Lone Working

C Hall Interpreting (1280x679)I have noticed recently there is an increase in the awareness and importance of making sure employed (PAYE) staff know how to keep themselves safe when lone working. For staff to learn and to be confident in the processes and procedures of lone working and to ultimately know what to do in an event of an emergency, e.g. a risk to their personal safety. But of course, lone working is a topic not just for those who are employed, but for the self-employed also. One could argue lone working is even more of an issue for self-employed people. It could be argued that of those of us who are self-employed and who regularly work on their own, having robust lone working processes in place is paramount to their safety.

It appears that sometimes there can be a culture of ‘I’ll be alright’ and ‘no need to make a fuss’ towards lone working and personal safety. I too am guilty of thinking like this, the classic mantra of ‘that could/would never happen to me’. However, considering the different places I visit and the distances I travel, it is important someone knows where I am. Whilst I am mindful that my field of work means confidentiality is essential, I do not believe this needs to be compromised in any way. I believe there are ways of informing someone where I am without revealing any information about the client. I know of other interpreters who share their electronic calendar with their partner. Their partner is only able to see the location, time and date (rather than the clients name, reason for booking, etc.). I know other interpreters who text the person they trust to let them know they have arrived at different locations and when they arrive home. ASLI Lone Working guidelines state that “….freelance interpreters should notify suitable team member/family member/buddy: Address of where they are going; Time of visit and expected time of return; Name and phone number of person to be visited”. In particular, the guidance highlights the need to always tell someone where you are going, the route you plan to take and what time you expect to return.

However, I know other colleagues (including myself, up until recently) that have no lone working procedures/protocols in place. To be registered as an interpreter I have to have an up to date DBS check, for reasons of safeguarding others. But what about safeguarding ourselves in the work that we do? The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance ‘Working Alone’ file:///C:/Users/chall/Downloads/indg73.pdf says that training is particularly important for lone workers. Particularly as “Lone workers are unable to ask more experienced colleagues for help, so extra training may be appropriate”. Lone working is not only about someone causing you harm, but also accidents. For example, slips and trips, car accidents in places with no signal, etc. (I understand the concept of having no signal in a bustling city like London seems impossible, but in the rural areas that the interpreters cover – it is very much possible to lose signal, e.g. Dartmoor). If we were the manager of a group of staff then we would have a duty to ensure their health and safety, so if we are our own managers/boss, then why don’t we regard things such as health and safety seriously for ourselves?!

The ASLI lone working guidance also highlights the importance being proactive in making your own pre-assignment enquiries – the importance of asking! I know this too well when I was a trainee sign language interpreter and assumed the other professional would wait for me outside the client’s house before entering. I was wrong to assume this and put myself in danger by entering the clients house without knowing if the other professional was inside already. Now, I know to categorically tell the agency to inform the other professional to wait outside for me and we can enter the property together, or I ask for the other professionals contact details to be able to text each other’s location.

Regardless of whether the risk is high or low, there is still a risk in lone working in the work that we do as interpreters. A simple phone call when you’ve arrived safely to your destination and when you have arrived home shouldn’t be too much of an ask. Let someone know where you are going and what time you are due to be back. These are all such simple steps to ensure personal safety and wellbeing. Look after yourselves!


I just can’t hear you….

8617995216_771cc8615e_q‘I just can’t hear you..’ said my Dad. Through gritted teeth I repeated what I had originally said to him. I then paused and felt the biggest hypocrite and quite mean! Why was I treating my father any differently from when I meet deaf people who cannot hear me? Looking back I can get quite frustrated with older people with hearing loss, who find it difficult to hear me. I go to raise my hands but realise they cannot sign, so that strategy is no use when trying to communicate with older adults with hearing loss.

However, other strategies that I use when communicating with a deaf person can help when talking with my Dad, and yet I don’t seem to use these. The strategies are things such as looking at him when talking to him. Too many times I’ll try to talk to my dad whilst I am walking away from him. No wonder he can’t hear me! Not only this, but when we are at the dinner table, for example for Christmas dinner, my Dad was left out of about 50% of the conversation because he could not keep up with everyone talking all at once. I did try to keep him in the conversation, but maybe I didn’t try as much as I would have if someone deaf was next to me. But why? Perhaps hearing loss is a lot closer to home than I previously realised and perhaps I need to practice more of what I preach. Sorry Dad!

