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.

 

References:

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.

A crash course / blog on how to work with a British Sign Language/English Interpreter

Quite a few times I have arrived at an assignment and I can see from the expressions on the hearing person’s face and sometimes the deaf person – apprehension. This may be because they have never worked with a Sign Language Interpreter (SLI) before or perhaps they have had a bad experience in the past (of course there could be many reasons but these are just a couple which spring to mind). Whilst they may be aware of the purpose of an interpreter – isn’t that why I was booked?  – to facilitate communication between the hearing and deaf person(s) (please look at my blog https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/04/08/british-sign-language-bsl-english-interpreters-what-do-they-do-2/ for more detail on this) they still might be unsure of what to expect – hence, this blog…

I will always be wearing, or at least have in my bag, my NRCPD badge. This shows I am a registered interpreter and have been approved to work with the public as a BSL/English interpreter. If you don’t see this on me  – then please do ask me about it (I should be always wearing it!)

I am present at a booking (whatever the reason, e.g. meetings, interviews, a doctor’s appointment) to facilitate communication for both the hearing and deaf person(s). You may notice I recognise the deaf person(s) through a previous assignment and that’s  just because the deaf community is a small world, but please remember I am impartial and must be in accordance with my code of ethics to which I adhere.

I will sign everything that is said and voice everything that is signed throughout the assignment.

Please speak or sign one at a time. I cannot interpret what is being signed or said by more than one person at the same time. It is also difficult for me to look at more than one deaf person at a time and decipher what they are individually signing.

I will usually voice over what the deaf person is signing in the first person. As an interpreter it is usual that I do not take part in the discourse between the hearing and deaf person(s).   This does not mean I am a robot and so if you ask me a question directly, I will of course answer – but it can become confusing if I am talking in first person interpreting what the deaf person is signing.

If you are hearing and having discourse with a deaf person, please look at the deaf person you are having the discourse with. I know it will be alien to a hearing person who isn’t used to working with an interpreter not to look at where the sound is coming from, but you are having the conversation/presentation/diagnosis/etc with the deaf person (not me!) However, the deaf person will need to look at me to see what I am signing.

It is not a great idea to use me as an example in your discussions – again, because I am usually talking in first person so it becomes confusing who is speaking.  Interpreters don’t tend to take part in group work because this could affect their ability to interpret if their concentration is torn between processing the information and trying to be part of a group. Of course, I am flexible and I have been part of some groups where it was necessary, but as a standard rule – probably best you don’t include me.

The interpreter and the deaf person will try to sit away from a window being behind us. Otherwise, the light will make a person’s face very dark and hard to see what the person is signing.

The mental process of interpreting can take time so there may be a small delay in the message being processed from one language to another. Please remember, interpreting into BSL is not a case of replacing the English words with signs.

It is always good to have plenty of light on me (but remember, no light behind me).

It can depend on the assignment, but most of the time I will need to sit opposite the deaf person for them to see what I am signing and vice versa. For presentations and conferences I am best sat as close to the presenter and near to any visual aids so that the deaf person(s) in the audience can see both quickly and easily. Sitting close to the person who is talking also means I can hear easier.

Sensitive and confidential information can often be signed and spoken in a wide range of different assignments. Please rest assured that I am bound to keep everything I hear and see in an assignment absolutely  confidential.

Of course, I am not a machine, and so although the above points are good practice, an interpreter is flexible  and will always hold in mind what is best for the deaf and hearing person(s) in that particular assignment. This could mean that on some occasions the above tips are more or less appropriate. I hope they will be of some help!

 

Is some access better than no access at all?

318947873_12028f1b66_oThis is a question that crops-up time and time again in my profession  – and one which doesn’t have an easy answer in my opinion. One thing that springs to mind when thinking about this is the abysmal access the deaf community received at Nelson Mandela’s funeral with the fake interpreter. It is still not clear to me why he was hired in the first place. Perhaps it was a case of forgetting to book an interpreter and they were in desperate need of someone and he was the only one available; or perhaps he came out cheapest – some similar reasons I hear now and again why an interpreter wasn’t booked.  Whatever the reason in this situation, if this was the only person available (and I find that hard to believe) but let’s just say he was – then I would think the right decision would be not to provide an interpreter at all.

