What is the difference between a BSL Interpreter and a CSW?

A question that we are commonly asked is ‘What are the differences between an Interpreter and a CSW?’ and why? When? And how do you choose which is most suitable?

CSW’s for students at University?

This is a really good question and one that is asked regularly.

It is often felt that for educational environments, a CSW would be sufficient and it would also reduce the spend amounts from a deaf students DSA budget.

The role of a CSW

The role of a CSW has evolved out of the lack of funding in primary and secondary schooling.

Individuals who work as CSWs, have not received any formal interpreter training – therefore are not fully equipped with the strategies to deal with the dynamics of interpreting.

Some deaf people have a preference for working with CSWs, as that is what they have been used to throughout their education.

But this should be challenged during the assessment with great caution to ensure that the most suitable support is arranged. The student may assume that as this is the support that they have had in the past, this should continue into their university life, but CSW’s are unlikely to be equipped to work within this environment.

A way to support a student who is requesting a CSW, is by asking them what they liked about working with a CSW. These specific requests can then be fed back to the supplier who can ensure that the student receives the support from a BSL Interpreter in a way that works for them. BSL Interpreters are able to adapt and work this way.

BSL Interpreters

BSL Interpreters enable communication between deaf and hearing people and we also found our earlier that British Sign Language was recognised as an official language back in 2003.

An Interpreter conveys information from one language to another. They work simultaneously, which means that they will be listening to what is being said and interpreting at the same time. They work without adding or omitting any meaning and with full respect of confidentiality, no matter the setting.

An Interpreter is not there to be involved in the interaction or to offer any advice. They can guide the participants on the practicalities surrounding the interpreting job. So for example, if a lecturer wanted to find out the best place to stand, or ask where the Interpreter would be best seated – these are questions that the Interpreter will answer.

Everything that is said will be interpreted, including any side comments of questions.

Interpreters can also interpret from written text to BSL. For example, in a written exam or on medical consent forms.

Interpreters are registered with the The National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD).

By registering with NRCPD, the Sign Language Interpreter is expected to work to certain standards. They must follow a code of conduct and show evidence of annual continual professional development to show their commitment to learning within the industry.

The NRCPD also has a complaints process. This ensures communication professionals can be held accountable if they are working in a way that goes against the code of conduct. Professionals must also have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII), a DBS Clearance and undertake yearly Continual Professional Development.

NRCPD support training professionals and, overall, ensure that a high standard of work is maintained.

Therefore, you can be assured that BSL Interpreters have received a high level of training, skills and expertise.

Always a BSL Interpreter

What you must bear in mind is that the language used within education is often technical and subject specific. It is also supplying the deaf person with the knowledge they require in order to complete their degree and studies and progress in their career.

If the deaf person is supported by someone who has not yet achieved the level of BSL, or who has had no interpreter training – it can put the deaf person at a major disadvantage.

On providing the student with a CSW, this will compromise their access to their chosen subject, likely leading them to be behind in their studies and risking drop out. The drop out rate of deaf students is TWICE that if the general population. This could then set the employee back, causing them issues when looking to progress and develop in their career.

We would always recommend that a BSL Interpreter is recommended rather than a CSW in all cases where a deaf person is attending University.

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