LINCS hosts mega-conference on Innovations in Deaf Studies

by Annelies Kusters

 

In late 2016, I got the idea to organise a small (!) book launch when I realised that I could gather at least five of the authors of “Innovations in Deaf Studies: The Role of Deaf Scholars” together at the same time and place. At that time, I could never have imagined that it would grow into an energising conference of this size, with 160 delegates from 26 countries, and 12 of the authors. The event even didn’t have a proper website, just a Facebook page, so I was amazed that it attracted so much attention! We moved the conference twice to a larger location. For me, this is a sign that people really need/enjoy these kinds of spaces.

The presenters presented the chapters they wrote for the book  “Innovations in Deaf Studies: The Role of Deaf Scholars“, all of whose editors and authors are both experts in the field and themselves deaf. I, Annelies Kusters am Assistant Professor in Sign Language and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Maartje de Meulder is postdoctoral fellow at the University of Namur in Belgium, and Dai O’Brien is Lecturer in BSL and Deaf Studies at York St John University.

This is the first such scholarly book to be edited and written entirely by deaf academics, most of whom have a PhD degree.

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The book authors (including Dr Paddy Ladd!)

And therefore, this conference is a major leap forward for the discipline. Not just the book authors stood in the spotlight: during six panels, experts from all over the world discussed topical themes. The contributions were offered in British Sign Language, International Sign and American Sign Language and a team of six interpreters provided excellent interpreting service.

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The conference addressed a range of issues relating to Deaf Studies, which includes the study of sign language, deaf people’s educational and employment pathways and the social life of deaf groups and individuals. Presentation themes ranged from a focus on the history, current state and future of the field of Deaf Studies, researcher positionalities, research methodologies, language ideologies as well as how current research practices relate to deaf research participants and communities.

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The conference was funded by the European Research Council, more specifically the MobileDeaf project grant. It was a challenge to organise a large conference so soon after moving to a new job and starting a major research project (http://mobiledeaf.org.uk #MobileDeaf). I couldn’t have done it without the help of my amazing colleagues at Heriot-Watt University, the volunteers, my co-editors, the enthusiastic panel organisers, and Emmy Kauling who took a lot of the practical organisation upon her.

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Times Higher Education have published an article on our conference. People came to tell me during and after the conference that they felt inspired and recharged. I think that it is so important that we invest time and energy in networking in/around the field of Deaf Studies. I also feel that Heriot-Watt University, as an increasingly important landmark in things related to sign language and Deaf Studies, was an ideal location for this conference.

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The conference organising team, with Dr Annelies Kusters in the centre (in the black dress)

I’m proud to be part of the team here, and I hope we will further grow in the years to come!

 

DGI SCIC virtual classes starting in LINCS !

by Fanny Chouc

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LINCS held its first virtual conference interpreting class in cooperation with SCIC today, with a select group of talented MA and MSc students. Thanks to the support of our AV team, we were able to set up the system used by SCIC to provide pedagogical assistance in interpreting training institutions across Europe.

So is this the start of a new era? Is distance-teaching going to be the way forward for interpreting training, and could it replace face-to-face teaching?

No quite yet: technology has its limits, and connections sometimes broke up, for brief periods. And even if there is a drive towards video-interpreting in some fields, a screen can’t give you the same feel as a live audience. Mastering nerves is a crucial part of interpreting training. It’s therefore very important for trainee interpreters to experience a real, live audience: the dynamics, logistics and overall communication change greatly, and being prepared for this is essential.

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But this experience was immensely useful. This is a great way to involve a range of talented trainers from Brussels for a few hours, without any plane, train or taxi journey required. The team of professional SCIC interpreters simply connected from one of their rooms in Brussels, and LINCS students worked in the familiar setting of our large conference interpreting lab. So this type of technology facilitated an excellent training session with experienced professionals without any travelling required on either part – a clear benefit for universities located far away from the epicentre of European life, and a great way for SCIC interpreters to interact with young talents who aren’t on their doorstep, but aren’t short of skills!