Speaking to a deaf lady recently, she said that perhaps it depends on the situation which requires an interpreter. She gave the example of a child protection meeting compared to a parents evening, giving less weight to the importance of a registered interpreter at a parents evening. Another example she gave is the utmost importance of having a registered interpreter available at a GP or hospital appointment so that the deaf person goes away with the full knowledge of what was their problem, diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, as the charity SignHealth has found all too often this is not the case as shown by the ‘Sick Of It’ report (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/sick-of-it-in-english/sick-of-it-poor-treatment/ ) However, whilst this particular deaf lady may feel that she could tolerate an unregistered interpreter/signer, another deaf person’s view could be that this would be unacceptable. Perhaps this comes back to my previous blog about ‘choices’ https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/22/choices/.  That is, is it the deaf person’s right to choose who is and is not acceptable to interpret for them depending on their opinion of the situation?

As the deaf lady said, if she knew a person who was a proficient signer but had no qualifications to prove this and she wanted to use that person then she said that it was surely her right to have that person if she wished. I agree. Perhaps the problem lies when that choice is denied – that is, the deaf person wasn’t given the option. What’s more, perhaps one deaf person can get by with a level 2 signer that a school provided for a parents evening because they are able and happy to lip-read most of what the teacher is saying, so the signer is barely needed, except to clarify a few words lost on the lips. But how will that affect other deaf parents in the future? Perhaps in two years’ time in the same school a deaf parent will require an interpreter but is provided with an unregistered interpreter with no choice in the matter because the school saw how it ‘worked so well’ for a previous deaf parent so they now don’t understand why there should be a problem. The problem could be that this deaf parent finds it difficult to lip-read and can’t follow English as well as the previous deaf person (for example). Is there also an issue of hearing people being under a misapprehension when an unregistered interpreter and/or signer is used? They could believe that access has been provided and the needs of the deaf person matched by a level 2 signer being provided. However, that perception may well have been misinformed due to the hearing person having limited signing skills themselves and sees a person waving their hands about as satisfactory (as I probably would if I heard a German interpreter as I cannot speak or understand German).  Couple that with the deaf person declining to complain, and it could be assumed all is well and standards don’t need to be improved.

Furthermore, although it is about choice, if the deaf person was asked their preference how does this impact on the deaf person in feeling pressurised to accept a signer which is less costly than a registered interpreter? As with all people, this doesn’t just relate to the deaf community .  Some of us can be assertive and are aware of our rights, whereas others could feel obligated to accept whatever is provided and don’t want to ‘rock the boat’. Perhaps this contributes to the devastating results found in SignHealth’s ‘Sick of It’ report.

On top of that,  there is a lot more to interpreting than just being skilled in BSL. Swabey and Mickleson (2008 cited in Valero Garces and Martin 2008, p51) described sign language as “complex, linguistic, social cognitive and cultural process” and that interpreters have the potential impact on people’s lives (Swabey and Mickelson 2008 cited in Valero Garces and Martin 2008). Furthermore, an interpreter needs to be a holistic thinker, have reflective skills and be observant about experiences (Napier, Mckee and Goswell 2010). Therefore, whilst an unregistered interpreter / signer may have excellent linguistic skills, do they have the other attributes that have been described above to ensure high standards are maintained for the deaf person receiving the service?  Whilst it could be argued that registered newly qualified or trainee interpreters may not have attained all of the skills listed above, the assumption is that by being on a training course the interpreter is aware of their learning needs and seeking ways to achieve this.

Overall, this makes me think it’s about the importance of deaf people choosing who they wish to interpret for them. At the end of the day I am in my profession for the deaf community, so they should ultimately have the say on who they want to use as an interpreter (registered or not). I don’t believe there is anything wrong with trying to strive for the best.  One of the biggest reasons I believe in using registered interpreters is to promote, and to endeavour to have, the highest standards of interpreting available for all of the deaf community – that is if they want it.

