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Sign Language Interpreter Has Been The Voice For The Deaf Community In M'sia For 37 Years

Lucy Lim hopes that everyone will one day learn sign language in order for more deaf people to be included in everyday society.

Cover image via Lucy Lim (Provided to SAYS)

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Meet Lucy Lim, a lady with a big heart for the Deaf community.

She has been a seasoned sign language interpreter for almost 37 years and is still going strong.

At the tender age of 19, Lim was contemplating her next step in life. Having an interest and passion for volunteer work, she decided to become a volunteer for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). And she hasn't looked back since.

She volunteered at the YMCA for two years where she mostly focused her attention on helping out at the sign language programme that the YMCA had set up.

Ever since finding her passion for sign language and interpreting for the Deaf community, Lim went on to participate in more than 15 YMCA International Deaf Youth Camps, which were held in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Canada.

She considers sign language as her second tongue and is able to sign in four different types of sign languages:

- Malaysian Sign Language (BIM)
- International Sign (IS)
- American Sign Language (ASL)
- Singaporean Sign Language (SgSL)

With a strong interest in sign language advocacy, Lim decided to look towards receiving formal education in sign language interpretation

Speaking with SAYS, Lim said that she found that Malaysia only focused on practical training of sign language interpretation. While she thinks it is great that sign language is put into practice, she believes that sign language should be learnt as a formal subject in colleges and universities. 

Which is why she turned her horizons to Canada. There, she had the opportunity to witness a sign language programme where students were taught sign language in an institutional setting.

Impressed with the curriculum, she wanted to expand her skills and knowledge in sign language interpretation and signed up for the programme to which she was accepted.

She went on to obtain her Masters in Special Needs and Certificate Interpreting Training Programme at Grant MacEwan College in 1985.

She then began her career as a freelance sign language interpreter and was booked to interpret for big sporting events such as the Deaflympics that were held in Taiwan and Brazil

Lim believed that being a sign language interpreter didn't mean one had to be affiliated with an organisation. Which was why she focused on being a freelance sign language interpreter for the majority of her career and availed her services to different organisations around Malaysia.

Lim also talked about her more notable experiences as a sign language interpreter.

Having always dreamt of interpreting at an international level, she got her chance when she was invited to participate as an IS interpreter for deaf athletes at the 2009 Deaflympics held in Taipei, Taiwan. There, she interpreted at the bowling, women's football, and men's basketball stations.

She also had the opportunity to attend this year's Deaflympics held at Caxias do Sul, Brazil.

Lim signing for the deaf athletes and officials before departing for the Deaflympics in Brazil in 2022.

Image via Lucy Lim (Provided to SAYS)

Working in her line of profession did not come without challenges and obstacles, but Lim remains steadfast in helping to make the lives of the deaf easier

Lim has fought to make life more accessible for the Deaf community as she believes that there is much improvement to be made in order to make significant strides for the Deaf community.

Throughout the years, she has helped the Deaf community wherever she was needed.

She fondly recalls moments where she helped deaf individuals through major life events. From interpreting for a deaf youth conducting a presentation to obtain his doctorate certification, to facilitating a deaf woman's birth when doctors and nurses could not understand sign language.

She joined the Malaysian Deaf Sports Association (MSDeaf) in 2019 but continues to involve herself in freelance work.

Lim's job is definitely not a regular nine-to-five desk job, but she is willing to make the sacrifice in order to benefit the Deaf community.

Lim working on an educational video with deaf interpreters.

Image via Lucy Lim (Provided to SAYS)

To Lim, one of the most important ways Malaysians can help the Deaf community is to simply include them in everyday life, which means doing our best to pick up sign language so that society becomes accessible to deaf individuals

"By learning sign language, communication becomes easier with the Deaf community, and communication is very important when trying to make the world a better place for the deaf. Treat it like you are just learning another language. The more people who learn to sign, the smaller the gap between hearing and non-hearing individuals," she shared.

She urges Malaysians and hearing people to open their minds and hearts to the Deaf community and to be a friend to them so that there is a bridge between both hearing and deaf individuals.

"Don't back off when someone says they are a non-hearing individual. Attempt to communicate openly with them. Whether it be through sign language or using tools to communicate with them," she said.

Lim with sign language interpreters from South Korea.

Image via Lucy Lim (Provided to SAYS)

All this month, SAYS will be featuring inspiring stories of extraordinary Malaysian changemakers in collaboration with Wiki Impact

Wiki Impact is an online platform dedicated to the impact industry. They share stories and data on issues that matter, highlighting impact-driven organisations and changemakers on the ground. Categories include poverty alleviation, social justice, gender equality, healthcare and education for all, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, impact influencers, and more!

Find out more here.

Image via SAYS

During the pandemic, this animated sign language interpreter caught the attention of Malaysians on national TV:

Read more inspiring #SAYSWikiImpact100 stories on SAYS: