When dealing with the police, deaf people are at a major disadvantage

by Jemina Napier

This article was originally published in The Conversation by , Professor and Chair of Intercultural Communication, Heriot-Watt University. Jemina Napier has received co-funding for JUSTISIGNS through the European Commission’s Leonardo Da Vinci Lifelong Learning programme, and from the UK arts and humanities research council.

 

When dealing with the police, deaf people are at a major disadvantage


Are you receiving me? Matt Antonio

We all have occasions when we need to deal with the police. Perhaps your car has been stolen and you have to report it; or perhaps you have witnessed a mugging and you have been called to the police station to be interviewed and provide a witness statement. Or perhaps you have been accused of shoplifting and the security guard has detained you in the back room until the police arrive.

Interacting with the police can be stressful, regardless of whether you are a witness, a victim or a culprit. Most of us have one very useful advantage, however: we can hear. Anyone who is deaf and has dealt with the police may have found communication a major problem. Too often, the forces in the UK and elsewhere in Europe struggle to provide sign language interpreters at short notice or even to understand the needs of deaf people. It hampers their access to justice and needs to be addressed urgently.

The first thing to make clear is that we are talking about quite a substantial number of people. The European Union of the Deaf estimates there are approximately a million deaf sign language users in Europe. In the UK, there are estimated to be approximately 70,000 deaf people who use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language.

This is a linguistic and cultural minority group with its own accepted norms of behaviour. And most people probably don’t realise that deaf people use different sign languages in every country around the world. They identify one another on that basis in the same way that a British person might identify a German or Spaniard through the way they talk.

Interpreter rights

When it comes to the justice system as a whole, deaf people’s right to interpreters has increasingly been recognised – even if this is typically enshrined in disability discrimination law rather than laws to protect cultural minorities. But while there are now established systems for providing interpreters in courts and tribunals, and clear guidelines on booking them for police interviews and solicitor consultations in the UK and some other countries across Europe, researchers have repeatedly found that deaf people encounter barriers.

The issues are often to do with people in the justice system not being aware of the need to book interpreters to ensure that deaf people can communicate. This can usually be resolved in time for court cases or for courses in prison, but what happens in police encounters at short notice?


Sitting comfortably? Boogaloo

There are reports of police misreading a deaf person’s attempts to communicate. On some occasions, deaf people have had to wait many hours before an interpreter can be found and they can be interviewed by police.

There are recurring cases of people giving witness statements without an interpreter (or with an unqualified person). The statement is then admitted as evidence in court, and the deaf person doesn’t understand the process they have been involved in or the consequences of signing the statement. As the police interview is the first point of contact in a legal process, it is essential that people understand their rights and the process. This can’t happen for deaf people if they don’t have a professional qualified interpreter in the interview.

JUSTISIGNS

To better understand the problem in police settings and address the barriers, I have been collaborating with a team of international specialists for the past three years. The JUSTISIGNS project includes seven universities and sign language professional bodies from the UK, Switzerland, Belgium and Ireland.

We found that there is no uniform approach across Europe to training or certifying legal sign language interpreters or making such people available for deaf people in the justice system. Through a series of focus groups and interviews with police officers, deaf people and interpreters in the four countries, our findings included:

  • Police officers are unaware that sign-language users need to have an interpreter present as they cannot necessarily lipread or write notes; and are unclear on the qualifications or level of expertise required of sign language interpreters. There are no clear guidelines for how interpreters and police can work together;
  • Some police forces have policies to guide officers when it comes to interviewing deaf suspects/witnesses/victims – in the UK, some forces have begun to develop online videos for example – but police officers do not always know about best practice;

  • There are not enough interpreters available at short notice to meet recommendations that only qualified and experienced practitioners be used in the legal system;
  • Though some interpreters have received legal training, interpreters are often nervous of working in police interviews in case they get called as a witness in a later court case;
  • There is a lack of established legal terminology in British Sign Language and other sign languages.

Best practice rarely followed. Photographee.eu

On the back of this evidence, JUSTISIGNS held masterclasses and training workshops for police officers and interpreters in the partner countries; and events and meetings to inform deaf people and other relevant organisations and professionals of the project. In the UK, it helped develop best practice guidelines on legal interpreting and worked with Police Scotland on a British Sign Language translation of the Scottish law caution and an explanation of what it means.

The hope is that in years to come, deaf people will be able to deal with the police in unexpected situations without any disadvantage. That is certainly what they are entitled to expect.

