The election campaign reached its climax at Spikersuppa in Oslo.
But local politician Sonia Meyer Holten (V) is also fighting another battle:
To be politically active even though she is deaf.
– It was a panel discussion where I was supposed to represent the Liberal Party. I asked for a sign language interpreter, but of course I didn’t get one. After that, she says, the Left Party was not given the opportunity to express its policy.
Holton often stands without a translator:
– I have given up requesting a translator here. I can’t bear to go downstairs every time I get a no.
She believes that it is difficult for deaf people to get into politics.
– The party might think there’s no point in betting on me, because I won’t get a translator anyway, says Holten.
The dispute is about the lack of translators
About nine times out of ten, you get an interpreter when you ask for one.
This is according to the company Nav, which is responsible for the interpretation service.
But we don’t have the same experience, says Peter Nodeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Association of the Deaf.
It is estimated that only about half of all applications lead to a translator.
Last year there were more than 10,000 Tasks not covered by the translation service.
– “Naf has to take responsibility for each and every one of them,” says Nodeland.
But Nave confirms that 88 percent get an interpreter.
– It is average, so the individual’s experience may be different. Some get a translator less often, others more often.
This is what Berit Søgaard, Senior Consultant at Nav Aids and Facilitation, says and adds:
-I can understand that it’s frustrating. After all, we work to ensure everyone has access to it.
Priorities must be set
Several deaf people spoke to NRK to tell of cases where their interpreter was rejected at the last minute – even though they had applied several months in advance.
They mention weddings, school graduations, and career seminars.
Nav’s Sogard explains that thousands of undiscovered interpreting assignments are due to a shortage of interpreters.
– A number of freelance interpreters have found other things to do during the pandemic, because there has been a decline in demand, she says.
Marianne Edberg is the Chair of Interpreters at the Association of Academics, and has investigated this matter.
She says the main reason freelance interpreters leave is wages and working conditions.
However, the lack of translators means that Naf has to take priority.
– We first cover important life events, such as emergencies, funerals and health services. Then there’s work and education, Sogard says.
Politics and social engagement end at the bottom of the list, along with other tasks under the heading “daily life.”
– A democratic problem
This may explain why Sonia Meyer-Holten was unable to provide an interpreter to participate in the campaign.
“I feel like an idiot,” she says.
She points out that it is difficult for deaf people to understand politics.
– I also want to know something about Oslo politics, and the alternatives between the mayoral candidates. How do they argue for themselves? She says I want to learn from her too.
Noddeland of the Norwegian Deaf Association agrees.
He describes it as a democratic problem.
– It’s very terrible, he says.
The result is that society loses out on a group that has a lot to contribute. We deaf know where the shoe presses. “We know about problems that others don’t,” says Nudeland.
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