Making an Impact

by Michael Richardson

For the last two and a half years I have been researching the participation of Deaf people in theatre.  With only a few months remaining, I am currently writing up my PhD thesis, wondering what I am doing – and often, why I am doing it.  Of course, working bilingually in English and British Sign Language with a mixed group of Deaf and hearing actors for a week last summer was great fun.  Finding out what audiences thought about the finished work was fascinating.  Turning it all into 80,000 words of highly academic but readable prose?  Well, let’s just say, the 65,000 words I still need to write aren’t coming easily.  I can’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Fortunately, my PhD journey started well, and I am regularly reminded of the benefit of academic research by emails I receive from people who have changed their practice as a result of my work.  It all started in my first year as a postgraduate, when I was invited by a theatre to conduct a small study for them, attempting to find out why the numbers of Deaf spectators were lower than expected for Sign Language Interpreted Performances (SLIPs).

SLIPs are performances of spoken language theatre that are simultaneously translated into sign language, usually by a single interpreter standing in the downstage corner of the stage at some distance from the actors.  They are the typical method currently employed to encourage Deaf sign language users to attend mainstream theatres.

In my research I interviewed Deaf and hearing audience members, as well as a theatre interpreter, and staff responsible for access in the theatre.  The results suggest that SLIPs do not provide Deaf spectators with an experience equivalent to that of hearing audience members.  Interpreters are inadequately trained and usually given insufficient resources to prepare for a SLIP.  Theatre companies are often uninterested in, if not opposed to, the presence of the interpreter on stage, and insist on her spatial separation from the main production, making it impossible for spectators to follow the show and the translation at the same time. Theatre venues, despite promoting a performance in sign language, often do not use sign language in their marketing materials or in front of house facilities.  As a result they do not present a welcoming image to the very people they are trying to attract.  Understandably my Deaf participants had little positive to say about the effectiveness of SLIPs in providing access.

The aim of a preparatory study such as this within the PhD process is to give an opportunity for postgraduate researchers to develop and refine their research skills; and for academic staff to ascertain whether their PhD student is ready to progress to the full-scale study on which their thesis will be built.  My work on SLIPs, however, has gone far beyond this.

My research was the first to ask Deaf people their views on SLIPs, and there has been significant interest in my results from the academic community.  I have spoken at several conferences in the UK and Europe on the challenges of delivering SLIPs.  Most recently I presented my thoughts on the need to establish a separate professional speciality of performance interpreting to support the development of quality provision of SLIPs, at the Third International Conference on Interpreting Quality in Granada (http://qinv.ugr.es/iciq3-en.htm).  I have also written articles based on my research.  A paper on interpreting and theatre translation was published in 2017 in the online journal TranscUlturAl (https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/tc/index.php/TC/article/view/29265). A second paper, ‘The Sign Language Interpreted Performance: A Failure of Access Provision for Deaf Spectators ‘ will be published in March in the journal Theatre Topics (volume 28 (1), pp. 63-74).

Whilst spreading awareness of my work within the academic community is a desirable part of the PhD journey, I am also pleased that my research is having impact in the real world.  I have been invited to speak at events aimed at cultural managers, theatre practitioners and interpreters throughout the UK:  at the South Bank Centre in London with Deafinitely Theatre; in Ipswich with the Pacitti Company; at Manchester Art Gallery for the Greater Manchester Cultural Group for Deaf People; and as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Each of these events is part of the work in progress towards adequate access to cultural events for Deaf people, as is my ongoing contribution to a working group in Edinburgh that aims to develop opportunities for Deaf-led arts and cultural activities.

More tangible results have followed from discussions with individual practitioners.  Zane Hema, an interpreter trainer based in Australia, is using my ideas about performance interpreting in Continuous Professional Development sessions that he leads.   ZooCo (https://wearezooco.co.uk/), a small touring company that works to make theatre accessible to diverse audiences, is using my research to inform their thinking about how to engage Deaf audiences.  In Gloucester, the Strike a Light Festival took on a number of the recommendations that I made, including having staff Front of House who could greet Deaf patrons in sign language; and keeping seats for Deaf spectators at SLIPs that give the best possible view of interpreter and stage.  Previously they had not attracted any Deaf people at all; having made these changes, they estimate that approximately 5% of their audience during their 2017 festival was Deaf.  In the March 2018 festival they will also use the Difference Engine, a piece of technology that streams captions onto an individual’s smart phone or tablet, for their production of Lucy J Skilbeck’s Joan (https://www.strikealightfestival.org.uk/events/joan/).

