MacFarlane Prize 2017 for Dr Emma Hill !

LINCS and IRC graduate Dr Emma Hill has won the prestigious 2017 MacFarlane Prize for the most outstanding contribution to the research of the University.

Emma (pictured here with her supervisors, Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith and Dr Katerina Strani), is the first ever recipient of the prize from any department in the School of Social Sciences.

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She was presented with the award at Heriot-Watt University’s graduation ceremony on 15 November 2017. Professor Garry Pender, Deputy Principal for Research and Innovation, reading her citation, said:

Dr Emma Hill’s thesis “Somali voices in Glasgow: Who speaks? Who listens?” makes an outstanding contribution to knowledge in the ethnographic study of refugees in society. It focuses on the concept of ‘voice’ and researches the multiple ‘voices’ of Somali communities in Glasgow. Her work makes a range of original contributions – from the social scientific fieldwork descriptions of a community during a period of political upheaval in Scotland to the care in presenting, questioning and decolonising the concept of ‘voice’.

Throughout her time in Heriot-Watt, Emma has been an active member of the Intercultural Research Centre. She worked as a research assistant on the EU-funded RADAR (Regulating Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Racism) Project led by Dr Katerina Strani. She has presented her work at conferences in Athens, Montreal and Copenhagen. Emma is also an alumna of the Transformations Network, a doctoral network affiliated to Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich. Her published work has been ranked externally as world-class.

Throughout her PhD, Emma complemented her academic focus with participatory research. She volunteered at community events, provided careers advice and guidance to young Somali adults. As an intern with the Scottish Government during her PhD studies, she worked to develop links between government and Somali groups. Emma’s research has had public impact, achieved through an exhibition of its findings at a Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities event. This has since gained interest from Glasgow Life.

Emma was co-supervised by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith and Dr Katerina Strani, both members of the recently-established cultural studies section in LINCS. Emma has already taken up a research position at the University of Edinburgh. She is highly deserving of this award for an exceptional piece of work that presents the voice of one of the most marginalized groups in Scotland today.

The MacFarlane Prize commemorates the contribution to the University made by Professor A G J MacFarlane during his tenure as Principal and Vice-Chancellor. The Prize of £250 is presented annually to the PhD graduate who, in the opinion of the Awards Panel, has made the most outstanding contribution to the research of the University.

Congratulations Dr Emma Hill !!!!

DESIGNS project update

By Audrey Cameron

Click here to see this blogpost in British Sign Language.

After our initial blogpost about the new DESIGNS: Deaf people in employment project in January 2017, which gave an overview of the project and talked about the kick-off event in Dublin, we have since held a community information event at Heriot-Watt University in June 2017, where we had various presentations from different members of the Designs project team. The event was attended by approximately 35 deaf BSL users, interpreters, and various advisory group representatives. The event was livestreamed through the Designs Facebook page, and the video is still available to watch.

We are now very excited to able to welcome Dr Audrey Cameron to the DESIGNS team. Audrey is a Deaf BSL user and has been appointed as the postdoctoral research associate for the project (two days per week). She brings a wealth of experience of research and working with the British Deaf Community. Audrey’s now into her fourth week and, having gone through the usual induction processes here at the University, she’s ready, along with the rest of the project team, to start identifying and contacting people to ask them to share their thoughts with us about the access issues for deaf sign language users around employment here in the UK.

A key part of this project involves interviewing people about the challenges facing deaf sign language users who are either employees, self-employed, managing their own business or looking for employment. We’ve prepared letters of introduction, explaining a little about the project and why we’d like to meet with people and these are now ready to go out.  A series of questions have been devised that are designed to help steer our conversations with participants and we’ve prepared the necessary consent forms. In the meantime, a couple of interviews have already been undertaken.

We’re also on the look out for volunteers to participate in focus groups to help us explore and develop resources that will help break down the barriers facing deaf sign language users that have been identified by the people we’ve been interviewing.

To complete the picture, we will be meeting with BSL/English Interpreters to find out from them what they see as the access issues for the deaf sign language users they work with in employment related settings.

One other thing we will be doing is collecting case studies of positive examples of where deaf people are successful in their workplace and how they work with interpreters. Here’s a good example from a recent article in the Deaf community online blog, the Limping Chicken, about Toby Burton, who is the Chief Financial Officer of Global Circulation at The Economist.

