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

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.

 

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!!

 

 

The Translating the Deaf Self project: Wrapping up and what’s next?

By Jemina Napier, Alys Young, Rosemary Oram, Robert Skinner & Noel O’Connell

Click here to see a BSL version of the blog, presented by Rosemary Oram.

In two previous LifeinLINCS blog posts in March 2016 and August 2016, we have provided an overview of our Translating the Deaf Self project. The AHRC Translating Cultures research innovation grant for this project has meant that we have been able to carry out a scoping study of an area that has not yet been explored in the literature of Deaf Studies, Interpreting Studies, Applied Sign Linguistics or Applied Social Research. Our research focused on what it is like for Deaf sign language users to be known largely through translation and what the consequences might be for wellbeing.

Our research questions were as follows:

  1. How is translation constitutive of Deaf cultures in their formation, projection and transformation?
  2. What is the impact of consistently experiencing existence to others as a translated-self on personal identity, achievement and well-being?

After interviews with Deaf sign language users, sign language interpreters, hearing colleagues of Deaf people, and parents with deaf children, our findings reveal that

  1. The shared experience among Deaf sign language users of being known through translation could be considered as part of Deaf cultural identity but more research is needed to really understand this; and
  2. The experience of consistently experiencing existence to others as a translated-self has an impact on personal identity, achievement and well-being for Deaf sign language users. That impact is not always positive but it is recognized by Deaf people some of whom make deliberate adjustments in everyday life to combat negative effects and maximize the positive. Interpreters too are professionally conscious of their role in the ‘translated Deaf self’ and the dilemmas it brings up in terms of representation to others.
  3. From hearing people’s point of view in workplace relationships with Deaf colleagues, representation and identity are obscured often by a fascination with the interpreter. Even when hearing colleagues attempt to ‘get past’ the interpreter and seek out what they perceive as the ‘real’ Deaf person they can miss the important point that the Deaf person and their language are not inseparable.  There is no hidden self ‘despite’ an interpreter.

As this project was a new exploration of this concept, it is clear that more research is needed on this topic.

Disseminating the findings

We are in the process of writing up our findings, and will submit them for publications.

So far we have also given several conference presentations as follows:

  • Oram, R., Napier, J., Young, A., & Skinner, R., (2016). Critical links between Deaf culture, well being and interpreting: Translating the Deaf Self. Poster presented to the Critical Link 8: Interpreting in the Community Conference, Edinburgh, 29 June – 1 July 2016.
  • Napier, J., Oram, R., Skinner, R., & Young, A. (2016). Translating the Deaf Self: Deaf culture in practice and being ‘known’ through interpreting. Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK Conference, Newcastle, 1-2 October 2016.
  • Napier, J., Oram, R., Young, A., Skinner, & O’Connell, N. (2016). Translating the Deaf Self: An example of innovation in university-community research engagement. Bridging the Gap conference, Brighton, 12th November 2016.

 

And will be giving another one in 2017:

Napier, J., Young, A., Oram, R., & Skinner, R. (2017). Translating the Deaf Self: The lived experience of being ‘known’ through interpreting. Symposium on Sign Language Interpreting & Translation Research, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, March 2017.

 In collaboration with two Deaf-led production companies, AC2.Com and Mutt & Jeff Pictures, we produced three short films in BSL to encapsulate some of the key themes that had come up in our data. The films are not an attempt to summarise the findings, but to highlight some key issues that our participants discussed, which we can use to generate more conversations about the concept of the ‘Translated Deaf Self’.

We have not yet made the videos public via social media as we are concerned about how people might respond and the potential impact on wellbeing if any content of the videos triggers emotive responses and we cannot be present to talk through those responses. Instead, we have decided to only show the videos when a member of the research team is present to explain the background, contextualise the study and the videos, and is available to talk through responses. But each film has been submitted to the Deaf Fest 2017 Film Festival in the UK, so we hope that they will be shown there.

In September 2016 we hosted an event in collaboration with Action Deafness and the Derby Deaf Club, where we had approximately 75 participants who travelled from all over the country to learn about what we had found in the study, and to participate in a preview of the films. As part of the event, we also had follow up discussion in BSL about how the participants responded to the films and whether they identified with the themes in each film. Showing the films generated a lot of interesting discussion, and has confirmed for us the importance of taking the films around the country to show the British Deaf community.