References:

  • Swabey, L and Mickelson, P,G (2008) ‘Role Definition’ in Valero-Garces, C and Martin, A Crossing Borders in Community Interpreting Definitions and Dilemmas (2008) Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing Company, P51-71;
  • Napier, J, Mckee, R and Goswell, D (2010) Sign Language Interpreting Theory and Practice in Australia and New Zealand, Sydney, Federation Press;

Photo by Oberazzi found here – https://www.flickr.com/photos/oberazzi/

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!)

Registered interpreters – what’s all the fuss about??

FullSizeRenderA lot of people ask me why they need to book a registered BSL / English interpreter compared to someone who is not registered. These same people are also usually uncertain as to what it means for an interpreter to be registered. Are there any benefits?

For all interpreters who are registered, it means they have been checked by the regulatory body – NRCPD (http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/page.php?content=4) and so they have passed all the necessary qualifications and exams to work safely and competently with the deaf and deafblind community. They have achieved the minimum standards expected for BSL/English interpreters in the UK. Not only this, but it also means that they are continuing to ensure their skills and competencies are up to date. This is because they have to prove every year that they are undertaking continued professional development (CPD). I am no exception and so every year I need to show what I have been doing to ensure my interpreting skills are kept spot on. NRCPD will spot check different interpreters every year to check proof of CPD. So, I couldn’t have just achieved my diploma for interpreting and never study or learn about BSL again. Personally, amongst other things, I meet with a mentor where I can discuss how I can continue to improve, I go on courses such as medical interpreting, so I can learn how to interpret clearly and accurately for medical appointments and I am constantly watching programmes interpreted by deaf translators to learn from native signers.

Booking an interpreter who is registered makes it safe for both the hearing and deaf person using the interpreter. This is because if things go a bit awry and you aren’t happy with the interpreting / interpreter then you have a process by which you can complain. If the interpreter is not registered then you have no one to whom to complain and could be vulnerable to interpreter malpractice, or ‘cowboy’ interpreting as we like to call it.

Being registered also means I have to adhere to a code of conduct (http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/page.php?content=30 ):

Confidentiality – I am not allowed to talk to anyone other than who was present at the assignment about what I have interpreted or the information I heard or saw signed. This not only means my friends and family but also anyone else that might be connected directly or indirectly to the hearing or deaf person, e.g. their manager, work colleague or friends and family.

Competence – although I have been qualified for over a year now, there are still some assignments that I would not venture into until I have a couple more years’ experience, such as those which are mental health-related. Maintaining reflective practice about my skills with my mentor and on my own after different assignments makes me realistic about which assignments to accept.

Integrity – this links with competence and being honest about my skills but also to be honest in what I do and maintain professionalism.

Impartiality – this is another reason why it is important to have a registered interpreter – I am not on anyone’s side. I remain impartial to both the deaf and hearing parties and facilitate communication faithfully. People always ask me ‘If they swear, will you swear?’ Yes I will – if that’s what they said/signed!

Professional Development – this goes back to the point above about making sure my skills are kept up to date. I have explained to people in the past that I need to constantly keep learning about the language and that it is an evolving language. I give the example of the sign for telephone as this has changed over the years because what a telephone looks like has changed over the years. People seem surprised when I say that the language is evolving, but so are all languages! You only have to look in an English dictionary to see the words that wouldn’t have been known about 30 years ago, e.g. ‘Simples’ and ‘Choon’ (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ ).

I have seen a person who is deaf be asked whether they wanted to use their partner rather than an interpreter for an appointment. On this occasion I don’t think the hearing person suggested this on the basis of costs (as explained in my previous blog https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/15/cutting-costs-who-are-we-kidding/ ), I think they genuinely thought that perhaps the deaf person would want their spouse with them to interpret. However, whilst I know a few deaf people that want their sister or brother present, not only could it be embarrassing for the deaf person having to bring their family member along to different appointments in their life, it is highly likely they don’t follow the code of conduct. Just some of the things that could go wrong are the family member not interpreting everything so as to ‘protect’ the deaf person, e.g. at a medical appointment – they might miss out the ‘bad’ bits. But -this doesn’t promote choice as the deaf person has the right to the entire interaction between them and the hearing person. Similarly, someone who is not registered (and therefore possibly not achieved the desired standard to be a BSL/English interpreter) could miss out bits of information that they find hard to sign, not giving the deaf person full access to the information being shared. What’s more, if the signer (notice I say ‘signer’ not interpreter) cannot voice-over what the deaf person is signing then the hearing person will not be privy to the information being shared and it is highly likely a breakdown in communication will occur.

