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How to Work with a BSL/English Interpreter
- British Sign Language is the preferred language of many Deaf people. It is a language in its own right.
- In 2003 the British Government officially recognised British Sign Language as a language.
- According to the Department of Work and Pensions there are about 70,000 British Sign Language users in Britain.
- Conventionally the use of the word ‘deaf’ (with a lowercase‘d’) refers to any person with a significant hearing loss, whereas ‘Deaf’ (with a capital ‘D’) refers to a person whose preferred language is BSL.
A BSL/ENGLISH INTERPRETER is a professional who is trained and experienced in working between British Sign Language and English
1. CHECK THAT IT IS A BSL/ENGLISH INTERPRETER THAT IS REQUIRED
Not all deaf people use BSL and an interpreter may not be the most appropriate option. The first step should always be to ask the deaf person about their communication preferences.
Check that the deaf person uses BSL and wants an interpreter. It is always best practice to ask the individual what s/he wants.
There are other forms of communication that a Deaf person may prefer:
- Sign Supported English
- Lip speakers
- Note takers
- Speech-to-text reporters
- Electronic note-takers
- Deafblind Communicator Guides and Interpreters
This Guide only advises on working with BSL/English Interpreters.
2. WHERE TO FIND A BSL/ENGLISH INTERPRETER
A BSL/English Interpreter can be booked via an agency or directly. ASLI produces a Directory of its Full and Associate Interpreter members thus making it possible to book an interpreter direct.
"Signature" (formerly the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People) administers the Register of BSL/English Interpreters through the National Registers of Communication Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind people (NRCPD). They also produces an on-line directory of their Registered Interpreters.
There is a national shortage of BSL/English Interpreters, which means that they are likely to be booked up well in advance. Book early.
3. HOW TO BOOK A BSL/ENGLISH INTERPRETER
You should give as much information as possible to the agency or interpreter when you make the booking.
What you need to know before contacting the agency/interpreter:
- Date and time of the event including start and finish times.
- Full address of where the event is to take place including directions/map.
- Contact name and telephone number of the person making the booking and the event venue.
- The nature of the event.
- How many people are going to be involved in the event, including the numbers of Deaf and hearing people who will be present and the requirements that they have. This may mean that more than one interpreter needs to be booked
- Any other information that will assist the agency/interpreter, e.g. if a female interpreter is required for reasons of privacy or decency, or if a person has a visual impairment.
- Agree fee/costs.
The cost payable depends on a number of factors including:
- If you book an interpreter yourself or through an agency.
- The nature of the assignment.
- The times and duration of the assignment.
- The qualifications and experience of the interpreter.
- The mileage/travel expenses occurred can vary.
If an interpreter is cancelled fees within 2 weeks of the booking cancellation fees are normally charged, this should be checked when the booking is made.
- HOW MANY DO I BOOK?
If the event will last longer than two hours and depending on the complexity, you may need to book two or more interpreters. This will also depend on the nature of the assignment e.g. where you might want back-up / multi-workshop event etc. Check with the interpreter or agency when booking.
5. INTERPRETER STANDARDS
ASLI is a membership-led professional body. It has two categories of working interpreters: Full and Associate. ASLI recognises a number of courses and qualifications for its Full and Associate Interpreter membership categories. A Full member of ASLI (MASLI) is an interpreter who has gained recognised qualifications and has met national standards of interpreting. An Associate member has gained a recognised qualification or completed a recognised interpreter-training programme but is still gaining experience and further interpreting qualifications. ASLI Full and Associate interpreters have Professional Indemnity Insurance for their practice.
ASLI helps to maintain interpreting standards by having representatives on other bodies concerned with interpreting standards. ASLI represents its interpreter members on the Practitioners Group of NRCPD. The job of the NRCPD is to administer the Registers all communication professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people. There are 3 categories of registration for BSL/English interpreters: (1) MRSLI -Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters (2) TI - Trainee Interpreter (3) JTI - Junior Trainee Interpreter. An MRSLI has met the requirements of the National Interpreting Standards. For more information please visit their website. www.nrcpd.org.uk
6. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
- WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT BEFORE THE EVENT?
What you need to give the interpreter:
- Relevant paperwork – including Minutes, Agendas and Speeches.
- The name of the person in charge of the event on arrival.
- Details of co-workers (interpreters) if any.
- Any other information that is relevant to the event.
Agendas, minutes and other papers are useful in advance. This information will assist the interpreter to be prepared for the event itself. If you give the interpreter papers at the start of the meeting, allow sufficient time so that they can read them.
Interpreters know what information they are likely to need, so please give the opportunity to discuss the assignment in advance if requested. It is also helpful for interpreters to have time to discuss any issues on arrival so please allow for this.
- WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT DURING THE EVENT?
There are a number of things that will enable the BSL/English Interpreter to provide an effective service:
- Environment needs to be conducive to good communication so consider lighting, sound and location.
- Turn taking.
- Time lag.
Effective communication requires that the sign language user and interpreter are able to see each other clearly and that those relying on spoken English are able to hear the interpreter clearly.
Good practice means that one person speaks at a time. It is impossible to interpret two people at the same time.
There will be a short time delay when a BSL/English Interpreter is working from BSL to English because the interpreter needs time to comprehend and reproduce in spoken English what is signed in British Sign Language and vice versa. This is especially important during questions or discussions to ensure that nobody is excluded.
This process is taxing and it is important to ensure breaks are scheduled.
ASLI Members are professionals. You should be able to expect the highest level of interpreting service and professional conduct.
Most issues may be resolved by direct contact with the interpreter. If you have any complaints about an interpreter that cannot be resolved in this way, and you have booked through an agency, it is advisable to refer back to the agency you booked with. If the interpreter is Registered with the NRCPD complaints may be made in writing or in BSL, recorded to DVD, direct to the NRCPD.
8. THE DUTY TO PROVIDE A BSL/ENGLISH INTERPRETER
ASLI was a key contributor to the guidance issued by the Disability Rights Commission (now the Commission for Equality and Human Rights) on the duty to provide a British Sign Language/English Interpreter under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This is for employers, trade organisations and service providers. This guidance is available on the website of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights: www.equalityhumanrights.com
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