LINCS BSL team rock at Critical Link 8

by Stacey Webb

Over the past year, Christine Wilson and the rest of the organising committee have been planning Critical Link 8 (CL8), which was hosted at Heriot-Watt University 29-June – 1 July, with pre-conference activities on 27-28 June.

Therefore, the Monday after the SML graduation, Heriot-Watt staff and student volunteers were busy ensuring the success of this conference.  For those who are unsure what Critical Link is, it is an organization that exists to:

  • Promote the establishment of standards which guide the practice of community interpreters
  • Encourage and sharing research in the field of community interpretation
  • Add to the discussion about the educational and training requirements for community interpreters
  • Advocate for the provision of professional community interpreting services by social, legal and health care institutions
  • Raise awareness about community interpreting as a profession            (Critical Link, 2016)

The theme of this year’s conference was the “next generation”- which we see very fitting with our recent graduates!

The conference was a huge event. Read the news story on the main HW website here.

Our BSL team was nicely represented with posters, presentations and the provision of interpreting services:

Posters

Brett Best, EUMASLI Graduate, How Signed Language Interpreters Perceive Facebook is Used by the Interpreting Community

CL8_4

Heather Mole, 2nd year PhD Student, Do sign language interpreters think about their power and privilege as members of the majority hearing group?

CL8_3

Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017) in conjunction with Rosemary Oram and Alys Young from University of Manchester, Social Research with Deaf people Group, Critical links between Deaf culture, well being and interpreting: Translating the Deaf Self

CL8_1

Stacey Webb, 3rd year PhD Student, Job Demands Job Resources: Exploration of sign language interpreter educators’ experiences

CL8_2

 

Papers

Robyn Dean, 2016 PhD Graduate,  An Idol of the Mind: Barriers to justice reasoning in sign language interpreters

CL8_6

Emmy Kauling, EUMASLI Graduate and PhD Student (September 2017), Tomorrow’s interpreter in higher education: a critical link between omissions and content knowledge

CL8_7

Professor Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017), and Professor Graham Turner, in conjunction with external colleagues  Loraine Leeson,Theresa Lynch, Tobias Haug, Heidi Salaets, Myriam Vermeerbergen & Haaris Sheikh Justisigns: Future proofing access to justice for deaf sign language users

Stacey Webb, Assistant Professor in Sign Language Studies & Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida,  Reflective Practice as a Pedagogical Strategy for Interpreter Educators

Yvonne Waddell, 3rd year PhD student,  Exploring the language and communication strategies of a mental health working with an interpreter in mental health interactions with Deaf patients.

CL8_5

 

 

Interpreting Provision

Marion Fletcher, BSL Interpreter Coordinator at Heriot-Watt, did an excellent job coordinating the interpreting services for the conference. The team was made up of some fabulous interpreters and a few of them are also members of the Heriot-Watt  BSL team.  So a special shout out to our own-  Professor Jemina Napier, Yvonne Waddell, Robert Skinner, and Marion Fletcher. Thank you for not only providing excellent interpreting services, but also for being an excellent example of skill and professionalism to  the next generation of sign language interpreters.  I wish I had a picture of the team all together, but here are some shots of them in action:

CL8_10

CL8_9

CL8_8

Justisigns Translation workshop

 By Jemina Napier

       hwnewlogo         justisigns        Police ScotlandEU Lifelong Learning

 

Click here to see a version of this blogpost in BSL.

 

As part of the Justisigns project, which is funded through the European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme, a masterclass was run in November 2015 jointly between the Heriot-Watt University BSL/Justisigns team and Police Scotland and included CID/police interview advisors, Deaf community representatives and BSL/English interpreters. The workshop involved joint and group sessions on the potential barriers for deaf people in accessing police interviews, the challenges for interpreters to accurately convey the goals of police interviewers, and deaf/sign language awareness raising for police interviewers, as well as interactive simulation role plays of BSL interpreted police interviews.

One of the issues raised during the discussions was the lack of standardization in a translation of the Scottish police caution, so interpreters may produce different versions of the caution in BSL. As the police caution is legally binding, the words are used specifically and are read out verbatim by police interviewers and sometimes followed up by an explanation if the person being questioned does not understand the formal caution.

Although a BSL translation of the English police caution is available, the wording of the caution is different from the Scottish caution, and therefore the BSL translation is also different from what is needed in Scotland.

