Signed-Spoken Language Interpreting in Canadian Professional Settings; A review of available resources & knowledge gaps
With the passage of Bill 59 (Nova Scotia Accessibility Act) in 2017 Deaf Nova Scotians can now expect barrier-free access to education, services, employment, and recreation. However, neither the signed-spoken language interpreters nor organizations in Nova Scotia are adequately prepared to remove barriers, especially in professional settings. This has become spotlighted in recent years with more Deaf individuals holding professional positions in Nova Scotia and the lack of qualified ASL-English interpreting services being provided by interpreting service providers, and from the professional interpreter community in general.
We are defining professional settings as those when the Deaf participant has an equal status to non-deaf participants or holds a professional title or leadership role, such as academia, business operations, provincial and municipal operations, etc. Consistently in interpreter training and screening processes, the Deaf participant is nearly always the subordinate (e.g. the employee instead of the boss, student instead of professor, etc.). Given this current reality, the signed-spoken language interpreting profession and employers in Canada are not positioned to provide services required to remove barriers for Deaf participants and ensure full inclusion. It is worth noting that signed-spoken language interpreting services are only one piece of accessibility and do not constitute inclusion if interpreters are provided (e.g. "We hired interpreters, therefore, our event is accessible."). Also, important to note is that for meaningful and effective inclusion, interpreters need skills to work in a variety of situations, such as in the field and in less formal discussions and not just formal meeting scenarios.
The majority of information used by signed-spoken language interpreters in working with Deaf professionals is learned through trial and error from a great deal of mentorship by the Deaf professional. The Deaf professional will spend a considerable amount of unacknowledged hidden labour when working with a new staff or contracted interpreter. This mentorship is shaped by their own lived experiences and those of their colleagues; however, there is not the time to document these experiences into large resource banks or training programs because this is not the job of the Deaf professional. It falls to the signed-spoken language interpreting community (instructors, practitioners, employers) to ensure there are the resources in place to be successful in this setting. Unfortunately, to date, signed-spoken language interpreting with Deaf professionals in professional settings has been understudied and documented. In the scope of this project, we will aim to unlock the tools, resources, and competencies in the minds of colleagues to begin the process of documenting this type of work.
Stay tuned for more details on how you can contribute to this exciting research project!
Team Member Information
Dr. Linda Campbell is a Deaf scholar and professor in environmental science who has pioneered many inclusive practices including the development of scientific ASL, mentorship and best practices for working with ASL-English interpreters in academic workplaces in Ontario and Nova Scotia (including two publications and numerous presentations), and the establishment of the Saint Mary's University, Faculty of Science, staff interpreter position.
Lisa Anderson is a Deaf accessibility consultant and an experienced qualitative and quantitative survey consultant, having done over 10 surveys in her role as one of the consultants to submit evidential analytic reports to the Candian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) utilizing ASL-English and LSQ-French translation resources to make the surveys full accessible to Deaf community members in Canada. Since 2000, she had held multiple jobs and roles where she has supervised and utilized ASL-English interpreters often provided professional development for interpreters. She worked to expand the pool of Deaf interpreters and communication facilitators in her role with the Vancouver Coastal Health's Deaf Well-Being program, providing full accessibility for Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and hard of hearing clients and participants. Lisa has been a consultant and helped set the standard for accessibility sign language translations videos that are also accessible to the Deaf-Blind with specific accessible colour schemes. Lisa was one of the driving forces behind Canada's establishment of video relay services, where visual language interpreters provide the accessibility for consumers over the phone, to elevate the standards of independence and autonomy for ASL and LSQ users in Canada.
Elphege Bernard-Wesson is a Deaf Librarian and interpreter who has recently graduated with her Masters of Library and Information Studies in May 2020 from Dalhousie's School of Information Management Program. Elphege has worked as a librarian in various academic university libraries institutions providing services ranging from reference, research assistance, to information literacy workshops and collection developments.
Ashley Campbell is the Saint Mary's University, Faculty of Science, staff ASL-English interpreter who has been active as a leader in the national interpreting community (holding multiple positions, including the president, with the only national signed-spoken language interpreting association) and developing science and academic interpreting resources for Saint Mary's University.
It is critical that this project be Deaf-centric, led by Deaf leaders who will be contracted to work with us in a culturally respectful collaborative approach. The main working language for this project will be American Sign Language (ASL). It is imperative that we provide the safest space possible for Deaf professionals and signed-spoken language interpreters to feel included, respected, and free to share their experiences with us. This can only happen with a carefully selected team of credible individuals with critical relevant skills and lived experiences.
This project is funded by the Nova Scotia government, Department of Justice, Accessibility Directorate.