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Deaf interpreter, what is it?

posted on 2023-06-08, 10:25 authored by J Collins, John WalkerJohn Walker
What is a Deaf interpreter? Liz Scott-Gibson wrote about Sign language interpreting: An emerging profession, in 1991. The process through which the help of the missioners and welfare work became formalised into social work with Deaf people and sign language interpreting, is being paralleled this time amongst Deaf people themselves. There is a new emerging profession Deaf people working as interpreters (or, as they are commonly called, relay interpreters). Interest in this role is widespread and much discussed. But there is confusion, and with confusion comes risk. 1. How did Deaf interpreting start? What exactly is the definition of a Deaf interpreter? What is their role? In what type of settings do they work? Are they professionals? Do they follow interpreter professional ethics? 2. What skills and abilities do Deaf interpreters need? 3. What training and qualifications does/should a Deaf interpreter have? What needs to be added or changed to current standard interpreting courses to incorporate Deaf interpreters effectively? Do they have access to post qualification professional development and mentoring? 4. What do hearing interpreters need to learn in order to work with Deaf interpreters? These are some of the questions that we will respond to in our paper, concluding with the proposition that the progress made by the profession of interpreting, as a whole should not be brushed aside when it comes to Deaf interpreters we can learn from their experiences. We do not want to reinvent the wheel! A profession made up of untrained, unqualified, and unregulated people, even though they may have many relevant skills and experiences, is not desirable or safe for the Deaf community. We will offer suggestions on how this can be turned around.


Publication status

  • Published


Douglas McLean Publishing



Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

Inaugural Conference of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters

Event location

Worcester, South Africa

Event type




Department affiliated with

  • Sussex Centre for Language Studies Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


R Locker McKee

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