At the masterclass workshop it was identified that having a BSL translation of the Scottish Common Law Caution available on video as a reference point for police, interpreters and the Deaf community would be a useful development. The ideal would be for a BSL translation to be accessible online for police to access on a mobile device (for example if detaining someone before an interpreter arrives) or for interpreters or deaf people to access at the point of a police interview (e.g. through an iPad or computer). At no point would the availability of the BSL translation circumvent the need for a BSL/English interpreter, as it is a legal requirement for interpreters to be present for any interaction between a police officer and a person who uses a different language.

So as a follow-up to the masterclass, we organized a translation workshop and invited key stakeholder representatives to be involved in discussing, developing and finalizing a standard BSL translation of the Scottish police caution. In addition to the Heriot-Watt University BSL/Justisigns team participants included representatives from Police Scotland, the British Deaf Association (Scotland), experienced legal BSL/English interpreters and a deaf interpreter.

The participants engaged in a ‘forward and backward’ translation process (Tate, Collins & Tymms, 2003), reviewing drafts of BSL translations, discussing lexical and legal conceptual challenges and creating new BSL versions of the caution.

At the end of the workshop a final version was agreed upon and filmed. This BSL translation of the Scottish Law Caution is now available to be referenced by BSL/English interpreters and interpreting students, police officers and Deaf community members in Scotland. 

Clare Canton

(Scottish Law Caution BSL translation translated by deaf interpreter, Clare Canton)

As part of the discussions it was also agreed to film an explanation of the Scottish Law Caution in BSL, to reflect what typically happens in a police interview where a police offer would read the caution verbatim, and then provide an explanation. The explanation that we agreed upon is as follows:

This Scottish police Caution means: You have the right to be silent. You don’t have to answer any questions, and you don’t have to tell me anything about what’s happened. But if do you have any explanation or comment to give at any point in this process, this is your opportunity to do that and we will record it (written, audio, video). And the recording may be used for further investigation in this case and in court proceedings.

This BSL translation of the explanation is also now available to be referenced by BSL/English interpreters and interpreting students, police officers and Deaf community members in Scotland.

Brenda Mackay

(Scottish Law Caution BSL explanation produced by legal interpreter, Brenda Mackay)

 

We would like to thank all the workshop participants for their contribution to creating this resource for interpreters, police and deaf BSL users in Scotland, and encourage as many people as possible to access this resource.

 

Translating Cultures Peru / Traduciendo Culturas Perù

by Raquel De Pedro Ricoy

“Unequal exchanges: The role of Peruvian indigenous translators and interpreters in resource-exploitation consultation processes”

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. 14:15-17:15, 12 April 2016

The Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot- Watt University will host a symposium on the role of Peruvian indigenous translators and interpreters in consultations regarding the exploitation of natural resources. The symposium is open to the public. Registration is free, but places are limited. Please book yours  here.

Programme:

o Welcome

o Prof Rosemary Thorp (Peru Support Group): “Mining and the threat to indigenous communities”

o Mr  Agustín  Panizo  (Head  of  the  Indigenous  Languages  Division, Ministry of Culture, Perú): “Prior Consultation as a space for redefining communication  between the State and the indigenous peoples of Peru”

o Presentation by Dr Jan Cambridge (Chartered Institute of Linguists): “A code of conduct is the scaffold supporting ethical safe outcomes”

o Prof  Rosaleen  Howard  (Newcastle  University),  Dr  Luis  Andrade (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú) and Dr Raquel de Pedro

(Heriot-Watt University): Findings of the project “Translating Cultures: The legislated mediation of Indigenous Rights in Peru”

o Q&A session

The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

New plurilingual pathways for integration: Immigrants and language learning in the 21st Century” – Heriot-Watt University, 26th & 27th May 2016

Congratulations to Nicola Bermingham (Heriot-Watt University, Dept. LINCS) and Gwennan Higham (Cardiff University) for their success in the BAAL/Cambridge University Press 2015-2016 seminar competition.

The seminar, entitled “New plurilingual pathways for integration: Immigrants and language learning in the 21st Century”, will be held in Heriot-Watt University on 26th and 27th May 2016. This event will be co-hosted by COST Action IS1306 New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges and the British Association for Applied Linguistics and Cambridge University Press. The event will also be supported by the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies and the Intercultural Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University.

