her "ummm, she is Deaf, she is not dumb, that is derogatory. May I please speak to a manager about this discriminatory rule?" It was 7:45 at the time and she said I would have to come back at 8:30. I waited for my friend, and thankfully she did get through with her application but still was confused about two different things because she was unable to ask questions and clarify during the process (they just asked her questions by writing on paper but didn't really give her the opportunity to ask and clarify, just took her documents, processed, them, and told her to come back in a week). We waited til 8:30 and returned, but were told that the customer service office wasn't ready yet. We waited another 20 minutes and finally got through. My friend shared with the staff person that she was frustrated that they did not allow her interpreter to stay with her and that in the future they need to allow interpreters entrance. The agent suggested we write a formal letter and send it to the director of customer service. We will do this. It may not seem like the biggest deal in the world, but its just Jamaica and the mindset of people here. Could you imagine a Deaf person in the States taking their interpreter to a government office where they are paying for a service and the office refuse entry to an interpreter? I can't see that happening. In fact, when Tashi and I visited the local Social Security office in Lafayette to get her name changed they had a sign indicating that they, SSA, would provide interpreters for anyone as long as they were notified two days in advance. They would provide the interpreter, at no cost to the customer! Here in Jamaica, the don't provide ANY interpreters, and what's worse, they refuse entry to interpreters the customer brings with them!!!

So ridiculous! I hope that through these situations I can handle myself in a professional, Christ-like manner so that it doesn't come off as being a negative situation from a Jamaican's perspective but that rather people can just start realizing the inequalities that are rampant in this society, and can realize that its fair for a Deaf person to have an interpreter, and also that things like calling a Deaf person a "dummie" will change and become "old" language that's no longer used. Ok, done venting. Now about writing that letter of complaint...

This is a side note from your post. I am sisters with Joy Gardner, which is how I found your blog. Does your school "make" or sell anything. I work with Trades of Hope in the United States and the owners are always looking to partner with Christian teams and countries. You can look up more about this new company via, but just let me know if we can help in any way. (Joy also sells Trades of Hope too).

Jill, yes, their are small wood and hand-sewn craft items that are made and sold to support the ministry and those who make the items. Could you please send me your e-mail address?...and I will get you in touch with the person responsible for the items. Thanks for reaching out to me!

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