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This experience has also been a great way to bridge another invisible gap: the DGI can seem rather distant, and almost unattainable; possibly even more so from the distant shores of Bonnie Scotland. And yet after the session, our students gladly admitted that the speeches didn’t throw them: content, pace and level of difficulties mirrored fairly what they’d been doing in class during the year. Some even commented that the pace wasn’t quite as punishing as in classes they’d had at Heriot-Watt! The very positive feedback, focused on a number of aspects regularly discussed in class, also contributed to their confidence: they now realise that an EU interpreting career could be within their grasp, they have a better idea of what they need to work on, and most of them are now determined to apply for the accreditation tests.

So even if virtual interpreting classes aren’t about to replace live university programmes, they are certainly an amazing way to build bridge with international organisations such as the EU, and possibly to set up more cooperation across campuses and between interpreting training universities. We’re therefore looking forward to building on this success for further virtual classes with SCIC and hopefully with partner universities abroad!

Thank you Fanny Chouc and Jose Maria Conde for organising this 🙂

 

BSL-team goes USA

by Emmy Kauling, Jemina Napier, Svenja Wurm, Heather Mole and Rob Skinner

For a BSL version of this post, please click here

Last month, the Heriot-Watt BSL-team was well represented at the 2017 Interpretation and Translation Research Symposium at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in the States: Prof Jemina Napier, Dr Svenja Wurm, and three PhD students, Emmy Kauling, Heather Mole and Rob Skinner were accepted to give presentations or present a poster. Since the conference was already a month ago, we decided to remind ourselves of what happened by going through the Twitter feed (#GUSymposium). We recommend you to do the same, it is definitely worth it: you will find lots of quotes and insights from the many inspiring presentations, all focusing on translation and interpreting. A few of the insights we would like to share here:

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The president of Gallaudet University (the only university in the world where a sign language, American Sign Language (ASL), is the main language of instruction and communication), who happens to be deaf, stressed the importance of research to inform practice. She uses interpreters on a daily basis and mentioned that, as a deaf person, it is crucial to have an ally in your interpreter. She stated: “What’s important is not what is said in the room, but what’s *not* said in the room”. Which is a challenge for interpreters!

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The first keynote was by Beppie van den Bogaerde, explaining how research is embedded in the Dutch undergraduate sign language interpreter training programme. But in order to teach students how to do research (even the day-to-day mini studies that practising interpreters might do), teachers need to be experts in doing research themselves. That way, the Deaf community will benefit from improved services, based on large scientific research and local practical research. This will not only provide ‘feed-back’ to research and training, but also ‘feed-forward’. Key in this is reflection of the interpreters!

After the key note, Svenja Wurm had the privilege of kicking off the parallel sessions with her presentation on the impact of text modalities on translation. Looking into a relatively under-researched area, translation between written and signed language, Svenja highlighted some of the challenges faced by translators to create target texts in situations where parallel texts are limited. Drawing on a case study, she demonstrated that the translator used a pragmatic, culturally sensitive approach, taking into account Hearing and Deaf literacy practices as well as the affordances provided by the different text modalities.

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A hot topic during this conference was language ownership and language ideology. It was emphasised by several presenters that both Deaf people and sign language interpreters need to be aware of their own and each other’s language ideologies: what do they expect of each other? And do these ideologies match? And, as professionals, interpreters need to be aware of the impact of their own language ideologies on their service: more positive behaviour could be associated with a certain type of language use, e.g. using the majority language.

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A comment which resonated with many attendees was made by one of the conference participants: if we are talking about interpreting services, is everything just the responsibility of the interpreter? What are the responsibilities of people who use interpreters? Are people trained to use interpreters? This is particularly true for deaf people, who will use interpreters in the course of their lives, in a range of settings.

