Sign Language Interpreter Guidelines For international/European level meetings
1. What are sign languages?
Sign languages are natural languages that have the same linguistic properties as spoken languages. They have evolved over the years in different Deaf Communities and vary greatly between countries and regions. There is not one universal sign language in the world; in fact some countries have more than one sign language or dialect.
However, an auxiliary language often referred to as International Sign (IS) has developed for use at international gatherings. This is not a fully-fledged language, however, it is a communication solution when having to provide access to a diverse audience. It cannot replace national sign languages but can be an acceptable solution at European and international level meetings and events, although it is not optimal.
2. What is a sign language interpreter?
A sign language interpreter is a professional who is fluent in two or more (sign) languages and interprets between a source language and a target language and mediate across cultures. The interpreter's task is to facilitate communication in a neutral manner, ensuring equal access to information and participation. Sign language interpreters can be both Deaf and hearing but should always carry appropriate sign language interpreter qualification from the respective country. A sign language interpreter is bound to a Code of Ethics, ensuring impartiality, confidentiality, linguistic and professional competence, as well as professional growth and development.
3. The right to a sign language interpreter
When booking a sign language interpreter the Deaf sign language user must be consulted on their language and interpreter preferences, especially for high-level meetings. Event organisers are responsible to ensure participation in public events by providing interpreting services. Offering this kind of service encourages Deaf people to attend and be involved, ensuring equal access and opportunities that are also available to a hearing audience.
4. Organising adequate sign language interpretation
How many interpreters are required?
What information must be provided to interpreters in advance?
Where should sign language interpreters be placed?
Who is responsible for the interpreter's selection and costs?
5. Tips for speakers
EUD and efsli strongly recommend interpretation in all national sign languages, if possible. Especially topics of high complexity can only be fully grasped if interpreted into the Deaf person's national sign language. Qualified Deaf interpreters should be used when interpreting from one sign language into another sign language.
EUD and efsli support the notion that interpreters must first become professional and sufficiently experienced interpreters at national level including the knowledge of other national signed and spoken languages before they can interpret from and into IS.
The organising party should adopt an anticipatory approach. The booking of sign language interpreters requires pre-planning. The Deaf sign language user can assist the organiser in recommending professional and experienced interpreters.
EUD is the European Union of the Deaf, representing the rights and views of Deaf sign language users across Europe (www.eud.eu).
efsli is the European Forum of Sign Language interpreters, representing the interests of sign language interpreters across Europe (www.efsli.org).
The official Guidelines (PDF file) can be downloaded here.