Institute out of options to resolve the problem 

Yangchen C Rinzin

Many deaf students are agitated that they cannot watch their lessons and news on television. They say the interpreter on the screen is hardly visible.

Wangsel Institute of the Deaf and Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) made a special arrangement and introduced a sign language programme last year which has become popular.

As the newsreader reads the news, a teacher from the institute interprets it in sign language simultaneously. It appears on the bottom right side of the TV screen.

Following the closure of their schools, their learning like in other schools has shifted to TV especially to update on news. But students can’t decipher what is shown on TV because of a problem.

Most of the local cable operators, especially in Thimphu and a few other dzongkhags, have placed their logos exactly where the interpreter appears on the screen.

For instance, the logo of Etho Metho cable in Thimphu on the screen covers the interpreter on the screen.  This has blocked the entire interpreter and the students can’t make out a thing.

A deaf student, as explained through his teachers, said that because the logo blocks the interpreter they land up watching other TV channels even if they don’t understand.

“I’ve missed out many news these days, as it’s of no use watching BBS,” another student said. “We’re not sure where are we supposed to request and get help, as we like watching the news every weekend.”

Many of the deaf students have also expressed similar problems to teachers but they haven’t found a solution. “We’re not sure whom to complain about this,” a teacher said.

Students said that this has defeated the purpose of the initiative. The students are facing this problem at a time when it has become important for them to stay informed about the pandemic.

The students also keep up to date on the Covid-19 issues and also watches a press conference every Friday.

With the difficulty in understanding because of the logo the students try to update themselves from the social media where other media broadcast the conference live. But this has proven expensive for them with high data charge.

A student said either the cable could remove the logo or BBS could place the interpreter on the left side.

However, this issue is not with all the cables in the country.

The institute’s principal Dechen Tshering said that there was a similar issue in Paro but it was resolved after requesting the cable operator to remove the logo.

“However, we’re not sure whom to write to help the students, as we cannot call entire 20 dzongkhags,” he said. “We had once requested BBS to lift the video little up or increase the size but looks like the issue is still there.”

On the other hand, BBS cannot move the interpreter because during the news broadcast, the interviewee’s details are shown in a strap and this would also block the interpreter. The decision to place on the right was made following the international norm and after consulting the institute earlier.

The principal said that it was scientifically proven that eyeballs move from left to right meaning a deaf student looks at the image and then automatically looks at the right for the interpreter to understand the image.

“We’re not sure if we’ve to write to any authority to request the cable to remove the logo,” he said.

The institute is still trying to figure out a solution.

Meanwhile, an official from the Etho Metho Cable said that it would be not possible to remove the logo or change its position, as it is digitalised.

“To change or remove, we must have an engineer from India to do that. But we cannot call the technician because of the Covid-19 so, we cannot do anything.”