If you are interested in participating in our project or have any questions please let us know. Or if you think you have a positive case study to share with us, do get in touch.

Audrey Cameron can be contacted by email: Audrey.cameron@hw.ac.uk

Marco Polo project: Training Module in Penang

by Katerina Strani

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John Cleary and Katerina Strani from LINCS led the 2nd Training Module on International Cooperation Agreements and Networks, which is part of the Erasmus+ Marco Polo project (574027-EPP-1-2016-1-ES-EPPKA2-CBHE-JP), led by the University of Seville. The project includes 9 partners from Spain, the UK, Austria, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, and seeks to strengthen International Cooperation amongst Higher Education Institutions by establishing new mechanisms to exchange experiences and good practices, providing training to HEI staff, creating a framework for mobility of students and staff, and fostering research abilities by creating international research groups.

The 2nd Training Module on International Cooperation Agreements and Networks took place on 21st – 25th August at Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Penang, Malaysia. The first day was spent presenting the participating institutions: the hosts, Universiti Sains Malaysia, the University of Malaya, Prince of Songkla University, Naresuan University, Hanoi University, PTIT and Heriot-Watt University. On the second day, John and Katerina led discussions on internationalisation in the Higher Education sector and what this means for individual institutions. Differences in conceptualisations, priorities and strategies already started to emerge. The day continued with an interactive workshop on international cooperation agreements and networks and a subsequent talk by Dr Khairul Anuar Che Azmi from the USM legal office. The workshops continued on template agreements, analysing risk and developing institutional strategies for network building and internationalisation.

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The third day continued with more workshops on teamwork and building trust in cross-cultural teams, as well as building and sustaining virtual networks using social media.

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All delegates visited the impressive – to say the least – USM’s International Mobility and Collaboration Centre (IMCC).

Here’s how IMCC staff and ‘buddies’ welcomed the delegates:

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The fourth day focused on discussion and reflections on the week’s activities and drew parallels between institutional strategies. It also focused on future collaborations and included meetings with USM Heads of Schools and Departments. We were particularly honoured to have had the opportunity to have a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of USM Professor Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail and discuss with her the university’s vision, priorities and opportunities for collaboration.

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The final day continued the networking activities at a more informal basis and included a tour of Georgetown, the capital city of Penang. Georgetown is unique in its diversity and richness in culture, heritage, architecture and food. The oldest portion of the city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A blend of Chinese shophouses (“clan jetties”), Chinese temples, Hindu temples and Mosques Georgetown has also retained some colonial-style buildings, English street names and an Anglican church, St George’s (unsurprisingly). The Street of Harmony is testimony to the matchless diversity of the city.

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A promising project module that establishes important international networks could not have taken place in a better setting than unique Penang, in an unparalleled environment of rich cultural  heritage, tremendous hospitality an and mouthwatering food.

Terima kasih !

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Congress of the International Federation of Translators & Interpreters, Brisbane, Australia, August 2017

by Jemina Napier

 <Click here to see the blog post in International Sign>

 Recently I went to Australia as I had been invited as a keynote speaker at the International Federation of Translators & Interpreters (FIT) world congress in Brisbane. This was a historic moment at the FIT congress, as it was the first time they had experienced a keynote presentation on the topic of sign language interpreting. The fact that I chose to deliver the keynote address in Auslan (Australian Sign Language) also made a greater impact on the audience as I discussed the importance of recognizing signed languages as real languages on a par with spoken languages. Through my presentation I dispelled various myths about signed languages and confirmed for many reasons why signed languages should be considered as equal to spoken languages.

The congress was attended by over 800 delegates from all over the world representing a vast array of spoken languages, and the delegation was made up of translator and interpreter practitioners, educators and researchers. There were also approximately 20-30 (deaf & hearing) Auslan/English interpreter members of the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA) present at the conference.