What’s next?

We plan to apply for further AHRC funding to explore the notion of the Translated Deaf Self in more depth, and hope to continue the partnership with all the people and organisations who were involved in this scoping study. We also plan to apply for AHRC Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement in 2017 in order to disseminate the findings and show the videos via a ‘roadshow’.

Acknowledgements

In wrapping up this project, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of many people and organisations, without whom this project would not have been possible:

  • Professor Charles Forsdick, Theme Leader, AHRC Translating Cultures Theme
  • Stakeholder Advisory Group members: Avril Hepner (British Deaf Association Scotland); Carly Brownlie (Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters); Jane Worrall (Deaf Connections, Glasgow); Teri Devine (Action on Hearing Loss Scotland); Frankie McLean/ Shaurna Dickson (Deaf Action, Edinburgh);
  • Joel Kelhofer and Ella Leith at AC2.Com/SignLive, and Louis Neethling and Alison Lynch at Mutt & Jeff Pictures for the production of the short films
  • Zoë McWhinney, Research intern at Heriot-Watt University
  • Craig Crowley, CEO; Jaz Mann, Alison Blount at Action Deafness for support with organising Community Participatory Group in Leicester and with film launch event in Derby, and Action Deafness for providing interpreters for the film launch event at no cost to the project.
  • Members of the Derby Deaf Club for helping to organise the catering for the film launch event and for making their premises available for the event
  • Jane Worrall, former CEO of Deaf Connections for assistance with CPG in Glasgow
  • Mark Napier, Managing Director at the Centre for Public Innovation for providing the venue for the focus group in London with interpreters
  • ASLI UK for distributing call for interpreter participants to its members
  • Emmy Kauling for help compiling the final research report.

 

Heriot-Watt University BSL interpreting placements 2016-2017

By Jemina Napier

 <Click here to see this blog post in BSL>

Our first cohort of students from the BSL/English interpreting 4-year undergraduate programme graduated in June 2016. Most of the graduates have registered with either the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) or the National Registers of Communication Professionals with working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) as trainee or qualified interpreters, and are already working as interpreters or communication support workers in various settings. Their readiness to work was thanks to the support they received from Deaf community members and professional BSL/English interpreters, who gave them the opportunity to go into real life interpreting assignments and learn outside the classroom. This basically means that students go on interpreting work placement in their 4th year, and shadow working interpreters; they observe interpreting in the real world and are also encouraged to try interpreting in safe environments by their interpreting mentors.

Interpreting work placement in 2016-2017

Based on feedback from mentors and students from last year, we have changed the structure of the interpreting work placement. Instead of doing 70 hours over two 1-week blocks in one semester, we have embedded the placement across the whole academic year. So now students are required to complete 100 hours of shadowing: 25 hours in Semester 1 (October-December) and 75 hours in Semester 2 (January-May). This arrangement gives the students and mentors more flexibility to identify suitable interpreting assignments across a range of different areas.

The aim of the interpreting work placement is to:

  1. To give students the opportunity to access authentic ‘real-world’ interpreting situations
  2. To provide students with the opportunity to observe the professional practice of qualified interpreters at work
  3. To facilitate the opportunity for students to try interpreting in ‘real-world’ interpreting situations, in a safe and supported environment, where appropriate and with the agreement of all parties
  4. To enable students to discuss, critique and reflect on their observations of other interpreters and their own professional practice

Students have to keep a logbook of their observations, and write reflections about what they have learned. This experience equips the students with the skills needed to be reflective practitioners when they go on to work as interpreters.

Once more we would like to publicly acknowledge the interpreters that are giving their time, energy and commitment to supporting these students. Specifically, we thank the list of interpreters below who have agreed to take on students this year:

  1. Paul Belmonte (Edinburgh)
  2. Bruce Cameron (Glasgow)
  3. Andy Carmichael (Edinburgh)
  4. Lesley Crerar (Aberdeen)
  5. Andrew Dewey (Ayr)
  6. Shaurna Dickson (Edinburgh)
  7. Linda Duncan (Fife)
  8. Helen Dunipace (Glasgow)
  9. Marion Fletcher (Edinburgh)
  10. Eddie Foley (Glasgow)
  11. Donna Jewell (Falkirk)
  12. Sheena MacDonald (Edinburgh)
  13. Brenda Mackay (Fife)
  14. Rachel Mapson (Edinburgh)
  15. Paula Marshall (Denny)
  16. Robert McCourt (Glasgow)
  17. Mary McDevitt (Falkirk)
  18. David Milligan (Glasgow)
  19. Nicolle Murdoch (Edinburgh)
  20. David Summersgill (Dunbar)
  21. Linda Thomson (Glasgow)
  22. Yvonne Waddell (Hamilton)

Again we would like to thank the support of SASLI and NRCPD who have endorsed that interpreters can received Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for acting as mentors.

The students on placement in 2016-2017 are:

  1. Jenna Adams
  2. Sarah Forrester
  3. Amy Hunter
  4. Tanja Jacobs
  5. Christina Kunz
  6. Tommy Malone
  7. Marnie Radmer
  8. Kristina Tandl
  9. Isla Van der Heiden
  10. Sabine Zielinska

We would like to thank Deaf BSL users in Scotland for their continued support of our students, and hope that you will encourage them in their efforts to develop their skills to become professional interpreters.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 – how accessible was it to Deaf people?

by Michael Richardson

This blog-post is based on an article to be published in the October 2016 edition of the British Deaf News, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

 

As I write, the final day of the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe is drawing to a close.  During a three-and-a-half week period there will have been over 50,000 performances of more than 3,000 different shows:  it is easy to accept the claim that this is the largest arts festival in the world.  But how many of these performances are accessible to Deaf people?  The Fringe is committed to improving the accessibility of Edinburgh venues and its own box office, but as it takes no role in choosing any of the shows, it is left to each visiting company whether or not to make their performances accessible to Deaf spectators.

Deaf people’s involvement in theatre, whether watching or performing, is my own particular interest.  For almost ten years I have been exploring the use of BSL on stage, in both youth theatre and musical theatre.  A show I produced for Edinburgh Music Theatre which used integrated sign language interpreting was featured on the BBC’s See Hear as one of only a handful of performances providing accessibility for Deaf spectators in the 2011 Fringe.

I am now doing a PhD at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, researching Deaf people’s participation in theatre, so the 2016 Fringe seemed an excellent opportunity to review progress towards better access for Deaf people.  The timing was particularly appropriate as I have just completed a project interviewing a small group of Deaf people on the subject of theatrical interpreting.  So, debit card at the ready, I logged on to the Fringe website and began my search for sign language interpreted performances.

The first good news I can report is that the amount of interpreted theatre has increased since 2011.  The Fringe website’s own list of performances accessible to Deaf people featured 31 different shows, of which 11 were interpreted on 2 or more occasions.  In addition, in the Free Fringe the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble worked with Forest Fringe to present a whole day of BSL interpreted shows at the venue Out of the Blue.   Certainly there are more options to choose from for Deaf spectators than in earlier years.

Interpreted shows included a wide range of performance styles. Drama, physical theatre, circus, children’s shows and comedy were all represented, as well as traditional Scottish storytelling and music, a choir performing African song and dance, and a skit of the Eurovision Song Contest.  More choice was offered by the use overall of a relatively large pool of interpreters.  Still lacking, however, was a strong presence by Deaf actors.  The Fringe website listed only one bilingual (BSL/English) theatre show, which I will describe later; and a one off spoken word event performed by my colleagues, two Deaf and two hearing from Heriot Watt University (Jemina Napier, Gary Quinn, Stacey Webb and Mark McQueen).

Incidentally, although the accessibility pages of the Fringe website are not easy to find, once you have clicked through they are increasingly good at giving the kind of extra information that Deaf theatre goers asked for in my research project.  75% of the shows described as accessible had a named interpreter advertised, and over 30% either gave the position of the interpreter or offered the option for Deaf spectators to choose appropriate seats when they arrived at the venue.

This kind of pre-show communication is certainly starting to address the first requirement of accessibility:  that target audiences need to be fully aware in advance of all relevant details of the accessible event (although in 2016 no information was presented in BSL, a situation which may change following the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015).  However, I am particularly interested in the communication that occurs during the show, and the ways that it engages Deaf spectators.  My Deaf research participants had been clear that in interpreted theatre they expect a particular style of high impact interpreting that matches the performances of the actors and is presented within the same visual frame as the performance, so I set out to see if theatre companies and interpreters were meeting these expectations.