Jemina Napier gave a total of three presentations throughout the conference which included deaf citizens participating in jury deliberations which she presented with Debra Russell on the first day of the conference. On the second day, Jemina and Rob Skinner presented on the research they have done with Ursula Böser, on police interviews with deaf people. They emphasised that it is important for interpreters to be trained to work with the police; interpreters might cause damage if they don’t understand the goals of the police or why the police ask certain questions. And they showed that an interpreter does not have to feel responsible for translating everything, for example a shrug by a defendant. People shrug all the time in police settings and it is up to the police officer to interpret that and, if necessary, ask for clarification. Finally, Jemina presented on her findings in the Translating the Deaf Self project one of which revealed the pervasive fascination with the interpreter in work settings, taking away the attention from the person in question – the Deaf professional.

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During the afternoon there was a well-attended and popular poster session and reception, which encouraged many fascinating and fruitful discussions amongst conference vistors. Both Rob Skinner and Emmy Kauling (PhD students) presented on their PhD topics – video-meditated interpreting in police settings, and how people experience professional discourse respectively. Both of them were surrounded by intrigued delegates.

The last day’s keynote was by Robert Adam, who focused on the similarities and differences within the sign language interpreting profession, in other words: he presented on Deaf interpreters and hearing interpreters. However, he argued that it is time to talk about language combinations instead of focussing on audiological status, just as it is the case within the spoken language interpreting field.

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Just as Svenja Wurm had begun the conference it was Heather Mole (PhD student) who ended the conference, presenting on power and privilege in sign language interpreters’ discourse. She made a point that interpreters are often not trained on how to talk about power dynamics, resulting in a feeling of “I’m sure that I’ve done the right thing here, but I’m not sure!”. Sign language interpreters need a vocabulary to be able to talk about power, to understand their responsibility.

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It was wonderful to be part of this conference and the representation of Heriot-Watt University was significant, which was not unnoticed by many of the participants. Not only did we sandwich the conference with presentations but we also made the filling flavoursome as well!

LINCS colleagues participate in SCORE with a Public speaking and International Communication Workshop for football referees

 

by Pedro Castillo and Maggie Sargeant 

For the second year running, two colleagues from the LINCS Department at Heriot-Watt’s School of Social Sciences (SoSS), Dr Maggie Sargeant and Dr Pedro Jesús Castillo Ortiz, were involved in the SCORE (Scottish Centre of Refereeing Excellence) course for football referees (2015) and assistant referees (2016), in partnership with the Scottish Football Association and Oriam: Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre, based at Heriot-Watt University. The course aims to provide a pathway for up-and-coming match officials to develop skills relevant to refereeing at the highest level of the game. In this regard, public communication skills and intercultural awareness are key in bringing Scottish referees into the international arena.

Building on existing research in communication and leadership in sport, Sargeant and Castillo delivered the first communications workshop of its kind in Scottish football. Neil Gibson (Director of Sport, Performance and Health at Oriam, Scotland’s Sport Performance Centre) was delighted that participants had the opportunity to develop the kind of skills that will take their careers beyond the national context.

In the first edition (2015-2016), 9 referees attended the course, learning how to deliver clear, concise and coherent messages when communicating both on and off the pitch. Best practices in dealing with how to explain the rules of the game both to players during football matches and to the media when required were highlighted as having been particularly useful by the participants in their workshop feedback.

In the second edition, this season, 10 assistant referees took part in a series of role plays, communicating with match officials in international matches where issues such as racism and sexism have to be handled sensitively. They also engaged in public dialogue around the offside rule, a game-changing situation in football, where assistant referees play a key role during matches.

In both editions, Dr Sargeant and Dr Castillo presented real and hypothetical scenarios for group discussion, in which referees and assistant referees have to face a diverse linguistic and cultural environment on and off the field (players, coaches, tournaments, media). Although the promising future referees and assistant referees were well aware of what is at stake in the international football sphere, this module of the course made them aware that knowledge of foreign languages, intercultural communication and dealing with a complex global media landscape are also crucial in achieving and providing excellence in refereeing.

To some extent, football referees share skills and challenges with interpreters, hence Dr Sargeant and Dr Castillo’s involvement in the course, with the conviction that transferable skills can be at the heart of courses such as this taught to up-and-coming SFA referees.