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94630727@N07/8617995216/in/photolist-e8xtJq

Co-working -shall we do 20 minutes?

teamwork-709666_960_720The other day I had arrived to interpret a meeting with another interpreter (my co-worker). One of the hearing attendees of the meeting asked me why there was a need for two interpreters (as opposed to just me). Without thought I quickly replied that it was linked to the fact that interpreters cannot work for long periods of time without fatigue having an effect on their interpreting ability and so the other interpreter can take over after about 20 minutes (implying after the interpreter had swapped with me I could then rest). The second interpreter then quickly added that it was not just about turn takings to reduce fatigue, but also to feed the ‘working’ interpreter any information they may have missed or not heard, to write down jargon, names or dates, etc. These are just some of the main reasons for why a second interpreter would need to be booked for some assignments. Looking back I am quite shocked by the rather simplistic answer I gave and I have been trying to look at the possible reasons for this.

The assignment mentioned above made me look at the way I work with other interpreters. Am I at risk of slipping into an old-fashioned way of working and perception of co-working? I.e. seeing my co-worker and me as two independent interpreters taking turns independently so that one interpreter can ‘work’ whilst the other can ‘rest’.

Co-working or ‘team interpreting’ as it is more commonly described is said to account for approximately 30% of interpreting assignments Hozam (2010). Team interpreting has been defined as “…the use of more than one interpreter to provide communication effectively to and from all participants.” Carnet, Giovanna (2008). It is also stated that team interpreting occurs in situations that are lengthy, complex in nature, involve unique needs of the persons being served, or have special physical or emotional dynamics Hozam (2010).

Why, when looking back at some of the assignments when I have worked with another interpreter has our focus been solely on swapping times (how long the interpreter producing the target language, e.g. spoken English or BSL ‘works’ before they stop and swap with the other interpreter). I have put the term ‘works’ in inverted commas because of the apparent, common, misconception from those not familiar with why interpreters sometimes require a co-worker. I have had numerous conversations when questions are asked such as “So what do you do when the other interpreter is working?” and “Are you bored?” You may be happy to know that when I have been asked such questions, I have taken the opportunity to explain the interpreters role and even felt almost defensive to the fact that I had not been daydreaming or even planning my evening whilst my co-worker was left to work on their own –I too had in fact been working. As Hozam (2010) explains, the accuracy of the interpreted message does not only rest on the interpreter who appears to be working (the one actively interpreting) but it is a shared responsibility. Therefore, the interpreter who appears to be sat still is still an ‘active’ interpreter by doing all of the tasks that have been described earlier in this blog, e.g. feeding information that has been misheard, writing down facts and figures and also providing reassurance to their colleague. This is a more ‘collaborative’ approach as described by Hozam (2010) and is a model I want to follow. This is in comparison to the rather old fashioned view of co-working that both interpreters are independent of each other, waiting to take turns. I believe most if not all of the interpreters I have had the pleasure of working with in the Devon and Cornwall region also work towards more of a collaborative model. However, I know this has not always been the case by the following story I was told by a local interpreter. This was when this same interpreter was delivering the target language and their co-worker promptly brought out their wool and knitting needles to what I can only presume was to catch-up on some much needed knitting! Not the collaborative approach the local interpreter was hoping for.

I am not ignoring the fact that to avoid overuse syndrome/repetitive strain injury (RSI) through excessive repetitive movement without rest is one of the reasons two interpreters may need to be booked for an assignment. Not only this but an interpreter without rest will see the quality of their interpreting diminish – this can diminish after 30 minutes because of fatigue Hozam (2010), but the reasons for booking more than one interpreter is not only because of this.

Conversations with colleagues before I start an assignment are paramount to contributing to a successful interpretation, but these conversations should not focus only on switching times (these are important none the less to avoid confusion and to ensure equal distribution of workloads (http://www.academia.edu/8603248/Austrian_Perspectives_of_Team_Interpreting_-_The_Views_of_Deaf_University_Students_and_their_Sign_Language_Interpreters). Hozam (2010) states that discussing feeding styles in advance is essential to achieve this collaborative approach. I can relate to this as there have been some occasions where I have not known how the person likes to be fed. I know one colleague who likes to be fed by signing to them, but if someone was to feed a misheard name, word or number to me this would certainly throw me and could cause disruption in delivering the target language (having the opposite effect of what a feed is supposed to do!)

