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

British Sign Language (BSL) / English Interpreters – what do they do??

531991_10151604872070097_50078918_nTo some of you reading this, it may seem that this question is pointless because the role of a BSL / English interpreter is obvious. However, considering I have had many people asking me this very question, I thought it was worth spending some time answering it!

I understand some people having misconstrued ideas of what the role of an interpreter is. It may be that these people have never met or worked with a person who is deaf until now and that is why they have hired me but still may be unsure of what I am there to do. I remember being at a wedding once and I met someone I used to know as a child. They asked me what I did as a job to which I replied I was an interpreter. When they asked me what language, I replied “British Sign Language.” They then said “Oh, I thought you meant an interpreter for a ‘real’ language.” Before we go any further, let’s be clear, British Sign Language is very much a ‘real’ language and was recognised in its own right in 2003 by the British government.  In fact according to the BDA, it is used by 156,000 people in the UK and many hearing people also use BSL which makes it more common than Welsh and Gaelic (http://www.bda.org.uk/What_We_Do/BSL_-_British_Sign_Language)

To put it simply, my role as a BSL / English interpreter is to facilitate communication between two people. The Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) defines a BSL/English interpreter as ‘…Someone who is (at least) bilingual but also has the ability and training to be able to work between two languages and facilitate communication between people’ https://www.asli.org.uk/career_path/interpreters_asli . When I interpret from spoken English to BSL, it is not a case of replacing the English word with a sign. Instead, BSL has its own grammatical structure and syntax. That means that whether I am listening to the spoken English and interpreting it into BSL, or I am watching the deaf person sign and interpreting into spoken English (a voice-over) then I must be mindful to reflect accurately the information and ideas, cultural context and intention of the signer/speaker.  It is important I take into consideration both cultures of hearing people and the deaf community. There may be differences that without mediation, could lead to misunderstandings.

A further question that I expect we all get asked a lot when you first meet someone, regardless of whether you are an interpreter or not is ‘So what do you do for a job?’ When I reply ‘A British Sign Language / English interpreter’ I know some people aren’t too sure what that means. That is, they understand I am an interpreter for a person who is deaf to communicate effectively with a person who is hearing (and of course, don’t forget, I also interpret for the person who is hearing and cannot sign with a person who is deaf and uses BSL). However, I can tell by their facial expressions that they aren’t sure when I am required in everyday life. The first question (‘What do you do for a living?’) is usually followed by the question ‘So where would you work?’ I work in all different domains within the community.   That could be for a GP or hospital appointment; a team meeting at work; a student at college (please have a look at my ‘My Services’ page for more information about what I can do), but essentially it is wherever or whenever a person who is deaf may need access in the community, e.g. the doctor, police, education, work, etc.

Therefore, I may interpret one-way (e.g. from spoken English into BSL for presentations and lectures) and/or two-way (e.g. during meetings, discussions, forums). I usually interpret simultaneously, i.e. at the same time as the language is spoken or signed, but I can occasionally interpret consecutively, i.e. I will interpret information in chunks.

In one of my previous blogs ‘Registered Interpreters what’s all the fuss about?’ (https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/03/01/registered-interpreters-whats-all-the-fuss-about/)  I explained that a registered interpreter will adhere to the code of conduct. This specific blog elaborates as to what the code of conduct means for interpreters who are registered. However, one thing to touch on here is that as an interpreter I remain impartial and does not act as an advocate for clients. I remember receiving some good advice that when I arrive at an assignment it is important I try not to say something like “Hello, I am here to interpret for Joe Blogs (whether Joe Blogs is hearing or deaf) because instantly it would appear that I have been booked for only that particular person. Instead, I try to say something like “Hello, I am here to interpret the meeting” (or whatever I have been booked for). Hopefully, that helps to imply I am impartial for both the hearing and deaf person present. What’s more, a recent article from Jen Dodds http://limpingchicken.com/2015/04/01/jen-dodds-why-hearing-people-need-interpreters-too/ explains that BSL/English interpreters are not just there for deaf people, but hearing people need them too.

Finally, although we are there to facilitate communication, however if you are communicating without using an interpreter then we won’t force our interpreting upon you! 🙂

(P.S. if you are wondering how the picture relates to this post – Happy Easter!)

Ever wondered why Sia hides her face?

SiaAnyone who knows me knows that I love my music. I have been told in the past I have an eclectic taste in music. My ability to be able to tell you the artist and title of a song from just the first two seconds of a song has never really gotten me very far (except for the Odd Fellows pub quiz Sunday night, now that’s a different story!) Anyway, I was recently listening to a single from the artist, Sia and I started to think about why she hides her face. It also made me think that we all have the right to have an identity and a voice but this can be achieved in unconventional ways.

From reading articles online it seems Sia wants to hide her face as she doesn’t want to be recognisably famous. She performed on stage at the 57th Grammy awards ceremony hiding her face by wearing a gigantic, blonde, wig which only showed her mouth (she used a guide throughout the evening) and had her back to the audience when performing. I wonder what effect this has with building a rapport with her fans? Whilst I am sure her hard-core fans know what she looks like (she actually revealed her face backstage at the Grammy awards and before she became really famous she would show her face). However, for someone like me who likes her music but might want to know a bit more about her, if I watched her at a concert and just had her back to me for the entire time, I can’t help but think I wouldn’t be able to build much of a connection. When I am in a conversation with someone and they are looking away whilst talking to me, or looking at other things, like their phone, I would consider this not only rude but also distracting, ultimately causing a breakdown in communication.

That said, we should all have the right to have a voice – and that shouldn’t be dictated by ’the norm’. Whilst I might find Sia’s decision to mask her face alien to what I do daily – to read a person’s facial expression in order to understand the meaning they are conveying -I do think it shows that we live in a time where people are making statements about their beliefs and feelings in unusual ways.  In Sia’s case, we don’t see her face but we can hear her voice. Another example of this was London fashion week where it is clear that what people wear can make bold statements. In this clip from London Fashion week http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/ Gareth Pugh (an English fashion designer) says that “It’s about connecting with your audience in a different way”. To an extent, this has always been true with fashion. Do you remember the PETA advert “we’d rather go naked than wear fur” where some of the most famous models in the 1990s posed naked to make this statement? What is perhaps more important now is about being ‘heard’ in different ways. In this day and age there are so many channels of communication such as Facebook and Twitter that I don’t even need to type anything but just upload a photo or show I have signed a petition for you to know my beliefs and likes/dislikes.  A person’s voice can be heard whether through an interpreter, or what I choose to wear, or my display on Facebook.  This is communication! And, is there not a certain amount of equality in this? A person could be hearing, deaf, blind, black, white, etc. but they can all make a statement in so many different ways other than by using their voice…and wanting to be heard is not asking too much is it?

Image: Labelled for reuse -http://www.biancaalysse.com/music-2/grammys-2015-sia-performs-chandelier-with-kristen-wig/