“If public communication skills, face-to-face interaction in multilingual environments, fast decision making and dealing with potentially conflicting parties is at the core of the training of future interpreters in LINCS, and we can successfully achieve it, why wouldn’t we apply it to football referees and other sports professionals?” Dr Sargeant and Dr Castillo explained.

With positive feedback from the SFA organisers and the participants of the course, the involvement in training opportunities such as SCORE evidence the potential impact that key skills we research on and teach in LINCS can have, bringing other professions and industries to the top level of international excellence.

We are looking forward to next year’s SCORE course and we hope to see these referees and assistant referees in the next Euros and World Cup.

Good luck!

Heriot-Watt BSL team wins Guardian University Award !

 

Impact is notoriously difficult to quantify in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. How can researchers really *prove* that their work has led to a change in policy, social attitudes or people’s lives in general? And how can this change be measured and evaluated?

In the case of the LINCS BSL team, this is pretty straightforward. Their work has contributed to the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act, which received Royal Assent in October 2015, a change in legislation that is set to improve the lives of British Sign Language users. And it is precisely this role in shaping life-changing legislation, aimed at securing the future of Scotland’s signing community, that has earned Heriot-Watt the Guardian University Award 2017 for Social and Community Impact.

The Guardian reports:

“The law – the first of its kind in the UK – aims to raise awareness of British Sign Language (BSL) and improve services for those who use the language. For BSL users many public services are inaccessible, resulting in isolation and exclusion for the hearing impaired. The new bill will prompt local bodies to produce plans for improving accessibility for BSL users, although the legislation will initially only apply in Scotland.

HWU performed a pivotal role in shaping the bill by leading a forum in parliament defining BSL’s future in an inclusive Scotland. HWU research was essential to this forum, as it investigated ways to improve the rights of BSL users. The follow-up briefing for members and corporate staff of the Scottish parliament, researchers and deaf community representatives helped define the direction of the subsequent bill.

Mark Griffin MSP, who tabled the bill, commented: “[This research] has been particularly critical in providing fundamental underpinning analyses which framed the consultation process leading towards this bill.”

Following the legislative changes, HWU instigated the 2015-16 Scottish Universities Insight Institute venture. This has enabled BSL teaching to be offered as a language subject to every primary and secondary school pupil. Learning resources are grounded in the digital corpus of BSL material – the centrepiece of a 2008-10 Economic and Social Research Council project where HWU was the Scottish partner.

In partnership with the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the General Teaching Council for Scotland, HWU is currently progressing the initiative by creating the real prospect, within a generation, of BSL users being routinely present in every street and institution across the country.

In 2016, HWU embarked on a new phase of BSL development after Annelies Kusters, a postdoctoral researcher specialising in social and cultural anthropology and deaf studies, was awarded a prestigious European Research Council grant of €1.5m (£1.3m) over five years.

Kusters will bring her all-deaf academic team to HWU to undertake the MobileDeaf project, which aims to explore the correlation between the status of being deaf and other statuses of ethnicity, nationality, education, religion and gender.”

This highly prestigious award, which was awarded to HWU at the Guardian University Awards official ceremony in London on March 29th, constitutes an important recognition of the role of BSL research taking place at Heriot-Watt, as well as its impact in communities across the UK and beyond.

Professor Graham Turner, Director of CTISS and Gary Quinn, Head of BSL in LINCS received the award on behalf of the BSL team.

Watch the short clip with Gary Quinn‘s acceptance speech:

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Professor Graham Turner said, “We’re thrilled to have won this prestigious award and that our work has been recognised for its contribution to British Sign Language users in Scotland. The new legislation helps to overturn the widespread, chronic social disadvantage experienced by BSL users, and is transforming the prospects of deaf and hearing people nationwide.

The Act is also crucial to addressing the severe shortage of interpreters because, by committing the Scottish Government to promote the use and understanding of BSL, it is expected to inspire an increasing number of people into the sector’s workforce.

