I have been a Sign Language Interpreter in the UK for 16 years. The interpreting profession is experiencing many difficulties. It is faced with changing market forces, the long-standing ignorance of why interpreters are necessary and statutory organisations, whose main concern, in this current economic climate, is mostly to cut costs rather than look at equality or value for money. After years of growth, the last 8 years have brought about a very different situation.
What is also apparent is that the British Government has, for years (forever), neglected an indigenous community of Sign Language users, marginalised them as having something that is “missing”, i.e. their hearing. We would call this the medical model of deafness rather than the recognition of a rich language and the culture of the Deaf (big D!) community. The UK has been investigated by the UN for ratifying but then not fulfilling the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This marginalisation of Deaf people does not just happen in UK society, but in every country in the world. What is this called? Audism: the belief that the ability to hear makes one superior, it is the discrimination that Deaf people experience and interpreters witness on most days.
My name is Jennifer Smith. I have been a Registered Sign Language Interpreter for 12 years and worked unqualified for 4 years previous to that. I’ve done a variety of campaign and development work. I have volunteered in India with VSO, was on the board of ASLI for three years then I was the first Chair of NUBSLI for nearly two years (2014-2016). I am currently a member of ASLI and NUBSLI. When I started, this was the only dedicated blog on politics and Sign Language Interpreting in the UK.
This blog seeks to address some of the misinformation about Sign Language Interpreting in the UK by giving interpreters a way to air their views publicly but, if they chose to, anonymously. Interpreters are bound by a Code of Conduct in our day-to-day work. It is right that we are, but sometimes we may feel we cannot speak out. We can post on public forums but may leave ourselves open to criticism and personal attack. This blog provides a way for interpreters to post opinion pieces to air these conversations and opinions we wish to be made public without fear of recrimination. Mostly it is just me.
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Any opinions expressed are solely those of the blog post author and do not represent the views of any organisation that the post author is affiliated with or with the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.
I do very little interpreting now. Mostly a bit of tech related stuff. I am now a Front End Web Developer and my work can be seen on my personal portfolio site. I still maintain this blog as a resource, mostly as a historical record from 2010 of the disastrous effects of privatisation on the interpreting industry but also because I am still interested in how these effects are ongoing, how this changes the profession and how interpreters work in ways that change the industry instead… watch this space.