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Deaf students in M'sia's universities voice out
Publication Date : 19-09-2013
Imagine not being able to hear a thing while your teacher gives lessons to the rest of the class.
You strain to lip-read as you scribble down whatever is projected on the LCD screen.
To avoid lagging, you borrow your friends' notes and later consult your teacher about the lesson, using only a pen and paper to communicate.
This is what a typical day is like for a deaf university student in Malaysia.
Fakhrul Razzi, 24, who has just completed a diploma in Business Management, shares the problems he faced as the only deaf student in his public university.
"Sometimes, lecturers teach without visual aids because it is an inconvenience to prepare the material. This means I have to approach my classmates for help or else I will be left behind," said Fakhrul.
The lack of basic infrastructure like LCD projectors in classrooms also hampers learning for the deaf.
Fakhrul, who mostly communicates with his classmates through writing, said interacting and socialising were among the hardest challenges he faced as a student.
"It is difficult to keep up with my friends who can hear but I take it in my stride," he said in relation to things that were lost in translation.
Fakhrul rarely uses the free sign-language interpreting service provided by the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD) because of the interpreter's travel costs that he has to bear and the availability of interpreters on short notice.
"Universities should strive to provide interpreters, or at least notes, LCD projectors and PowerPoint slides for disabled students," said Fakhrul, who one day hopes to open his own advertising and marketing company.
Even though deaf students are faced with many barriers, they can still overcome hurdles and do well in education.
"There are those who manage to be on the Dean's list. We also have two deaf students who are currently pursuing their Master's degree," said MFD president Mohamad Sazali Shaari.
The MFD also advocates for facilities for the deaf in universities.
"Ideally, there should be an availability of interpreters and facilities such as internet connections and video chat services for the deaf," Sazali added.
"There is a need for English interpreters as many classes are conducted in English," said Farhan Kamarzaman, 23, a deaf student currently pursuing his diploma in the Multimedia University.
When it comes to seeking higher education, the deaf are left in a dilemma.
"Sign language interpreters need to be at a higher level or on par with the deaf student. For example, a deaf PhD student requires an interpreter with similar qualifications.
"The interpreter needs to have proficiency of language and specific knowledge to interpret for conferences and research. It is hard to find someone suitable to fulfill this criteria," said Sazali.
Despite all obstacles, the deaf have come a long way in overcoming their disability.
"We have deaf individuals working both the public and private sectors. Many have good positions in their respective industries," says Sazali with a smile.