I was not disappointed.  At Forest Fringe I watched three shows where there had been rehearsal time put aside to integrate the interpreting into the show as much as possible.  In all three the interpreters were costumed effectively to match the actors, but the choices of shows had an impact on the degree of further integration.  Nic Green’s  Cock and Bull, interpreted by Catherine King, was an avant garde political satire that was highly visual and sexually provocative.  This accessible visual style was contrasted with a complex script in which sentences were broken into individual words and even parts of words, with actors overlapping different lines with songs and voice-over.  This combination of a very physical staging with a difficult spoken text unavoidably limited the fuller integration of the interpreter.

The other two Forest Fringe shows, both interpreted by Yvonne Strain, presented fewer challenges.  Greg Wohead’s Celebration Florida allowed her to be both costumed and fully integrated into the action, moving with the two actors and giving Deaf spectators an equivalent experience to hearing audiences of the show’s exploration of nostalgia for forgotten experiences, people and places.  A different approach was taken for Action Hero’s Watch Me Fall, a show which used home-made stunts to question our relationship with ideas of tough-guys and daredevils as celebrities.  Possibly for her own safety as much as for anything else, the interpreter took a fixed position on the side of the performance area.  Rather than being integrated into the show she performed as though a member of the standing audience, reacting as we did to the stunts, but also interpreting the announcements between the stunts and the few short sections of dialogue as they occurred.

Away from Forest Fringe I saw two shows interpreted by Yvonne Waddell, a PhD candidate at Heriot Watt University, in which she had worked independently with the companies to provide as much integration as possible.  Ronan O’Donnell’s Brazil is a one man show set in an imagined Scotland destroyed by the bombs of war and living in poverty and mistrust.  Yvonne provided a highly visual BSL interpretation to match the poetic language of the original, and was fully integrated into the show.  She was costumed, and performed from on the small stage close to the speaking actor.  At significant moments the two made eye contact, effectively suggesting that they represented two different sides of the same character.

A different style of integration was used in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Walrus, a play with two characters exploring their changing relationship in a world where they were only allowed to use 140 words per day.  Here Yvonne Waddell worked with Greg Colquhoun, a recent graduate of Heriot Watt University (MA British Sign Language (Translation, Interpreting and Applied Language Studies)).  The interpreters were less integrated into the action, standing on one side of the theatre-in-the-round stage, but each interpreter represented one character throughout, fully costumed, partly shadowing their actors and often using a word to sign literal translation to reflect the way that English words were used in the original.  The matching of the interpreters to the actors was particularly effective and is hopefully a sign of things to come in theatre interpreting.

I cannot finish this article without discussing further the work of the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble.  Individual interpreters are doing what they can to improve the experience of Deaf spectators, but this company bring a strategic approach that is shown in their partnership with Forest Fringe.  In addition, this year they performed their own show People of the Eye, featuring one Deaf and one hearing actor and using a mix of BSL, speech and creative captions to tell the story of a Deaf girl growing up in a hearing family.   The show puts across the combination of humour and anguish that is often a Deaf child’s experience through a mix of emotional dialogue and tightly choreographed physical and visual theatre.  The aim is to create accessible bilingual theatre that both engages and educates audiences, and the four and five star reviews it received demonstrate that this was achieved.

Unfortunately People of the Eye was (to my knowledge) the only theatre show to feature a Deaf actor at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, although there was also a bilingual BSL/English poetry event (that I was unable to attend).  For me (and others) this raises the question of why significant sums of money are put into theatrical interpreting rather than using at least some access funding to support Deaf actors and Deaf theatre:  a show like Deafinitely Theatre’s recent production of George Brant’s Grounded would be a perfect fit for the Fringe.  But for now we can be clear about one thing.  The use of BSL in performances at the Fringe is increasing, and interpreters and theatre producers are working hard to do it better, and to make interpreting more integrated.   As signed performances become more common place, hopefully an appetite will grow in theatre audiences to attend performances by Deaf actors using BSL, thus coming to appreciate Deaf language and culture and all they can offer to the creation of high quality physical and visual theatre.