Professor Máiréad Nic Craith, Chair in European Culture and Heritage, Director of Research and Director of the Intercultural Centre at Heriot-Watt University will deliver a key note speech entitled “Migrants, Languages and Community Cohesion”, which will consider the implications of immigrant learners of minority languages looking in particular at the following questions: (1) how do such language practices impact on perceptions of migrants in host communities (2) what are the implications for community cohesion and (3) how do such choices impact on traditional speakers of minority languages in the host community.

Professor Alison Phipps, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies and Co-Convener of Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNET) at the University of Glasgow will give a keynote presentation entitled “Language Labour and Language Resistance: On the demands of hosts on their guests”, which will consider the arts of integration through language learning and language policies in the host country and alongside this the arts of resistance and strategies for language and heritage language maintenance employed by migrant communities.

A round table discussion will also be held, addressing the ways in which immigration in the 21st century has lead us to challenge the way in which we think about minority language learning, integration and the notion of citizenship. Invited speakers to the round table discussion include Professor Bernadette O’Rourke, Chair of COST Action New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges who will discuss the research that is being carried out by the COST network, focusing specifically on issues of language, identity and social cohesion and Professor Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost, member of the Research Unit on Language, Policy and Planning at the School of Welsh at Cardiff University who will contribute to the debate, drawing on his expertise on linguistic minorities and language planning.

While the two-day seminar will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue with a variety of papers from different migration and language contexts and cross-sector round table discussions, the proceedings will be directed by key themes and objectives as follows;

  • What are the opportunities and challenges for immigrants who learn new languages?
  • To what extent do immigrant speakers challenge current conceptions of integration, cohesion and citizenship?
  • Which steps or initiatives could facilitate a more comprehensive view of integration, cohesion and citizenship in national and minority language contexts?

A call for papers will be issued in the coming weeks. For more information or expressions of interest please see the event page (http://www.nspk.org.uk/our-events/upcoming-events/new-plurilingual-pathways-for-integration.html) or contact the organisers, Nicola Bermingham (nb199@hw.ac.uk) and Gwennan Higham (HighamGE@cardiff.ac.uk).

 

Translating Cultures and the Mediation of Indigenous Rights in Peru

Raquel

While we were all busy teaching, marking papers, setting exams, attending conferences and writing papers, Dr Raquel de Pedro Ricoy spent part of the first semester in the jungle. Literally.

Raquel is working on an AHRC-funded project entitled “Translating Cultures and the Mediation of Indigenous Rights in Peru” with Prof. Rosaleen Howard (Newcastle University) and Dr Luis Andrade (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), in partnership with the Directorate for Indigenous Languages of the Ministry of Culture and the rural development agency SER. The project looks at new state-sponsored initiatives to facilitate better communication between the Spanish-speaking majority and speakers of the many Amerindian languages of the Andean highlands and the Amazon basin. The aim of the project is to research how far translation and interpreting, in contexts of mediation between the Peruvian state and its indigenous populations, can achieve the state legislated goals of upholding indigenous rights, while also sustainably developing the resource-rich territories where the indigenous populations live Ever since the Spanish conquest, Peru’s indigenous languages have lost ground to Spanish, which dominates all fields of formal communication and is seen as having greater prestige than the local Amerindian tongues. Indigenous people often suffer discrimination on linguistic as well as sociocultural grounds. However, this situation is gradually being reversed. Languages such as Quechua and Aymara in the highlands, and Asháninka and Shipibo in the rainforest, are spoken in schools and health centres, and bilingual indigenous people are becoming trained professionals in a variety of fields. Laws passed in 2011 make translation and interpretation a right, and the government is responding by translating the laws into the native languages as well as training bilingual indigenous people to be interpreters.

This is why Raquel spent two weeks in the high jungle town of Quillabamba,where the Ministry of Culture was running a training course for speakers of indigenous languages. As part of the project, Raquel and the rest of the teamobserved the training sessions, contributed to a panel on language rights and ran a workshop with the participants on the experience of translation. The trainees were speakers of: Matsigenga, an Arawak language; Harakbut a highly endangered language spoken by just 2,800 people in Madre de Dios department; and five different varieties of the Andean language Quechua. Raquel subsequently travelled to Pucallpa, in the Peruvian western jungle, where she interviewed community leaders who had used the services of interpreters in a consultation process facilitated by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. During her stay in Lima, Raquel delivered a plenary lecture at the XII International FIT Forum and joined government representatives and legal experts for a round-table discussion on legal translation and interpreting for indigenous languages.