As I write this, I am in the middle of slowly redrafting the first half of my literature review, and thematically coding the seemingly endless hours of video data that I generated in my main research project last year.  Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the fact that the work I did in the first year of my PhD is already having an impact, not only in universities, but also in the real world of cultural provision.  My research is contributing to an improvement in the lives of Deaf people, at least in the arts.  And that, I remember, is why I am doing it.

DESIGNS project update – December 2017

 

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By Audrey Cameron & Jemina Napier

 

In this blogpost, Audrey Cameron and Jemina Napier explain what has been happening so far on the DESIGNS project (promoting access in employment for deaf people), since the last update in November 2017.

Audrey has just finished interviewing nearly 40 deaf sign language users on their experiences of employment and Jemina is interviewing sign language interpreters on their experiences of working with deaf people in their workplace.  We will start analysing the data in the new year.

We will also be looking into interviewing employers in early 2018 for their perspective on deaf people in employment.  We are delighted to be working with a new project partner – Vercida.  The company was previously known as ‘Diversity Jobs’ and they have a good network of contacts with numerous companies and employers across the UK.  Vercida is keen to work with us to recruit employers for the DESIGNS project.

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The next DESIGNS community event will be in Bruges, Belgium, in January 2018 and hosted by one of our project partners the European Union of the Deaf, where we will introduce the project to the local deaf community and local sign language interpreters.

We would like to thank all the deaf sign language users and sign language interpreters for participating in the project so far and sharing their employment experiences.

Here is the transcript of the BSL video:

 

Audrey: Hello!

 

Jemina: Hello!

 

Audrey: We’re here to talk to you about the latest on the Designs Project.

 

Jemina: I thought it would be nice to provide you with an update so you know what we’ve been up to. So, Audrey what have you been doing since you started working on the project in October, in the last two, almost three, months?

 

Audrey: Has it been two months? The time has gone really quickly. I’ve been interviewing deaf people who we’ve put in different groups according to their employment status, i.e. those already in employment, those who are looking for work and aren’t currently in employment, and people who are self-employed and/or run their own businesses. So it’s going really well; numbers wise, in total I have met with almost 40 people, which is good.

 

Jemina: Yes, that’s a lot…

 

Audrey: What about you, Jemina?

 

Jemina: For my part, I have been focusing on interpreters, obviously I’m an interpreter so I have been interviewing interpreters about their experiences working with deaf people in employment settings. This could interpreting at job interviews or actually in the workplace; I’m looking at any barriers they may have come across; how things have gone – both good and bad experiences. Audrey and I have been talking about this and it’ll be really interesting, as we will work through the data, to see the differences and similarities from two different perspectives – how interpreters perceive things and, in your case, Audrey, deaf people’s views. It’s going to be really fascinating to see how they compare.

 

Audrey: Yes, it’ll be interesting. The next step will be to approach employers – we’ll be asking them what it is like for them working with deaf people, or if they don’t have any deaf employees, what they think about having deaf people working for them; we’re looking to start doing that in the new year.

 

Jemina: Yes. We’re also fortunate enough to have a new project partner, a company called ‘Vercida’. Vercida were previously known as ‘Diversity Jobs’; they’ve built up a really good network of contacts with numerous companies and employers across the UK. Vercida advises employers on how best to go about recruiting people with a range of disabilities and not just disability, also people who are gay or lesbian, so their focus is diversity in general in the workplace. They’re really keen to work with us on the Designs project and to look at ways to encourage employers to think about how they can recruit deaf people. So next year we’re going to be working closely with Vercida and they’ll be helping us make contact with employers, we’ll also maybe interview them and arranging visits to meet with employers. That will mean we’ll be able to explore things from three different perspectives – employers, deaf people and interpreters. We’re really pleased to have Vercida work with us and I know they’re really keen to partner with us – so that’s all very exciting and positive.