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The Translating the Deaf Self project: Where are we now?

By Zoë McWhinney and Jemina Napier

On behalf of the whole Translating the Deaf Self project team

Click here to see a BSL version of the blog presented by Zoë.

As you may have seen in the earlier blogpost in March 2016, members of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies Scotland at Heriot-Watt University (Jemina Napier and Robert Skinner) are working in collaboration with researchers from the Social Research with Deaf People (SORD) group at the University of Manchester (Alys Young and Rosemary Oram) on an 18-month interdisciplinary project funded through the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Translating Cultures Research Innovation Grant. Information about the project can be found here, and a summary of the project presented in BSL by Jemina Napier and Rosemary Oram as part of the EdSign lecture series can be seen here.

 Research intern

As mentioned in the March blogpost, the AHRC is keen to support the capacity building of young researchers, so Zoë McWhinney began her 20 day research internship with Heriot-Watt University at the beginning of June 2016 – spending two weeks on campus at Heriot-Watt University and then will be carrying out the rest of her internship by distance until the end of the project in October 2016. Zoë was involved in supporting the final Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting in June 2016, and is involved in various tasks for the remainder of the project (including drafting and translating this blogpost!).

Data collection

Our research focuses on what it is like for Deaf sign language users to be known largely through translation. The Deaf experience of being constantly interpreted is markedly in contrast to the general hearing population’s experience, even that of other linguistic and ethnic minorities.  This experience often leads to an asymmetry of the ‘power dynamics’ and consequently the opportunities available to Deaf person in non-signing, hearing- dominated spaces. Some Deaf people’s well being may be adversely affected by the stresses created in such a situation – an area of exploration in this research project.

During the project, we have completed the following data collection:

  • 3 parents of Deaf children participated in telephone interviews in spoken English
  • 2 x focus groups were held with qualified sign language interpreters (7 interpreters in total) in spoken English
  • 8 hearing colleagues of Deaf BSL users participated in face-to-face interviews in spoken English
  • 3 Deaf BSL users who choose to speak sometimes in their professional work contexts participated in face-to-face interviews in BSL. We have coined the term ‘Deaf Contextual Speakers’ to explain how these Deaf BSL users sometimes use speech, even though they identify as BSL users.
  • 2 x Community Participatory Groups were held in BSL with Deaf community members (7 in total). Each of the 2 sessions lasted for 2.5 to 3 hours and also had some activities to allow space for open discussions. The participants in this group were most responsive when watching and commenting on clips of scenarios with examples of Deaf and hearing people’s communication being interpreted by an interpreter.
  • 5 x simulated recall interviews were held with Deaf professionals in BSL after one of the research team had filmed them in a real situation with interpreters. Originally we had planned to test the use of Think-Aloud Protocol (TAP) as a methodology (where people comment on what they are seeing while they are doing a task), but due to the complex circumstances and the reality of the participants being BSL users accompanied by interpreters in person, we adapted the approach to a ‘simulated recall (SR) interview’. The SR interviews involved participants being shown a video of themselves interacting with hearing persons via an interpreter and asking them questions about their experience of being interpreted based on what they could see in the video.

All the focus groups and interviews were semi-structured, with the participants given example questions and/ or topic outline beforehand. Time length for focus groups took from 1.5 to 3 hours, whilst the individual interviews took from 30 minutes to 1 hour each.

The research study gained full ethical approval from the Universities of Manchester and Heriot Watt.

Presentations of results

Presently, the team is conducting an in-depth qualitative analysis using both a thematic analysis approach and a critical inquiry methodology.  The findings will be published in a range of academic journals related to social research, deaf studies and interpreting studies, as well as present at different conferences and community events. BSL access to the main findings will be made available online as well.  For example, we presented some preliminary findings in a poster session at the 8th Critical Link International Conference on Community Interpreting between 29th June to 1st July 2016 at Heriot-Watt university; and will also be presenting a more detailed overview of results at the Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK Conference in Newcastle in September 2016.