The team is currently working on an article about the indigenous experience of translating indigenous rights law, involving translators in the difficult task of expressing western concepts such as ´rights´ and ´law´ in their own Amazonian and Andean tongues.

 

EU study on Public Service Translation in Cross-Border Healthcare is out!

After 10 months of non-stop work, we are delighted to announce that an EU study on Public Service Translation in Cross Border Healthcare, led by Prof Claudia V. Angelelli is published. The Report, commissioned by the Directorate-General for Translation, responds to an increasing interest in the role of language provision and information access in cross-border healthcare.

Linguistic diversity permeates every thread of the European Union fabric. Cross-border healthcare is increasing among EU citizens and residents who seek care under Directive 2011/24/EU or Regulation (EC) N° 883/2004.

In a multilingual and intercultural society like the EU, patients and providers may not share a language. If patients cannot access healthcare services in a language they fully understand, equal access to safe and high-quality healthcare is not guaranteed. Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, this exploratory study examines language policies as well as responses provided (or lack thereof) to linguistically diverse patients in areas of Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The cost of language provision as well as good practices are also studied.

Results show that a variety of responses, ranging from professional translation and interpreting support to informal and unprofessional ad-hoc solutions, are used to address the language needs of patients. In the absence of formal language guidance in EU legislation, in most observed cases appropriate language services are not provided for patients who do not speak the language of the Member State in which they seek healthcare. This study has implications for policy makers, healthcare providers, educators, translators and interpreters serving the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse patients.

The full document of the study is available here

17th September 2015: A momentous day for the BSL Community

by Graham Turner
On a most extraordinary afternoon last week (17th September 2015, a date to be remembered), it seemed that half of Heriot-Watt’s Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies re-located to the Scottish Parliament for a few hours. Why? It was the Stage 3 (final) reading in the chamber of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill.
 
The Bill passed with unanimous support from the assembled Members of the Scottish Parliament, and will be fully ratified following Royal Assent in 4-8 weeks’ time.
 
We can state it dispassionately in the clear light of a later week, but this was anything but a calm and sober occasion. For evidence, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u61__M7dUS4. You can watch the whole debate from about 1:03:00. But you really only need to see the audience reaction to the final vote (from about 2:35:00) to get a feel for the electrifying nature of the moment.
 
You could ask any one of LINCS’ eight British Sign Language (BSL) staff members, or our six research students, or indeed any of the 60-odd undergraduate students now enrolled in years 1-4 of our honours degree programme, and they would be able to tell you why this was such a momentous day for the BSL community.
 
You can read, or watch in BSL, a perspective about the thinking behind the Bill from Heriot-Watt’s Professor Graham Turner (published last year to encourage engagement with the first draft of the Bill) here: http://limpingchicken.com/2014/12/05/turner-bsl-bill/.
 
There’s an excellent blog summarising what the Bill does (and doesn’t do) here: http://bristol.verbeeld.be/2015/09/17/british-sign-language-scotland-bill-passed-final-hurdle/. It is designed to create an ongoing framework for national planning around BSL which will lead to continuous, incremental improvement in the way BSL is protected and, crucially, promoted across Scottish public life. The community’s priorities will need to be elicited and sustainably enacted: some future scenarios are contained in evidence (http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EducationandCultureCommittee/BSL%20Bill/TurnerProfessorGHHeriotWattUniversity.pdf)  sent from Heriot-Watt  to the Parliamentary committee which reviewed the Bill.
You can see from sources like this http://scotlandfutureforum.org/assets/library/files/application/BSL_Report.pdf that Heriot-Watt has championed this cause from the front since at least 2010. In fact, five years’ campaigning doesn’t even scratch the surface of the deep and painful history that underpins last week’s success. Heriot-Watt BSL staff can tell you story after story after story of friends, family and colleagues who have lived and died in pursuit of proper respect and recognition for BSL.
 
As Avril Hepner, the British Deaf Association’s Community Development Manager in Scotland, told Parliament in her evidence before the Bill passed, this legislation finally enables BSL users to feel that they belong in Scotland, and Scotland belongs to them along with everyone else.
 
Scotland therefore becomes the only part of the United Kingdom to secure legal recognition of BSL to date. Needless to say, campaigners everywhere will be encouraging Westminster to follow Scotland’s lead, and Heriot-Watt staff will be fully engaged in supporting their efforts.
 
So if you see a BSL user anywhere in the UK in the next wee while with a huge, undimmable grin on their face – you now know why. This is huge. Shake their hand.