This will serve to increase opportunities for BSL users, making it part of the everyday linguistic landscape for everyone in the country, something deaf people have waited generations to see.”

This award is a result of decades of hard work from a dedicated team of BSL researchers, PhD students and teachers, who all play their part in building the research evidence that contributes to the social and community impact. Specifically:

  • BSL section staff

Gary Quinn (Head of BSL section)

Prof Graham Turner (Director of CTISS)

Prof Jemina Napier (Head of Department, LINCS)

Stacey Webb (Assistant Professor)

Dr Jordan Fenlon (Assistant Professor)

Dr Svenja Wurm (Assistant Professor and Director of EUMASLI programme)

Dr Annelies Kusters (Assistant Professor)

 

  •  Former PhD students (completed)

Dr Robyn Dean

Dr Jules Dickinson

Dr Xiao Zhao

 

  • Current PhD students

Robert Skinner

Emmy Kauling

Heather Mole

Clare Canton

Yvonne Waddell

Danny McDougall

Michael Richardson

Mette Sommer Lindsay

 

Congratulations to all!!

 

 

LINCS students win prestigious summer school scholarship

by Kendra Jaudzin

Four undergraduate students from LINCS were successful in their application for a competitive scholarship offered by the German Academic Exchange Service, ‘Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst’ (DAAD).

The scholarships will enable Sarah Coats and Silvia Ramos Gonzalez (Year 2), as well as Carolyn Thomson and Christopher Rix (Year 1) to attend a 4-week summer school with a focus on German language and culture at a German university of their choice.

The DAAD Summer University Scholarships are open to Heriot Watt students of *all disciplines* with an intermediate level of German. Scholarships applications open up in November each year.

For more information contact the DAAD-Lektorin in LINCS, Kendra Jaudzin (k.jaudzin@hw.ac.uk).

59°N – IRC PhD Student based in Orkney

by Cait McCullagh

Have you ever had the opportunity to peer at some of the many online depictions of Ptolemy’s 2nd Century AD Geography?  You’ll have had to turn your head to one side in order to take in the northern-most extent of Scotland, including the Northern Isles; bent over and squeezed to fit into the realm of what was then believed to be the ‘known world’?  The idea that anything might survive beyond the 59th parallel was, it seems, impossible to consider for Ptolemy and his Graeco-Roman counterparts and so they simply ensured that the Orcades and their farther flung partner archipelago, Ultima Thule (today’s Shetland), were snuck in below their true latitudes.

Perhaps you have also read recent press and social media reports of archaeological findings at the Ness of Brodgar, or even reviews of BBC Television’s Orkney: Britain’s Ancient Capital? Both proclaim aspects of the Islands’ heritage to be ‘weird’ and create the inference that there may be life in the far north, but ‘it’s not as we know it’. More making strange and a framing of the north as remote in culture as well as location.

In reality, experiencing life, and working, in the Northern Isles, does, indeed, require a re-framing of mindset.  For example: Edinburgh seems a terribly remote location from this centre, after all it takes me a car journey, a ferry, a train and another train and all in more than one day allows, to get to Edinburgh.  How does anyone down there cope with being so far from everything up here?  

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The view over the island of Hoy

 

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Kirkwall Harbour

Ah yes, the re-framing is welcome and it is enabling me to explore and research the ways in which being constrained as peripheral and, in some ways, ‘exotically traditional’ may actually inspire creative innovation.  I am already observing this in the ways that islanders are curating and developing their maritime heritage –  this being the topic that is significant for my PhD.  In an environment where the sea is always adjacent and imminent and where most people relate to the sea directly, each day, I’m also aware that this ‘heritage’ can be both past, present and future. It ullulates; an ongoing wave of cultural expressions; from the wrecked to being renewed boats, set adrift across the islands, to my own growing obsession with the Shipping Forecast as I plan field-tripping from one island to another.  The experience is rich and I hope this will be reflected in my research.  All this and next month: Shetland.  It’s a great privilege to be representing this northerly reach of the IRC, here at 59°N and counting!