Final Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting

On 7th June we had our third and final meeting with the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) in Edinburgh, Scotland, with representatives from the British Deaf Association (Scotland), the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) and Action on Hearing Loss (Scotland), where we presented the preliminary results from our analysis of the data. The role of the SAG has been to give the research team guidance on the research methods, data collection, recruitment of participants, interpretation of the results, and also about potential implications of the research, and we would like to thank all the people who have attended meetings throughout the project, including other representatives from Deaf Action in Edinburgh and Deaf Connections in Glasgow. One of the final recommendations from the last SAG meeting was for the project team to hold a roadshow to present the results of the project to members of the Deaf community in BSL. We will look for funding to enable us to do that.

What’s next?

The research team are now working with AC2.Com Productions and Mutt & Jeff Pictures to develop scripts for 3 short video dramas in BSL in order to illustrate some of the key findings from the research project. We plan to disseminate the videos through various platforms, including social media.

 

As well as working on the video production, Zoë will be assisting the research team to organise a dissemination event in September, where the whole team will present final results from the project and launch the videos. The event will be hosted in collaboration with our partner Action Deafness at their new venue at the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby – so look out for future announcements!

 

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.

Heriot-Watt and University of North Florida Cultural and Linguistic Exchange

by Stacey Webb

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For a BSL version of this post, please click here

I have been working in collaboration with Dr. Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida (UNF) on a linguistic and cultural exchange opportunity between some of our respective interpreting students. The project was designed to provide an expansive experience in our field of interpreting as well as increasing cultural awareness while exploring Scotland.  Students had the opportunity to connect with leaders, community members and other sign language interpreting students. One of the major highlights of the trip was being able to participate in Critical Link 8, themed “a new generation” aimed at future proofing the profession.

I am personally grateful to all the people who helped make this week a success and I hope that it was a memorable experience for everyone. I first got to meet the American students from UNF the over the previous weekend, where they got to experience some Scottish sunshine..some Scottish rain and of course farmers markets, bagpipes and the castle!  Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and I loved seeing them take in the place I have made my home.  To wrap your head around of what this experience included here is a recap of the week:

Monday June 27:  Students both ASL and BSL had been eagerly awaiting the introduction of the buddies.  All students were put into pairs! Although we didn’t expect them to be “buddy/buddy” or think that friendships would form over night, we wanted to make sure they knew that they had at least one person to go to with questions, comments and concerns but also to engage in collaborative reflection with. We provided some thought provoking questions to ask each other as well as several activities throughout the day that we hoped would initiate conversations around sign languages and the interpreting profession in both American and Scottish contexts. Students from UNF and HW met for the first time at the Edinburgh Business School Cafe (EBS).  We figured coffee and bacon rolls can only make a day start a little brighter!  After a brief induction, the tutors left the students to find their way to their classes.  Students were then provided a brief introduction to the language of the other country.

Heriot-Watt’s Gary Quinn spent two hours with the American students teaching them some basic communication strategies in BSL, while Suzanne Erhlich, from UNF, and I taught the local HW students some American Sign Language.  These language introductions went over really well, and students were eager to begin practicing with their buddies.  After these initial classes, Yvonne Waddle, Heriot-Watt PhD student and local BSL/English Interpreter, volunteered her time to the students to teach Scottish words and phrases.  It was important to show the students just how different English speaking countries are- yes they may share a similar language, but there are so many words, phrases, and cultural rhetoric that is actually not shared across the ocean.  People often assume that when you move to an English speaking country it will be just like home- and from my own personal experience, I can assure them it is not! This class was a hit amongst the students, and I caught a few of them using their new Scottish words and phrases throughout the rest of the week!

Fanny Chouc, from the French section, assisted us by running a mini conference that focused on the pros and cons of technology.  Mavis Lasne, PhD student participated in the conference and gave a speech in Chinese, where MSC student volunteers ,interpreted her speech into English, and our students then interpreted it into ASL and BSL.  Interventions were also provided in BSL, ASL and English.

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Yes, it was a jam packed and we are not even close to being done yet! After the mini conference,  students were sent off for some reflection time- clear set time to be without teaching and without their tutors. They could meet with their buddies and use the time to “soak it all in”, make mental notes of what they learned from the day, and ultimately get to know each other. Heriot-Watt has a beautiful grounds and I am sure many of their paths have been a source of inspiration amongst many of our students and staff.