At the end of the congress, each of the keynote speakers was asked to summarise their experience of the conference and present any key highlights or themes we felt that were worthy of note. I noticed one theme that was embedded within, and pervaded all, the presentations that I saw throughout the conference. This was the theme of ‘power’. For example, in one presentation about the Australian Aboriginal Interpreting Service, the importance of family connections was discussed and how hard it can be to navigate interpreted interaction when your interpreter is a family member, and the potential disempowerment Aboriginal Australians may experience when family members also have to interpret for them. Power dynamics were explored in relation to medical interpreting, and how interpreters’ decision-making can impact on the rapport between doctors and patients. Similarly, interpreters are in a powerful position in police interpreting, when their interpreting decisions can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

As I have already mentioned, in my own keynote address I discussed various issues in relation to signed languages, and it occurred to me that the theme of power was also evident in my own presentation – in the fact that I chose to present in Auslan. I could make that choice. This is about power of language choice. Many of the (spoken and signed language) users that translators and interpreters work with do not have that choice, therefore they do not have that same level of power. As a hearing person, I am in an immensely privileged position to be able to make that language choice: to choose one day to present in Auslan, and the next day I could present in spoken English. My language choice can also be determined by who the interpreter might be that is interpreting for me from Auslan into English, and whether I feel comfortable with them ‘being my voice’ or whether I would rather speak for myself. Many of my deaf friends and colleagues don’t have that choice. They don’t have the power that I have.

This issue links with a previous research project I have been involved in – the Translating the Deaf Self project – which examined whether deaf people feel that they are ‘known’ by hearing people through translation, i.e., do they feel represented by interpreters. Many of the deaf participants in our study reported that they felt that they have little choice when it comes to working with interpreters, and face challenges and barriers to feeling like they are adequately represented. (A full copy of the research report is available if you would like more detail: email j.napier@hw.ac.uk).

So this experience has made me further reflect on my position: who I am; and how important it is to acknowledge one’s positionality as a researcher (see Young & Temple, 2014; Napier & Leeson, 2016; Kusters et al, 2017). I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the FIT Congress as a result of my international profile as a sign language interpreting researcher. But ultimately I was a hearing person talking about signed languages. I chose to present in sign language, and the fact that I did that did make an impact on the FIT congress audience, as it brought into evidence – ‘made real’ – many of the issues I was talking about. But we need to see more opportunities for deaf people to talk about their language and their experiences as deaf sign language users.

I thoroughly enjoyed the FIT Congress. It was a wonderful experience, and I felt very honoured to have been invited. It was an important event for FIT in having the first keynote about sign language and sign language interpreting, so I recognise and respect that. But at the same time, my attendance and presentation at that congress has made me think about my work; my language choices; my power. So I decided to write this blog to acknowledge more widely that I recognise this privilege; this power. It’s made me think about my future attendance at conferences; my language choices; who I want to have an impact on through my presentations; and whether deaf people are involved. This is something that I felt important to share through this blogpost.

 

Moving Languages Newsletter – Summer 2017

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by Katerina Strani

This newsletter is also available in Finnish, Italian and Swedish.

Moving Languages is an Erasmus+ international project with partners in 6 EU countries. In this project, we are developing a mobile application for refugees, migrants and other language learners who have just arrived in their new country in Europe and want to learn English, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, or Finnish. We understand that people coming to Europe speak different languages and have different backgrounds and cultures. That is why we are offering translations in over 20 languages in our mobile application, as well as dedicated, localised “Culture” categories. We hope that this application will help the users learn the new language and key cultural concepts in their host countries. Designed to cater to different levels of linguistic competence, the Moving Languages 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 important during the first steps of living in the host country, with over 6,000 study items and over 3,000 illustrations for easy concept recognition. The categories include basic words as well as more specialised vocabulary related to studies, employment, healthcare, legal and administration issues and others.

The Moving Languages application will be available for download for free from all major app stores from June 2018.

Our project reports

O1 Report on immigrants, native languages and needs analysis for the applications

The partners conducted desk research about immigration in their own country. Needs analysis was conducted to get more information from stakeholders on what they would find relevant in a new language app. Based on this research, we selected the languages into which the Moving Languages application would be translated.

O2 Report on the mobile language solutions

The partners researched the availability of language apps in their countries. The collective report is a summary of what is available, the content and the cost of the language applications for Android and iOS. Based on this research, we have selected the most relevant exercise types, language content and game flow for our mobile app.

Mobile application development

We are already prototyping the app for both Android and iOs phones. You can find the details of the mobile application development on our project website, in the news section.

Project meetings

We have already had 3 project meetings: in Helsinki, Palermo and Malmö. You can read
more about them on our website in the news section.

Next steps

The next important stage of the app development is working on the Audio materials. The audio will be recorded by native speakers of each language in the project partner countries.

If you are interested in the project and would like to receive updates about our mobile application, check out our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter

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This is an Erasmus+ international project

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!

 

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!

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!!

 

 

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.