Bedour Al Raqbani and Noora Al Kaabi at the Hear My Voice conference on Saturday.
Bedour Al Raqbani, founder of the Kalimati Speech and Communication Centre which staged the conference, said: “In the UAE, there is no programme where interpreters can graduate and Government initiatives are now trying to bridge the gap.”
There were often no interpreters at children’s’ events and few people took up the profession, she said.
Ms Al Raqbani said Noora has been in mainstream school since nursery age and she is a leading achiever, especially in maths and English.
“Children don’t see the difference. They used to call her Noora, the girl who speaks with her hand. They were not afraid of her and they have grown with her. Many of her friends know how to use sign language,” said Ms Al Raqbani.
She believed that more needs to be invested in training sign language interpreters.
“I am a strong deaf advocate and a deaf child’s natural language is sign. The child has their rights and we as a society have to empower them,” she said.
“We are very proud when we learn a foreign language, so why not learn sign language?”
Jamal Al Naqbi, 41, is an Emirati army officer who suffers from a hearing impairment.
“They can recognise that a person who does not have a limb has a visible disability but for the deaf, this not necessary,” he said. “I need someone to understand me clearly.”
“Interpreters should be present in all places, like hospitals or police stations,” he said.
Ayah Al Shammari, 18, a dentistry student at Ajman University of Science and Technology, has suffered from hearing impairment since she was six.
“I went to mainstream school and you do have to tell people to repeat themselves so people know how to deal with you,” she said.
Jasmin Beck, chief executive officer at HearLife Clinic in Dubai, which provides cochlear implants for children, said: “There is not enough education about treatment options and getting treatment done at an early stage. In this region, you don’t see deaf people in daily life. There is still a stigma attached to this.”
In a survey conducted earlier this year, Med-El, a technology company that researches hearing loss, found that one in 25 people in the region suffers from some form of hearing problem.