Cait is  researching  Curating Heritage for Sustainable Communities in Highly Vulnerable Environments: The Case of Scotland’s Northern Isles, an Applied Research Collaborative Studentship supported PhD, supervised in partnership across Heriot-Watt University, The University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for Nordic Studies and Shetland Museum and Archives.  She is based at the university’s Orkney Campus, the International Centre for Island Technology.

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Interior of the boat shed at Lyness on Scapa Flow

 

Moving Languages Project

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A mobile phone is proven to be a crucial tool for newly arrived migrants’ and refugees’ wellbeing and integration into their host country.

Dr Katerina Strani from LINCS is leading the UK team of the Moving Languages project. Moving Languages is a 27-month Erasmus+ project (2016-1-FI01-KA204-022678) led by Learnmera Oy in Finland. It has six partners in Finland, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Italy and the UK. The aim of the project is to develop a language app for newly arrived migrants.

Migration in the EU has been rapidly growing in recent times, especially in light of the troubled political situation in Middle Eastern countries. For this reason, it is of great importance to provide tools to support the integration of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe.

Language learning is one of the key priorities of successful integration. Mobile applications are an effective educational source that can be specifically designed for migrants and refugees, as a considerable percentage of them are digitally literate, own smartphones and are looking for new opportunities online in their host countries.

This project provides a gamified language-learning solution. It is available in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Finnish and the three languages most widely spoken by refugees/migrants in the partner countries. The application will not only help them to learn the local language(s), but it will also introduce them to new cultural concepts in their host countries.

Designed to cater to different levels of linguistic competence, this application will also be useful for people who have already been living and working in their new home country for some time. The content of the mobile application covers topics that are essential during the first steps of living in the host country. It contains 2,000-2,500 illustrated vocabulary items for easy concept recognition. This free application will be available for download from all major app stores from June 2018.

The Moving Languages project started in September 2016 and it will finish in November 2018. For more information, please visit the project website http://movinglanguages.eu or contact Dr Katerina Strani.

DESIGNS: Employment in Deaf signing communities

by Jemina Napier

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Click here to see post in BSL.

On 12th and 13th January 2017, the kick-off meeting for the DESIGNs project (Deaf Employment for Sign Language Users in the EU) took place in Dublin, Ireland.

The 30-month project is modeled on the recently completed Justisigns project, which was funded through the European Commission’s former Leonardo Da Vinci Lifelong Learning programme and produced a range of resources for Deaf communities, sign language interpreters and police officers relating to deaf people’s access to justice in police settings (see here for video summarizing key outcomes).

The DESIGNS project is funded through the current European Commission’s ERASMUS+ Key Action 2 Strategic Partnerships, and brings together 7 partners from 4 EU countries who are renowned experts in the fields of Deaf Studies research, education and training, employment, sign language interpreting and Deaf community advocacy.

The project is promoted by the Interesource Group Ireland, and the partners are the Centre for Deaf Studies at Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), the Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University (UK), the Deaf Studies Group at the Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), the European Union of the Deaf and the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (Belgium) and AHEAD – Association for Higher Education, Access and Disability (Ireland).

There is a direct link between early education, attainment of professional and/or educational qualifications, advancement into the labour market and social inclusion. Apart from financial autonomy, work and paid employment serves to develop a sense of belonging with positive mental health benefits and identification with the wider community (National Disability Authority, 2005). However, Deaf people continue to face barriers in education, employment and access to services such in healthcare, legal and social welfare settings.

In a report on poverty in the Deaf community, Conama and Grehan (2001) state that Deaf people experience higher rates of poverty, social exclusion and employment. Factors such leaving school with no examination nor qualifications, inadequate support for the use of sign language has resulted in a worrying picture and 80% of Deaf adults have literacy problems compared to 25% of the population as a whole.

Research and data on unemployment is under reported and inaccurate. “Deafness and hearing loss” is often used to report data, and sign language users who are Deaf is under-researched. The World Federation of the Deaf also reports that figures on (un)employment are inaccurate and difficult to quantify (Hauland & Allen, 2009).