Check the register here to see which interpreters are registered: http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/page.php?content=55

Choices….

Choices“That was quick!” That’s what a deaf person said to me recently after an appointment. They meant no malice, but they were referring to the appointment being quick, approx 20 minutes. Looking back at my blog last week (https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/15/cutting-costs-who-are-we-kidding/), some people might think that an interpreter being present at a 20 minute appointment is pointless. In fact, I did feel that when I went into the assignment, the hearing person was wondering why I was there when there was not much speech to be interpreted. However, isn’t it about ‘having a fair crack of the whip?’ (As my father likes to say).That each person in society has the same choices as everyone else? I always remember at an interview once where the term ‘reasonable adjustment’ was described as – not lowering the standard but making adjustments so that we all have the same opportunity to achieve the desired standard, whether that be in the workplace, education, sport, or anywhere else.

I always enjoy receiving comments about my blogs and one in particular stuck out for me from my last post on cutting costs. It said that despite the cuts in education, health care or whatever service it may be, people who are deaf can still achieve. Just to be clear, I take that as a given. But, most importantly from this week’s blog, I want to make the point that these inequalities are still not fair or acceptable. In a society which has the recent Equality Act 2010 focussing on equality and diversity (positive!) there is still inequality throughout our society.

I believe it is imperative that we all have informed choice. Whether that would be an informed choice to a qualified or trainee interpreter, an informed choice as to which interpreter or note taker, deafblind interpreters, lipspeakers, etc. the person chooses, or informed choice about the information they are receiving.  A basic human right, agreed? Going back to my opening statement about ‘That was quick!’ I believe it was the deaf person’s right to have that information about what was going on in the room, the same as every other hearing person present, regardless of the time it took. With information people then have the knowledge to make choices about their situation and future. It is also their right to have that information interpreted clearly and accurately, thus the importance of having a registered (fully qualified) or regulated (trainee) interpreter so that bits of information aren’t left out or modified to fit the person’s ability to sign the message.

Having the choice of not wanting an interpreter present, I think, is also just as important. Perhaps the deaf person wants to have a family relation with them instead of an interpreter in a hospital appointment. Equally, perhaps they are happy to lip-read and don’t feel the need to book an interpreter. Each to their own! The important thing is a person’s right to have choices. It still baffles me why the powers that be question the cost of an interpreter. I feel the payment of interpreters needs to be factored into organisations’ budgets. Just like other professionals, tasks and equipment are budgeted for. For example, in the NHS shouldn’t an interpreter (for those deaf people that want one) be part of their overall health service from the taxes they pay? Is the health service I receive the same for a deaf person who requires an interpreter to communicate with the doctor but hasn’t been provided with one? Whilst I understand that for small businesses this could be more difficult compared to larger, corporate, companies, this is where the government needs to provide a budget for this. Isn’t this what Access to Work was/is about?  This could be similar to the requirements for most new buildings to contain a lift; all new public buildings and retail shops would require a lift as it would be unreasonable not to install one. Whilst a person in a wheelchair may never use these buildings, they have a choice to use them. Similarly, as a woman, I have a choice to have a baby without the worry that my job will be replaced by someone else.

We are all entitled to a level playing field in life. Whether that is me having a right as a woman to have my pay equal to the male equivalent in the same role at work; or a deaf person’s choice to have an interpreter – whatever the length of time; Or, my right to have the same standard of medical care regardless of how much I earn or I can afford to pay. What people choose to do after that is up to them. Hopefully, registered (fully qualified) and regulated (trainee) interpreters can contribute towards this level playing field.

Image from: © Copyright Andy Waddington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

New beginnings, challenges and hopes for the future….