Later that evening, students headed to the city centre, where we embarked on a private tour city  tour with Sandemans New Edinburgh Tours .  We invited friends from the Deaf Community, some local and some from abroad abroad.  A local interpreter, Katy Smilie, volunteered her time to interpret the tour into BSL, and I worked into ASL.  We learned stories of Deacan Broadie, Maggie Dixon, and Greyfriars Bobby- a true Edinburgh experience!  Thanks to Brian Marshall, he was also able to share with us (and the guide) the location of the first Deaf Club, and even pointed out the grave site of Walter Giekie, a famous Edinburgh Artist and former star pupil of the Braidwood school. It was fantastic to have Deaf locals on our tour.

We then headed to the Grassmarket for dinner.  All 30 of us made it to the Beehive Inn and I have to take a moment to thank the staff, as they were all fantastic! I am personally grateful to them as I know it can be difficult to manage such a large group.

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Tuesday 28 June:  You thought Monday was packed….  On Tuesday morning, we embarked on a tour with Rabbies on a all day excursion of Scotland.  With two busses full,  the students and invited members from the Deaf Community made there way to Dunkleld, Hermitage waterfalls, Pitlochry, the Queen’s View, Loch Tay/Kenmore and ended at The Famous Grouse Distillery.

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We owe a big thank you to the UNF students for making this tour possible. Ultimately the 6 students on this trip funded the opportunity for all of the HW students and Deaf Community members attend without cost of their own.  This is great example of reciprocity, a value that we hope remains with each one of our students as they continue to navigate their futures as professional sign language interpreters.

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This trip was also special for me on a personal level; my first interpreter educator was also on board, Melissa Smith, from San Diego, California.  She has inspired me as both an interpreter and an educator.  To  be able to introduce her to my own students was was incredibly meaningful.

The tour took us to some really beautiful places. Katy Smilie again, volunteered to interpret, but also the students tried their best interpreting from time to time to keep communication accessible.  It was truly a lovely day; and has Robbie Burns once said, “Wherever I wander, where ever I rove, the hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”

 

Wednesday 28 June-  Friday 1 July:  Critical Link!!! One of the main reasons this week was selected for this linguistic and cultural exchange was that Critical LInk 8 was being held in the James Watt Centre at Heriot-Watt University. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this conference, so the students were not only the ones excited to go.  Personally, I feel it is really important for students to go ahead and attend professional conferences, especially international ones, to truly jump start their professional journeys. It is in these contexts, students are engaged in true experiential learning- where they see that all of the “stuff” their tutors are trying so hard to teach them is real and meaningful to the professionals and not simply “stuff” you learn for the sake of being a student.

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The Conference provided interpreting in British Sign Language and International Sign Language, additionally, there were other sign languages in use (e.g. American Sign Language and Norwegian Sign Language), which provided students even more insight to how different sign languages are from country to country. They were also starstruck- the names they have only read in books, journal articles and seen/heard about in lectures came to life.

Me:  “Did you know you were just sitting by Debra Russell?”

Student: “I was?! Stacey, I feel like I am at Disneyland!”

Other students came up to me and told me how many people they had met.  Talking to them you would think they were actually in Hollywood! It truly was special, because if you are going to have any celebrity idols- I think the ones in our profession are pretty great!

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To celebrate the success of our week, we headed for one last dinner together.  Toasts of thanks, laughter and even a few tears the students were delighted with the week.  To top the evening off, Franz Pöchhacker joined us at Checkpoint in Edinburgh!

The week was perfect blend of sign language, interpreting, deaf community and other  professionals within the field of interpreting/translation (spoken and signed).  Friendships were formed and memories were made.  One of the students from UNF shared with me that the experience was in fact  “life changing”– and that is why we teach, right? Yes, that is why we go above and beyond to create meaningful learning experiences for our students. I am so thankful to everyone who helped make this week great, your efforts are much appreciated and please know they made a direct impact on the 13 students who participated in this exchange!

In closing..

So as you can see the Heriot-Watt BSL section has been busy!

Over the past several months staff, students and the local Deaf community have been meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of the Month for a meal.  We have been going to Entwine, however, recently it has closed down.  I am working on finding a new place and I think we will be meeting at CheckPoint, but will keep you all posted via Facebook.

As always, remember it takes a village to raise a sign language and in staying with the critical link 8 theme, we humbly invite you to join us in future proofing the next generation of interpreters.