Therefore having these conversations with co-workers at the beginning of an assignment can reduce the risk of the comprehension of the target text being impeded, described as “A lack of harmony in the production of the teaming process” (http://www.academia.edu/8603248/Austrian_Perspectives_of_Team_Interpreting_-_The_Views_of_Deaf_University_Students_and_their_Sign_Language_Interpreters). By being more confident in the various reasons for the need of a co-worker should mean I can work as a team more effectively. Not only this but in a time where providing just one interpreter for an assignment is coming under more scrutiny because of purse strings being allegedly tightened, then the need for interpreters to be more informative and spread awareness about the motives for co-working is essential.



Patience is a virtue….

Holiday Spain 2015Recently, holidaying in Spain I was feeling very lucky that I had arrived in such a beautiful location – boiling hot, wall-to-wall sunshine and the beach only a short drive from where I was staying – lovely!

Everything was going well, I had the sun, sea and it was hot – what more could I ask for? Until…..I had to try and ask for something in Spanish. Before booking the holiday I knew it was an authentic, Spanish, holiday. The Spanish themselves holiday there. No problem (I thought), after all, why go to Spain if I am going to be surrounded by British people. I also (arrogantly) thought that there will (of course!) be some people who will be able to speak English! Turns out, not as many as I had hoped for!

Ordering food was the main problem. In supermarkets I could get by with a “gracias!” and “Hola!” and “Adios!” then looking at the till to see how much I needed to pay in Euros. Seeing as we ate out quite a bit for lunch and dinner, this became a chore and quite frustrating. My frustration was not so much with the Spanish people (they are in Spain, why would I expect them to speak English!) It was more with myself and the fact that I couldn’t put a sentence together in Spanish.

However, as the holiday progressed there seemed to be a divide between those who had patience and took pity on us simpleton English people and those that were frustrated with us and ignored us from the beginning once they knew we couldn’t speak Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, I went into cafes and restaurants with a smiley face, armed with my few phrases of “Hola!” “Gracias” and “Menu” and even learnt how to say “Sorry, I do not speak Spanish” – with an apologetic face. But to some, they showed no mercy and we were either ignored or treated  as if we didn’t matter and were greeted with a frown and lack of patience.

Before I continue, I want to say this is not a blog bashing our Spanish friends! On the contrary, it made me look at myself and how I may treat people who cannot speak my language in my home country. I am also mindful that any nationality (including British) could behave in the different ways I have described above. It made me think about how my friends and family may treat those who find it difficult to speak English (both those who speak a foreign language and also those who are deaf).

Whilst in Spain I found it frustrating that I was not able to get across what I wanted to say. It made me think that I really wouldn’t want other people to feel this way because of my lack of patience towards them. Of course, that doesn’t mean I will go out and learn all the languages of the world. Instead, what it does mean is that I can make a conscious effort to be patient when I am faced with problems in communication.

Perhaps we can all be too quick to judge or make assumptions if one has done something for someone else but had no gratitude shown. For example, moving out of someone’s way and they didn’t appear to say “thank you”.  – Maybe you didn’t hear them (I noticed when I tried to speak Spanish I would speak quietly as I was embarrassed with how I pronounced my words), or maybe they were deaf and they signed their thanks to you instead of saying it?! Or, maybe they said thank you in a different language – spoken or signed that you either misheard or didn’t see?! Either way, after being on the receiving end of feeling stupid, frustrated and partially feeling mocked – I want to make sure that I don’t make others feel the same. One of the ways I can do this is by being more mindful and patient with the various people I will inevitably meet in the future, in my home country.

Interpreters – Self Care

CareRecently I have been thinking about the necessity of self-care in the interpreting profession. This was mostly brought about by a conversation with a colleague about how empathising with deaf clients is a regular occurrence for interpreters. Harvey (2003) states that interpreters are at high risk of becoming overwhelmed with too many emotions and that it is imperative that interpreters have support mechanisms in place. I have been recently thinking about what support mechanisms I have in place….friends/family/my mentor/partner – but is that enough?

It is the unfortunate fact that BSL/English interpreters routinely witness intentional or unintentional acts of oppression experienced by the deaf persons. According to Harvey (2003, p207) “It is largely inevitable…to experience some degree of empathetic pain”. What’s more, he explains that interpreters need to have a balance of being able to empathise but not empathising too much as to get caught up in its perils. I have been advised that especially in a medical appointment, I need to ensure I am mindful to separate myself from the deaf person and remember that it is not me experiencing the trauma. Harvey (2003) suggests that you can become so consumed by the deaf persons pain that you cannot differentiate their pain from your own. Experiencing empathetic pain may happen by me physically seeing a deaf person in trauma but also by what information I hear. Whatever I have heard from my interpreting assignment I cannot ‘un-hear’. The way interpreters are affected by the information they are privy to is dependent upon the individual. However, I think an important characteristic of an interpreter is to have compassion, but that we don’t become compassion fatigued (a gradual lessoning of compassion over time). If the interpreter suffers from compassion fatigue or feels overwhelmed by the empathy they are feeling towards the deaf person, then in my view, this is the time interpreters need to focus on self-care. One way of maintaining self-care is through one-to-one supervision. Whilst many interpreters are involved in group supervision, it is questionable about whether some things can be discussed in a large group. For example, I don’t necessarily want to retell what I have heard (or course adhering to confidentiality protocol) because then all of those involved in my supervision group will then have to carry this traumatic narrative around with them, solving nobodies best interests.

