Employment Tribunals & Access for Deaf People

In October 2004, the Employment Tribunal has produced a Guidance for tribunal users who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Guidance can also be downloaded from Employment Tribunals Online website, spefically here.

Firstly, the title of the document implies that the interpreter is there for Deaf people only, and does not acknowledge the two way process of interpreting, and the fact that an interpreter is for the benefit of both parties.

Secondly, a rather worrying statement from the document:

Many deaf people have a friend or relative who interprets for them. If you want them to translate for you, the chairman must be satisfied that your friend or relative can accurately translate what you are saying and what is being said to you.

Whilst this paragraph recognises that there may be some fault in using a member of the family or a friend, unless the Chair is familiar with

a) translation / interpreting issues;
b) is able to operate within two languages and is familiar with two cultures;

how are they best placed to judge this situation? In addition, will they be aware that the knowledge of a language does not qualify one to interpret, and possibly introduce bias to the proceedings? Will they be familiar with language and interpreting structures?

Using interpreters to access services: user views

JRF_Centenary_logo.jpgThe Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a report ‘Using interpreters to access services: user views’.

Whilst this is aimed at spoken language interpreting, and unfortunately this does not cover BSL/English Interpreting, JRF says this is an in-depth study examined the experiences of people who need interpreters.

What is startling about this research is two key findings:

– People mostly prefer family or friends to interpret for them.
– The researchers conclude that training in the basics of interpreting should be made more widely available to members of minority ethnic communities who regularly act as interpreters for family members or friends.

This is research which is heavily user-led, and whilst users have preferences it fails to acknowledge that there are two users in an interpreting process. Secondly, that users might not necessarily understand the dynamics and complexities around the interpreting process, therefore might not be best placed to judge if something is being interpreted well. It is one of those situations whereby end user experience is brought into question; and this very much exists within the Deaf community. There is also the assertion that ‘basic training’ will suffice.

In terms of Deaf people and this research, what is springs to mind is that such research findings could be used to justify family members (with little or no formal qualifications) being used in legal situations.

Different countries’ requirements

Deaf and Driver’s Licenses

It seems that some countries still restrict the deaf from acquiring their driver’s licenses. This morning, I read an article in a newsgroup that Barbados apparently does not often allow their deaf citizens to obtain a driver’s license and they are at the mercy of a government individual who decides if they can get their license or not. I read elsewhere that Jamaica also denies their deaf citizens the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license there as well.
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