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!!

 

 

59°N – IRC PhD Student based in Orkney

by Cait McCullagh

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

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

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

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The view over the island of Hoy

 

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Kirkwall Harbour

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

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

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Interior of the boat shed at Lyness on Scapa Flow

 

Foundation Students do Real Research

by Olwyn Alexander  

Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is about more than developing students’ English language and study skills; it also involves Academic Purposes, i.e. research and scholarship. I’ve been interested for some time in ways to develop the research capability of students with an intermediate level of English proficiency (CEFR B1, IELTS 4.5). I got the opportunity to explore this further with a revision of the Heriot-Watt Foundation English programme, in which the research component is foregrounded. Students now develop their language proficiency within the context of research in their discipline. This required a fundamental rethink about how to present the research process for intermediate level language learners, going back to first principles for research.

I started by asking the Foundation students what they were curious about in their discipline and we noted that children are natural researchers because they are curious about the world. From typical questions children ask, we derived some fundamental questions about research in the disciplines:

For science and engineering

  • What exists?
  • How does it come to exist?
  • What does it do?

For social science

  • What do people think about what exists?
  • Why do people behave the way they do?

We then characterised the concept of research by looking at published definitions and decided that there were four key components:

  • A concept – an abstract idea that forms the basis for a piece of research
  • A real world context in which to study the concept
  • A problem or puzzle in the context that relates to the concept
  • A question that links the concept to the problem in the context.

The research question formulates the problem in a focused way that enables it to be researched and thus to move the discipline forward. Some examples of Foundation students’ research questions:

  • What is the minimum concentration of a chemical pollutant in an indoor environment required to model it accurately?
  • How can Shunfeng [a Chinese logistics company] develop its third party logistics operation effectively?

Foundation students can use the framework to access key ideas in complex research articles. They explore the research activity of members of their discourse community and characterize their research using the same framework. They share their findings in class discussions and complete an assessment task to profile a researcher. All the time, they are expanding their repertoire of academic vocabulary and grammar structures.

The students, all postgraduates, have found the experience to be highly motivating. Just because they have a low language proficiency does not mean they cannot grapple with complex academic concepts as long as these are presented in accessible language.

The challenge for teachers is to operate well outside their comfort zone to engage with ideas their students find motivating but they may find incomprehensible. Is it asking too much of teachers to work in this way?

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.

LINCS BSL team rock at Critical Link 8

by Stacey Webb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posters

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

CL8_4

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

CL8_3

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

CL8_1

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

CL8_2

 

Papers

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

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

CL8_7

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

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

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

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Interpreting Provision

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

CL8_10

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CL8_8

LifeinLINCS in Top 25 Language Professional blogs!

The results from the bab.la competition are out and LifeinLINCS is at the

Top 25 Language Professional Blogs (out of 1,000 nominees and 100 language resources!)

and Top 100 Language Lovers Blog !

These accomplishments will soon feature as “badges” in our pages.

We would like to thank our readers as well as staff and students in LINCS who contribute to the blog.

The Top 5 posts for 2015 were:

 

The Top 5 posts for this month were:

 

With 246 posts, almost 90,000 views and more than 42,000 visitors since the blog was launched in 2011, we will continue to publish posts about research and practice in Languages, Interpreting, Translation and Cultural Studies.

Thank you for your support. Stay tuned!

Katerina Strani

Blog Editor