NewSo, this week was my final week working at Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education (the Academy). That means I am no longer a PAYE employee and the safety net of a regular wage has gone. I enjoyed working at the Academy as an Equal Access Coordinator to help ensure access to communication for the deaf staff was on par with those who are hearing. Principally, I made sure all communication sent to staff, i.e. all staff emails, newsletters, etc. had a BSL translation (in video form) to accompany the English text.  This helped to make sure deaf people were not the last to know about news and information happening in and around the Academy. Previously, deaf staff would receive emails with no BSL translation which meant that for some, they would struggle to understand the message perhaps because there was too much jargon or ‘flowery’ language or quite simply because English is, for most deaf people, their second language. A dual communication policy has since been released stating that no all staff email can be sent without a BSL translation attached and they must be sent at the same time (i.e. not the English email sent and then BSL translation sent 1 week later). This is a real innovative step for an organisation – and whilst you may be thinking this seems a simple thing to do – you would be surprised at just how many workplaces don’t do this, particularly those who employ deaf staff. I hope that the Academy continues its practice and other organisations copy shortly.

The Academy job was a good one and I worked with some great people, but I was finding it increasingly difficult juggling working at the Academy for 2 days and freelancing as an interpreter for the rest of the week. Interpreting is my real passion. I do feel working at the Academy in this capacity has helped me as an interpreter because it has given me an insight into some of the challenges people who are deaf can face when at work. It has also helped me to see certain situations from both perspectives, not only in terms of deaf staff, but also seeing hearing staff wanting to change attitudes and improve access but finding that it isn’t something that can happen overnight. Of course, in any organisation, change is not easy and there will be some reluctance shown by staff. Hence, the importance of deaf awareness for new and existing staff. As mentioned in my previous post ‘Deaf awareness, for what it’s worth…’ hearing people are not naturally deaf aware. I believe holding both perspectives of hearing and deaf people in mind when interpreting will help me appreciate that not everyone knows how to work with a BSL interpreter or are deaf aware just because they have deaf staff working with them.

A new beginning? Yes indeed it is. Challenges ahead? I expect so. But not only for me as a freelance interpreter, but also for the BSL interpreting profession as a whole. Things have still not settled with the recent cuts and changes to the Access to Work scheme (‘A2W’: a service provided by the government to support anyone whose health or disability affects the way they do their job) and discussions are on going. In the meantime, this is causing untold stress in the workplace for deaf employees who are unsure if their support will continue hindering their ability to do their job; the introduction of the National Framework Agreement (NFA) where the government has asked companies to bid for a new national contract to provide language and translation services including BSL interpreters – a worry that contractors will reduce or ignore fair fees in order to maximise profits, having a profound effect on quality and standards ;and, whether you believe the figures or not, The National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI)  reports 48% of the profession are thinking or already actively seeking to leave the profession because of such changes http://www.uniteforoursociety.org/blog/entry/british-sign-language-interpreting-a-profession-in-decline/ . Other challenges are those still employing people who have not received training as a registered interpreter to support and work with deaf people – and deaf people feeling unable to complain that a signer has been employed with barely conversational BSL (level 1 and 2) perhaps because they don’t want to make a fuss in case their employer deems them to be complaining and a nuisance. These are just a few challenges and there are many more I have not mentioned – to be explored in future blogs. But, is there hope and opportunities for the future? Of course! I am hopeful I can be an ‘agent for change’ to educate people – both in working as an interpreter and, if only in a small way, by writing my blogs http://www.streetleverage.com/2013/04/ethical-choices-educational-sign-language-interpreters-as-change-agents/ . As the message gets out into the public domain, then perhaps deaf awareness increases and A2W will achieve an outcome shortly which will be for the interests of those depending on it; the NFA will safeguard deaf customers who are entitled to appropriately qualified registered BSL interpreters who will be paid competitive fees.

How will it all pan out? Watch this space….

Deaf Awareness – for what it’s worth….

