You may have already seen Mohamed’s videos on Social Media. He went viral when he performed songs and poems in sign language, and everyone was instantly hooked! The sign language coach was born to parents who were both hearing impaired, and now he specializes in teaching the hearing. We speak to him to find out more about his work and how he believes the hearing impaired can lead a better life in Egypt.
Here in Egypt many people have to combat stereotypes about themselves or their families and friends. Did you find yourself having to fight stereotypes about hearing and speech impairment?
All the differently-abled face many difficulties and criticizations. However, those with hearing and speech impairments have it differently, because their disability is invisible. So, one might be in public transport for example and not realize the person is next to them is deaf. Once they begin to use sign language, people begin to feel worried or scared due to the misconception that the deaf have a bad temper. In my opinion, we can combat these misconceptions with awareness campaigns where we raise people’s awareness about the hearing and speech impaired and their needs. As well as spreading sign language to make life easier for the hearing impaired and to integrate them in the community.
You could have used sign language for communicating with your parents and stopped there. What prompted you to want to get more into it and even teach it?
My parents being hearing impaired was even more reason for me to take this as a career, because I know their needs the most. I’ve seen all the obstacles and misconceptions facing them, and how difficult the simplest tasks, such as grocery shopping, might be for them. That is why I decided to become a sign language coach for the hearing.
The videos you made performing songs and poems in sign language have been extremely well received. What made you first decide to make those videos?
It was an attempt to attract the hearing community to learn sign language in a simple way that would reach all age groups.
Do you get students who are not hearing impaired but are there to learn sign language so they can communicate with family and friends with hearing impairments? If so, do you recommend specific courses for them?
Before they even consider it, they must first determine why they are learning it. Will it be a career for them, or is it so they can communicate with someone? They also need to pay close attention to the curriculum, because it is not a fixed one and differs from one translator to the next. So, it is the student who chooses the best curriculum for themselves. They must also consider the services provided in the course, as the language is not only about seeing the sign and copying it.
How can we raise awareness about hearing impairment and shatter stereotypes surrounding it?
We need to stop spreading the misconception that they are short-tempered and start portraying them correctly. We should integrate them in series and movies, and search for gifted actors who are hearing impaired. We can also begin making plays for children as well as short films about the deaf and their lives.
What do people with hearing impairments need for their lives in Egypt to be easier?
They need translators to be available in all sectors such as the media, hospitals, pharmacies, and fire departments. They also need work opportunities that’ll enable them to live a normal life.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to be a sign language coach for more than one language, and to develop my work with more modern teaching methods and new tools that’ll help them learn faster, as well as educational games and a strong curriculum.