Therefore, could a similar model of supervision used by the counselling profession be adopted by interpreters? There are similarities for the reasons why supervision is undertaken by the counselling profession – enhancement of skills and for counsellors to work through their own personal issues. What’s more, supervision is viewed by counsellors as an ethical imperative to ensure clients are valued, they are helped the best way possible and the client receives a better quality of service (Carroll 2007). Therefore as interpreters are we doing our clients a disservice by not having supervision on a one-to-one basis?

I have mentioned mentoring as an important mechanism for interpreters to continue to grow and develop as professionals in previous blogs. However, I don’t believe I could use mentoring in the same way I am describing the use of supervision. The Oxford Dictionary makes a clear distinction between the two – a mentor is described as a ‘trusted advisor’ while supervision is an ‘overseer’ ,’keep an eye on’. Therefore, perhaps a mentor could be used to refine an interpreters skills and a supervisor could focus on the wellbeing of an interpreter? A friend I know who is a counsellor has supervision on a weekly basis. If the information interpreters hear is sometimes similar to that of counsellors (e.g. accounts of abuse; domestic violence; working in mental health; etc.) then why are we not as an interpreting profession encouraging more interpreters to seek supervision to help towards self-care?


Carroll, M (2007) ‘One More Time: What is Supervision?’ Psychotherapy in Australia Vol 13No.3 35-40.

Harvey, M.A. (2003) ‘Shielding Yourself From the Perils of Empathy: The Case of Sign Language Interpreters’ Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 8 (2): 207-213.

Subtitle It!

5754743006_ab4e5268fe_bRecently I was with my dad and we were going to watch a film on Sky via Virgin Media. My dad is hard of hearing (old age – sorry dad) – but no subtitles were available. I thought I must have been doing something wrong because – hello – it’s 2015 – of course they would provide subtitles. I am not technologically minded, but how hard can it be to subtitle a film or programme?! When I looked into it on the internet I found hundreds of comments on the Sky ‘community forum’ asking for the reason why films weren’t being subtitled. Comments as recent as April 2015, such as this: Hi I have been waiting for subtitles to arrive for catch up and on demand but no joy. I have just started to watch on Amazon Prime and can get subtitles for some of the content so when is Sky going to play catch up?I love the fact there is so much to watch on sky but unfortunately being deaf it is no good to me. Thanks” (http://helpforum.sky.com/t5/On-Demand-Catch-Up-TV/Subtitles-for-catch-up-and-on-demand/td-p/2326136 )This isn’t the only time when my father wasn’t able to enjoy a TV programme or film – most evenings when he watches BBC news with the subtitles – he has to piece together what is being said by having the volume as high as he can without the vibrations of the TV disturbing the sound quality and the disjointed subtitling. So, not only is the lack of subtitling unacceptable, the inaccuracy of subtitling – whilst possibly, funny to us who can hear, can be insulting to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Recently SL First magazine released an article about the importance of subtitling, with the conclusion being that although some progress on subtitling has been made, there is still a long way to go. Check out the article and some mistakes/inaccuracies that have been made on TV here: http://slfirst.co.uk/entertainment/captioned-signed/ofcom-some-progress-on-subtitles-but-further-progress-needed/

Looking to my deaf friends and their individual perspectives on the situation I had some interesting comments. One of my friends recognised that the BBC appear to have a high percentage of their programmes subtitled, however they noted that the infinite number of other programmes available on freeview and other such TV packages appeared to have limited subtitling. Another comment from a different deaf friend was that despite being an avid film lover, and paying for a ‘LoveFilm’ subscription, some of the DVDs he was sent did not have subtitles. What’s more, the LoveFilm website does not make it clear whether the DVD you are ordering will have subtitles or not and it seems to be a luck of the draw whether you receive a DVD with subtitles. I also read on the blog ‘Day in the Life of a Deafie’ https://dayinthelifeofadeafie.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/video-on-demand-services-subtitle-it/ – See how E says “Without subtitles it’s like I am being excluded from the world”.