At the moment, deaf awareness seems to be a very popular, interchangeably used, term. I’m not sure if some people really know what is meant by it and its worth. I include myself in this category, saying things such as ‘they need more deaf awareness!’ but perhaps overlooking the fact that hearing people are not naturally deaf aware. Maybe, I have gotten used to the unfortunate fact that a good proportion of people I work with do not have any deaf awareness – even if as a trained interpreter I have methods to try and quickly educate the hearing person in the 15-20 minutes I have before the interpreting begins. Maybe my attitude links back to the point I made in my previous blog (‘How to book an Interpreter’) about taking things for granted. I take for granted that people have an innate deaf awareness. I hear myself saying things such as “She is deaf, why would anyone treat her any differently?!” or “If I met a deaf person for the first time and wasn’t an interpreter I am sure I’d know the basics of being deaf aware or ‘deaf friendly”.

That just isn’t the case. I recently witnessed an event where there was no deaf awareness from the hearing person. The consequence of this was upset to the deaf people and hearing person; confusion for both; and, ultimately, discrimination to the people who were deaf. Recently, Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) released a video called ‘Dave the signer’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JH6zV2ltsQ. If you haven’t already watched it then I really recommend that you do!! It is produced very well and it’s very funny! I remember forwarding it to my friend who replied “SHOCKING!” He is right, it is shocking, to which I replied “Sadly, this is the reality for a lot of deaf people.” My recent experience proved this. Without deaf awareness, people could be excluded and in this 21st century, this can’t be acceptable or necessary.

In my last experience, there was a lot of worry about health and safety linked to people who were deaf. I know, health and safety does have to be a consideration, but honestly, how do you think people who are deaf managed in the past?! Believe me, with some of the current, poor, provision for people who are deaf – having fire alarms with no flashing red light for example, they have had to develop strategies  and know what to do, long before any health and safety regulation was introduced. In a similar situation, the other day I attended a lifeguarding course and the trainer was unsure how a person who is deaf could become one. The trainer missed what one of their hearing colleagues remarked: that as hearing people rely on their hearing, people who are deaf rely on their eyes. For lifeguarding this is ideal, and she went on to say that they usually spot someone in danger long before the hearing lifeguard does. So again, how do you think people who are deaf get by in everyday life?! I don’t believe there are more deaths or injuries because of someone being deaf.

Below I have some tips for someone who wants to be more deaf aware. Before I move onto these tips I think it is important to say that people should have the opportunity to become deaf aware at a younger age. I know that not everyone will meet a person who is deaf (although I find that hard to imagine) and I think it’s brilliant that so many businesses, individuals and charities have taken the initiative to go on courses to be more deaf aware. But is this something people could be learning in schools? For example, I know that at the moment Danielle Williams http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-break-the-silence is trying to get British Sign Language taught in schools – this would help normalise it and it wouldn’t be so alien. I have seen people appear unnerved when meeting a deaf person for the first time. I still witness people’s attitudes that it is a ‘lesser’ language or some sort of strange way of communicating – where has this attitude come from and why is it still present in 2015?!

So, the tips…this is not a comprehensive list and is not a one size fits all for every deaf or hard of hearing person you meet. I hope these will aid or improve your communication in the future:

  • Before starting to talk to the deaf person make sure you have their attention (you may need to wave or tap them);
  • Face the deaf person and make eye contact;
  • Speak clearly, don’t over-exaggerate your lip pattern, just speak like you normally would;
  • Tell the person who is deaf the topic of the conversation;
  • If you are in a group of people, speak one at a time;
  • If someone doesn’t understand you, don’t keep repeating it. Try saying it in a different way. Also, don’t give up or say ‘it doesn’t matter’ – imagine someone saying that to you, it’s not nice!
  • Be open and honest – if you are unsure of the protocol of using an interpreter (where or where not to look, etc.) just ask. Attitude is key!
  • Try your best. Of course we cannot all be proficient signers, but there are other ways, e.g. gesturing, perhaps the deaf person can lip read, pointing to things. Perhaps if you have learnt some signing in school you could use a little?
  • If you are communicating with a deaf person, look at them (not the interpreter!) I know it can be strange at first because people who are hearing will instinctively look at whoever is talking, but no eye contact with the deaf person is rude!

