Did you know that it is increasingly common for Calliope members to be asked to supply sign language interpretation?
Several Calliope members as far-flung as Argentina, Canada, Italy and Ireland are supplying sign language services alongside spoken language interpretation on a regular basis – and the demand is on the rise.
Often, it’s legislation which has brought this about. In Argentina, for example, a Media Law provides that free-to-air TV channels must incorporate closed captioning, sign language or audio description to ensure that persons with disabilities and the elderly are able to access the content. The Law draws on European legislation about access to audiovisual services and includes working conditions, preparation for the interpreter before the assignment, and recommendations for managing any vicarious trauma and stress.
In Canada, the Federal Government has just spent nine months consulting Canadians with a view to introducing new accessibility legislation. New standards will soon be introduced, giving rise undoubtedly to increased use of American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ).
Meanwhile, some European members of Calliope have also noted an increase in demand for sign language interpreting, particularly in Italy and Ireland, where Calliope has been working in partnership with SL interpretation trainers to recruit the most highly skilled professionals.
Based on Calliope-Interpreters’ experience of supplying SL interpretation, it has drawn up the following recommendations:
- SL interpreters, as well as requiring good quality sound, also need proper lighting to see and be seen. Their positioning in the conference room should be determined ahead of time, taking into account the AIIC guidelines for the positioning of sign language interpreters in conferences. Spoken language and sign language interpreters must be able to see each other.
- SL interpreters should be provided with hands-free mikes (lapel or headset type) and extremely light headphones.
- All presenters, whether speaking or signing, should be made aware that the meeting is being interpreted and asked to speak clearly, moderate the speed of their presentation and leave a pause between thoughts. SL interpreters are part of the interpreting team and entitled to the same breaks and working conditions as the spoken language speakers. However, the SL interpreters are practically always needed during the breaks. This should be taken into account when calculating the hours of work.
- Language combinations (spoken and signed) should be carefully examined. Although there is an International Sign Language (IS) with a limited lexicon, sign languages are independent of spoken languages. Whereas speakers of spoken Spanish in Spain and Argentina will understand each other, despite the lexical differences, Spanish Sign language (LSE) and Argentine Sign Language (LSA) are quite different, as are American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL).
- The names of the Deaf participants should be supplied to the interpreters before the meeting. In the case of a strictly national event, the SL professionals will probably already be acquainted with the attendees, so they can reach out to them ahead of time.
Hiring sign language interpreters is not an easy task. One needs only to remember the unfortunate incident at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2014. The sign language interpreter caused outrage among the Deaf community when he stood for hours alongside Heads of States and Government making hand gestures which millions tried to decipher, but none understood. In response, AIIC issued a position paper on the Quality of Language Interpretation at Major Events, and other associations like the Argentine Association of Conference Interpreters (ADICA), in Argentina, followed suit. This event helped raise awareness about the importance of commissioning SL interpretation from knowledgeable experts.
Sign language is, indeed, an invaluable tool for enabling all people to be fully included. Just like spoken language interpretation, sign language plays an important role in bringing people together. Calliope, aware of its global reach and its role in international communications, is proud to be able to offer sign language alongside spoken language in its roster of services.