Coincidentally to me writing this blog, Action on Hearing Loss have recently launched a campaign called ‘Subtitle It!’ http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/SubtitleIt.aspx Action on Hearing Loss state that 80% ‘on demand’ providers do not offer any subtitles for on demand content. The government has pledged to review legislation for subtitling on demand services next year (2016) – please sign this petition to ensure this is a priority and that the government keeps their promise http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1783&ea.campaign.id=38715&ea.tracking.id=WebCampaignPage . Furthermore, looking at America where the amount of subtitled on demand content is high – if they can do it – why can’t Britain?! I have also found that the famous, American, deaf, actress – Marlee Matlin (‘Children of a Lesser God’ and ‘The West Wing’) who is supporting the campaign – ‘VIKI Billion Words March’ where an online TV site streams content in more than 200 languages. Viewers subtitle and translate popular TV shows from around the world (http://www.viki.com/billionwordsmarch)

Regardless of the TV programme, I don’t feel subtitling accurately and consistently is rocket science. People petitioning for this basic right is not something so far-fetched that it is impossible to achieve. We therefore need as much support as possible to ensure that subtitling is featured on all programmes and features accurately. I expect if you think about it now, you can think of someone who could benefit from subtitling.

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/5754743006/in Daniel Oines.

Lip reading – hearing loss not necessarily predicting ability…

LipsI am amazed at those that can communicate through lip reading. I have had a go at it myself, e.g. when out in a club and trying to lip read my friends as to what they are trying to say to me – not hard considering it’s usually either “Do you want another drink?” and “Let’s dance!” As long as I catch the word “drink” or “dance” then it’s not rocket science to know what they are trying to say. I have also tried lip reading by turning off the sound on my TV and trying to lip read what is being said – for me, this is nearly impossible! Every day I meet deaf people that rely on lip reading to communicate. My concern is that this is then taken for granted as the main communication method the deaf person prefers to use. I remember one deaf person telling me that it is awkward when one hearing person introduces her by saying “This is ‘X’ she’s deaf but can lip read really well!” Lady ‘X’ says that although she can lip read she wished people wouldn’t rely on this. Why? Because lip reading is hard work! The deaf health charity – Sign Health, states that it is a myth that deaf people can understand 100% of a conversation through lip reading (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/national-lipreading-awareness-week/) What’s more, they state that “Lip reading requires a huge amount of concentration and perfect environmental conditions, and even when both of those factors are achieved, a D/deaf person can only understand 20%-60% of a conversation.” 20% to 60% of a conversation – so what happens to the rest of the 40% of the discourse? As a hearing person, whilst I may not always fully understand what a doctor has said to me at least I have received the whole message to be able to have the option of asking questions to clarify what I have heard. However, Sign Health have found from their ‘Sick of It’ report that only 3% of deaf people want to communicate with their doctor via lip reading, but 40% are forced to (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/national-lipreading-awareness-week/).  Don’t get me wrong, I expect there are deaf people who are happy to communicate via lip reading, that is their choice! But as my previous blog says about “Choices https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/22/choices/” and as Sign Health states – the best thing is to ask how the deaf person wants to communicate and to not make assumptions about their communication needs. Every deaf person is, of course, different and therefore we can expect people who are deaf to have differing communication needs. What’s more, whilst a person who is deaf may be able to lip read one person this does not necessarily mean they will be able to with another person. So many factors such as accent, facial hair all have a part to play in the ease/difficulty of lip reading. As the Scottish Sensory Centre at Edinburgh University have stated – “There is naturally individual variation in the ability to lipread, and as with any skill, competence varies, with level of hearing loss not necessarily predicting ability.” (http://www.ssc.education.ed.ac.uk/courses/deaf/ddec05f.html)

So many words look the same on the mouth from what is actually being said. We know that this is true just by the amount of videos out there at the moment which are dubbed for comedy value  – take a look at this- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjGk_jU6t5A. Whilst this video does have comedy value, it also has a serious undertone about how ambiguous lip reading can be. Whilst there may be some situations where lip reading can be used to ‘get by’ and get the gist of what is being said, I do believe there are other situations such as a GP and hospital appointments where getting by, i.e. receiving 20% -60% of the message isn’t good enough and could have devastating consequences.

Picture sourced from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fauxpress/ Jan McLaughlin