How to book an Interpreter….

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Taking for granted that everyone knows how to book a BSL / English interpreter is easily done. I work every day with those that book and work with interpreters (both hearing and deaf) so I risk the assumption that, of course, EVERYONE knows how to book one (or two, or however many you need). However, talking to those that do not work in the field of interpreting or connected to it in any way, this reminds me that it could be an unfamiliar and possibly, quite a daunting task. For those of you that often book interpreters then have a look below to see if there is anything that could make the process easier….

Whichever your preferred method of contact there is some essential information which the interpreter will need to know initially before a booking can be finalised….the date and time. This is important so that the interpreter can check their diary and get back to you ASAP. Not certain of the date and time? No problem, the important thing is that both you and the interpreter are flexible enough to determine a time and date that suits both of you. An interpreter may be able to hold a date that you have in mind with the agreement that you will get back to them with more finalised information.

So, if the time and date has been discussed, the interpreter will need to know the expected length of the booking. Working from English to BSL or BSL to English is a tiring task and usually after about 45 minutes of non-stop interpreting my brain is frazzled and I need a short break! If the length of the booking is longer than 45 minutes best practice dictates booking two interpreters. This means that they can both co-work together. Usually one interpreter will decide to work 15 to 20 minutes on their own and then swap with their co-worker and vice versa throughout the length of the assignment. There can be times when one interpreter could work solo for the entire day, but they would need lots of breaks to avoid interpreting overload! These breaks are not only for the interpreter to recharge but also to ensure the quality of interpreting is consistent. For an interpreter to say that they don’t need breaks means that the quality of either their English or BSL being produced will be poor. Thus, one of the main aims of having an interpreter, i.e. that communication is clear and accurate between both the hearing and deaf client(s), would not be achieved.

Prep would be grand, thanks. Sometimes, with a short booking, it may not be possible to provide prep (e.g. information that can help the interpreter have a better understanding or can research about the assignment, such as powerpoint slides, meeting minutes, etc). It is worth considering that, what might be pointless to you could be meaningful to the interpreter. For example, I interpret a lot of religious services and on many occasions the person preaching delivers their sermon ad-lib (that’s their style, fair enough!). However, when I ask them about their ‘scribbled notes’ as they like to call them, this is really handy because I then know the aim of their message/sermon and what they want their ‘take home message’ to be for those listening. If I know this then I can keep this in mind when interpreting. I can also research more around the topic and practice how I would interpret phrases and signs. Also, having this prep in advance is vital. Most of those who knew me when I was studying at Cardiff or when doing my Diploma at UCLAN knew that my brain sort of switched itself off after about 10.00pm, I was not one of those people that could work ‘through the night’ as some of my peers would say (you’ll be pleased to know I am an early-bird). That means, receiving prep late at night before the booking isn’t always helpful to me.  

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Please provide the address of where you would like the interpreter to go. Preferably the full address, but the name of the venue and the postcode is always important. Hopefully, most interpreters will not make the same mistake I have done in the past which is to rely solely on their satnav to direct them where to go. I now know to plan the route on google maps or on an equivalent tool. Living in Devon is great, but the satnav can get quite confused.

It is always good to know before you make a booking that of who will pay. There is a service provided by the government called Access to Work (A2W). This could help with funding to pay for an interpreter. The service is there for anyone whose health or disability affects the way they do their job. Have a look at this factsheet for more information about A2W: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/307036/employer-guide-atw-dwpf03a.pdf

You are allowed to change your mind – this can happen, events, appointments, meetings (whatever you needed your interpreter for) can get cancelled. If you cancel me before 14 days of the booking then no charge is incurred whatsoever. Therefore, if you know you need to make a cancellation, best to do it ASAP.

Remember: By making contact with me does not mean you are obliged to book me as an interpreter. If you just want to know more information, discuss costs or have some questions, that isn’t a problem – always happy to help :).

So now you know what to do. If you want to make a booking for a BSL Interpreter or have some more questions then please do get in contact either by phone: 07791442625; Email: chall86@outlook.com or leave a reply here on my website; and, you can always contact me via twitter @CHHInterpreting