On July 22-25 the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), held its 2015 conference in Istanbul, Turkey. The theme of this year's conference was "Human Rights: Where do interpreters fit in?"
Dr. Robert Adam delivered the first keynote presentation with Dr. Christopher Stone (University College London) on Human Rights, Deaf People and Interpreting – Navigating the woods, followed by Liz Scott Gibson (WASLI president) and Markku Joinen (Executive Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf) who introduced us to The Dragoman & the Bridge – The Way to Human Rights. Both keynote speeches were thought provoking and very much set the scene for the coming days.
Members of staff and PhD students from the BSL section of LINCS were in attendance both presenting their work and interpreting for keynote speakers and presenters in spoken English, and International Sign at the conference.
3 undergraduate BSL degree students who, taking the initiative, applied for funding support from the Heriot-Watt University Alumni fund were also in attendance. This was a huge achievement for them and of great benefit to their academic learning both now and for the future with the students expressing the impact it had that much of the research, papers and books being quoted in the conference presentations were from their own lecturers at Heriot-Watt. This gave them insight into the esteem in which their lecturers are held in the International field of sign Language Interpreting.
"Justisigns: An overview of accessibility to legal sign language interpreter provision, training and assessment across Europe" was presented by the Justisigns team, which includes Professor Jemina Napier and Professor Graham Turner from Heriot-Watt University as well as other notable professionals. The project's remit is to develop training courses for sign language interpreters, legal professionals and sign language users in Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK.
Stacey Webb, a PhD student from Heriot-Watt made her presentation of work, "High Demands, Limited Resources, High Stakes- An investigation of job demands and resources of Sign Language interpreter educators"
Webb, using the Job Demand-Resource Model (Demerouti et al 2001), focused on teachers of interpreting. The findings were most interesting as it showed a cross-contextual perspective on how communication access for deaf and hard of hearing can be improved though improved standards of sign language interpreter education programs.
Professor Jemina Napier, Professor Graham Turner and Robert Skinner, a researcher at Heriot-Watt University, presented an overview of the Insign project "Deaf citizens' access to European institutions as a linguistic human right: An evaluation of the multilingual Insign project". The research examined the views of deaf sign language users and interpreters about their experiences of VRS in general and also with the Insign project.
Insign is a pilot 1-year project, enabling European Deaf and Hard of Hearing citizens to communicate independently and to contact their EU Institutions and Members of the European Parliament in their preferred signed language. The Results showed observations and analyses of interpreter-mediated VRS calls through Insign and highlighted the need for a service such as Insign, to allow Deaf people to contribute in EU politics.
28 conference presentations in all were given over 2 days from interpreters, researchers and teachers of interpreter education from around the globe, discussing and sharing knowledge and experience to provoke thoughts and raise questions for consideration creating an exclusive environment where the sharing of ideas for collaboration across countries, cultures and languages from consumers, practitioners, educators and researchers was encouraged.
During the conference, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation of Interpreters and Translators (FIT) was a significant event. FIT has over 100,000 members from around the world and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding will "unite the voice of professional associations of Translators, Interpreters and Terminologists around the world" (FIT - PRESS RELEASE, Basel, 27 July 2015).