The overall aim of the project is to create research-driven, evidence-based VET and CPD training resources and exchange best practices across Europe to facilitate greater participation of Deaf sign language users in employment.

This will be achieved by developing the following work package products:

  1. Creating training packages for deaf job seekers who are reported to be un- or under-employed;
  2. Creating training packages for employers to increase their awareness of deaf job applicants and job candidates to so that deaf job applicants have a better chance in succeeding in employment
  3. Creating training packages for sign language interpreters as part of their continuous professional development to understand the nature of interpreting in employment settings

The kick off meeting in Dublin involved the research consortium getting together to discuss and plan project milestones and tasks. In addition, a ‘townhall’ meeting was held in cooperation with the Irish Deaf Society at Deaf Village Ireland, to launch the project to local Deaf community members by giving an overview of various issues related to deaf people and employment and a description of the project. The event was live streamed through the Irish Deaf Society’s Facebook page, and the video can still be seen with presentations interpreted between English and International Sign.

The research input from Heriot-Watt University is being led by Professor Jemina Napier and a deaf research assistant will join the team at a later date. A newly arrived deaf PhD student – Mette Sommer –  will be conducting research on the lived experiences of deaf people at work – so her research will also complement the DESIGNS project.

The goal will be for Heriot-Watt University to cooperate with key stakeholder organisations in Scotland, including the British Deaf Association, Action on Hearing Loss, the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters and the Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK, Deaf Action’s Employability Service.

A community information event will be hosted at Heriot-Watt University sometime in the coming months, so keep an eye out for information about the event and the project.

 

Back to Holyrood

by Fanny Chouc

Heriot-Watt MSc interpreting students have been getting a taste of the “real thing” this Thursday and will do so again next Thursday: they’re putting their interpreting skills to the test, during a live parliamentary debate at Scottish Parliament, and they’ll be practicing from the actual interpreting booths of the Scottish Parliament.

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Thanks to a long-standing cooperation with Holyrood, the seat of the Scottish Parliament, we’ve been able to give our 2016-2017 cohort a chance to experience a real professional booth, during an authentic event. Students are organized in small groups and split between the two main interpreting booths overlooking the main debating chamber. They practise live, simultaneous interpreting from interventions from the presiding officers and MSPs, under the supervision of lecturers who are also experienced conference interpreters.

Of course, microphones remain switched off: it’s only practice after all, and students are half-way through their training. But this type of proper situated learning experience, set in a genuine work environment, provides students with a unique chance to test their skills and observe a number of challenges which aren’t always easy to integrate in a classroom setting.

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This unique interpreting training experience has been the object of a study by Chouc and Conde, and there are many benefits for students: they are confronted, in the space of 2 ½ hours, with a range of Scottish accents, but also various paces or style of expression. They also become more aware of the type of procedural jargon used in parliamentary business, observing recurring turns of phrases used to present a motion, formally adopt it or to address the various stakeholders. They encounter passionate speeches, arguments, technical terms familiar to MSPs, but which can be challenging for students who don’t use this type of terminology daily. It also puts their awareness of current and local affairs to the test, since the parliament handles a range of matters very much determined by the news, as well as issues that every community faces.

But more than anything, students get a feel for the career they want to embrace: it’s a test of stamina, as they remain in the booths for the full duration of the session (over 2h). It’s also an opportunity to learn how to work in teams, as students all work in pairs or as a trio: they assist each other, discuss solutions and glossary, and gradually adopt the behaviour of professional interpreters, sitting side-by-side, and scribbling the words, acronyms, names or figures their colleagues may need. They also take it in turn to listen to their peers as pure users, thus applying their critical skills to a live performance. This is a crucial step in developing their own self-assessment and monitoring skills.

Ultimately, though, it remains an exciting and inspiring opportunity, and students leave the booths motivated, focused, and better aware of the demands of a professional interpreting assignment. And that takes them one step closer to professional booths in international institutions!

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