 

Audrey: I think we had thought it might be difficult for us to approach and find employers willing to participate in the project, but having Vercida helping us with that will make the process easier and we really are grateful for their support.

 

Jemina: Absolutely.

 

Audrey: Next year there will be more community events like the two events we had here this year; the first one was in Dublin, Ireland – that’s right Jemina, isn’t it?

 

Jemina: Yes, in Dublin at the start of 2017, then in Edinburgh in the summer…

 

Audrey: … and it’ll be in Bruges in Belgium in January 2018. Looking forward to going to meet people from both the local deaf community and locally based interpreters in Belgium.

 

Jemina: Anyway, we’ll let you know when we have anything new to share with you, probably sometime in the new year when we’ll be due a 6 months update on the project, so that’s us….

 

Audrey: We do both want to thank you for participating in the Designs Project and for sharing your stories – your involvement is hugely appreciated

 

Jemina: Yes, a big thank you all the deaf people and interpreters who have participated!

***

Bridging the Gap 5: Academics and community engagement

by Annelies Kusters, Jordan Fenlon and Jemina Napier

 

In the weekend of 25-26 November 2017, the fifth Bridging the Gap (BtG) conference was hosted at Heriot-Watt University. The aim of this conference series is to work towards bridging two gaps: first, the gap between academics (involved in Deaf Studies and sign language research) and deaf community members; and second, the gap between deaf and hearing academics within these fields. While the second gap triggered the organisation of the first BtG conference in 2014, the fifth iteration of the conference mostly focused on the gap between community members and academics. It was the first time that BtG lasted two days rather than one, and it attracted 120 participants: community members and academics hailing from all over the UK, the largest audience so far. The conference was heavily discussed on social media, particularly on Twitter (see #BTG5). The core organising committee consisted of Jemina Napier, Jordan Fenlon and Annelies Kusters, and others who have worked with us to plan the conference included Steve Emery, Dai O’Brien, Heather Mole and Emmy Kauling, and a number of student volunteers.

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Annelies, Jemina and Jordan.

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The conference started off with an introduction by Nicola Nunn, who organised the first BtG conference in Preston. She introduced the BtG series, emphasising that she was very happy to see that the conference was not an one-off and is now an established one in the British deaf conference landscape.

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After Nicola, Jemina Napier took the stage to give the audience an impression of the kind of research and community work we are doing here at Heriot-Watt, where the BSL section has recently exponentially grown.

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After opening the conference in this way, Hillary Third (Equality Unit, Scottish Government) and Frankie McLean (Deaf Action) gave a keynote presentation focusing on the implementation of the BSL (Scotland) Act. Hillary and Frankie explained that the aim of the Act is to make “Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work and visit”. The BSL National Plan for 2017-2023 contains 10 long-term goals and 70 actions in the next 3 years (covering early years and education training and work; health; culture and the arts; transport; justice and democracy) and a further set of actions will be published in 2020.

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The Plan was constituted after extensive consultation: the National Advisory Group (NAG) has been successful in engaging large numbers of Scottish deaf people in the BSL Act. Not only was the NAG a great input for the Scottish Government, it also served as an instrument of empowerment. Several feeder NAGs such as a parent and youth NAG had input into the general NAG. An inspiring video was shown of 2 deaf teenagers who were involved in the youth NAG, talking about the valuable experience of being involved, since they “are the future”. The Act is a great example of working with and for a deaf community in order to create better life conditions for deaf people. This opening session was livestreamed (https://www.facebook.com/HWUBSL/).

When we were planning BtG5, we already knew during our first meeting that we didn’t want to organise a “typical” conference consisting of presentations to disseminate research findings. Indeed we thought that if we really wanted to work towards bridging a gap, we would need an interactive format, designed in order for people to be able to express a range of thoughts on the “gap” under discussion. So the three sessions that followed the keynote presentation were interactive.

