Last month, I was one of the 50+ British delegates at the WASLI 2019 conference in Paris.
Having attended many UK based BSL Interpreting and Deaf conferences; and EFSLI when it was held in Brighton in 2003, I had an idea of what to expect.
What I was really interested in learning about was our profession across the globe, especially in the developing world – to gain insight into the variance of provision and development.
We are so privileged here in the UK. We have access to training, professional standards and, more importantly, a selection of legislation that allows deaf people the right to access information in a way that suits them.
I have always felt that as a profession, we could easily share all that we know with other countries – using our combined knowledge to support the furthering of the global profession to benefit Sign Language Interpreters and, ultimately, deaf people.
I chose my streams carefully at the conference, selecting those that would give me an understanding of the current challenges that Sign Language Interpreters face; and trying to contrast and compare to what we experience here in the UK.
One presentation that stood out for me, was by two Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters. It was interesting to learn about the actions they’re taking to ‘professionalise’ the profession; as currently there is no real consistency in how Sign Language Interpreting Services are provided. They were taking steps to encourage an agency format to offer structure to Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters.
Their presentation was fuelled by passion and at the end there was quite a gathering of people off stage wanting to take conversations further, me being one of them!
While waiting, I met a Director from a Toronto based Sign Language Interpreting Agency who was like me, ready to offer as much support as possible.
Darren Townsend-Handscomb spent time sharing experiences he has had supporting Gambian Sign Language Interpreters.
I swapped contact details with the two Kenyan presenters and promised to send them useful information post-WASLI.
The ladies collected a handful of business cards and contact details after their presentation and this got me thinking of Collective Action. As Interpreters, membership organisations and Businesses working in the Industry – we have knowledge and experience that when shared could, quite literally, change the world.
I had a like-minded experience last year when I attended a global conference in London and saw a Sign Language Interpreter working. At one of the breaks, I approached her to say “Hi” and she introduced herself as Talya Shemer, from Israel. We spent the time sharing our working experiences which led me to understand what a lack of training and resources they have access to and that she was having to source materials herself for her work as a Lecturer (a truly committed Interpreter Trainer).
I left the conversation offering to share all our training materials and, over the past year, we have kept in touch. Throughout this time Talya has shared the impact this has had not only on her, but on her students. We were reunited at the WASLI Conference where she was excited to have the opportunity to meet Robert Lee – whom she respects and admires very much and follows his work avidly.
I say this not to impress you, but to show you the opportunity we have.
Experiences like these have shaped my belief about how vital this Collective Action is and if these small interactions between individual Sign Language Interpreters can have this impact – can you imagine what this would look like on a global scale.
Here, I pledge my commitment to making this happen – connecting the right people together to use our knowledge and expertise.
If this is something you would like to be a part of, I would love to hear from you!
Whether you’d like to share research, training materials or help us make this happen – please email me at email@example.com