There are many reasons for writing this blog. I’m a Sign Language Interpreter in the UK and part of a profession that is experiencing many difficulties. We are 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 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. We 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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