The first interactive session was based on the TV programme Dragon’s Den, where entrepreneurs could pitch an idea for a panel of venture capitalists who would decide if they would fund the particular project or not. Jordan Fenlon facilitated this session at BTG5, asking: “what would you do if you had £2 million for a research project?”

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The aim of this panel was for academics to learn about what kind of research deaf people find important and for the audience to get insight in the kind of thinking that’s involved in crafting a research proposal. Panelists for example pointed out the need to use buzzwords such as Thomas Lichy’s use of the word “hate crime”. They also pointed out that sometimes similar or related research has already happened (the dementia proposal); or that an idea (the deprivation project) had been previously pitched but not in a successful way. They said that a project such as the BSL corpus project would preserve old signs and regional variations, but a funder would require it to contribute to new academic theory, which is often a big challenge in applied projects. The idea that won the audience vote was Audrey Cameron’s: she suggested to work with Science Centres to give science teaching tessions to deaf children in BSL, and study how we think about science in sign language: a wonderful combination of doing exciting research in combination with direct benefits for deaf children.

A few academics and community activists/representatives came forward to pitch an idea that they had prepared in advance – the range of ideas covered:

BSL deprivation of deaf children (Tom Lichy)

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A Scottish BSL corpus project (Gary Quinn)

The Deaflympics 55 dB cut-off (Philip Gerrard)

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Sign language use in deaf people with dementia (Avril Hepner)

Mouthing in BSL (Adam Schembri)

The impact of isolation on mental health (Herbert Klein)

And science learning in BSL (Audrey Cameron)

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The panel consisted of academics and community representatives: Bencie Woll, Terry Riley, Graham Turner, Gordon Hay and Emma Ferguson-Coleman.

The second interactive session was called “Heriot Watt goes to Hollywood”, facilitated by Annelies Kusters and Gary Quinn, in which 6 short films were showed that were created by Heriot-Watt BSL section staff, PhD students, postdocs, BSL students and community members. The issues included: deaf people not learning about research findings after a project is concluded; having to sign epic consent forms in English; working with interpreters during research projects; the fact that participants often don’t want to admit when they need more clarificaton from academics; deaf people not knowing about Deaf Studies concepts but hearing interpreter students do, which can intimidate deaf people; deaf academics “leaving the community behind” to give presentations at international conferences and publish books. With the films, we tried to tackle issues in a humorous albeit serious way.

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The Hollywood session led to lively discussions, and during the next session on the next day, a manifesto workshop was facilitated by Dai O’Brien, Jordan Fenlon and Annelies Kusters, in order to address the same issues with the aim of taking action in the shape of a manifesto. Everyone got involved, the discussions were recorded, and Dai, Jordan and Annelies will take this forward. They will summarise the videos and use the summary to create a first rough draft of the manifesto which will then be presented and further discussed during the next BtG conference.

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Some issues that were discussed during the Hollywood and manifesto sessions included: how are research findings made accessible and attractive for community members? In the case of participants who directly contributed to a research project, it is important to ask how they want access to the findings, eg. some might want a summary in BSL and others might want the full article in English. In case of the broader community there are a number of options. Who wants to watch a two hour signed report on academic topics? Other options include short signed summaries, documentary films, interactive websites and texts in plain English. It is important to make research meaningful and interesting, and that also often means that reports should be kept short. When giving live presentations, it’s important to consider where the event is hosted: a relaxing/safe space such as a trusted deaf club with a pint in the hand, or pizza in a chilled out place, fosters a very different kind of atmosphere than an university auditorium. An issue that surfaced multiple times during the conference is that researchers are increasingly proactive in trying to make their research accessible in BSL but members of the deaf community might not know the BSL report exists (such as the earlier mentioned dementia project). So, how can people learn what research is happening and where, and where can they find it? The clever use of hashtags and Facebook groups is one means but it was also suggested that a centralised website with a “research map” would be helpful.

It is not clear yet where the 2018 iteration of BtG will be organised. We hope that during the next BtG conference, we can discuss actual examples of “good practice” in research and community involvement and impact, and how these might inform the BtG Manifesto.

***

 

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.

 

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!

 

DESIGNS: Employment in Deaf signing communities

by Jemina Napier

Designs

Click here to see post in BSL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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!