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As everyone navigates work and life in the new virtual space, continuing to serve Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, language access is a significant challenge. Videoconferencing technology, although far from perfect, can help us provide services without losing all of the human-to-human contact that typically facilitates communication. Below are a few resources to help you and your team have more effective interactions while working with Sign Language Interpreters.

Technology

Deaf professionals share perspectives and suggestions for effective virtual meetings:

  1. Learnings from Remote Experience: Work It Like a Deaf Person

  2. Tips on using Zoom with a Sign Language Interpreter
  3. THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND DEAF PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS IN THE ACADEMIC WORKPLACE

  4. Accessibility Tips for a Better Zoom/Virtual Meeting Experience

Interpreter Teaming

Interpreter fatigue-be aware that it will take extra mental effort for an interpreter to understand the source message with imperfect sound and few or no visual cues (depending on the availability and quality of video).

Generally, interpreters are advised to take a break or switch with another interpreter every 20 minutes, based on research(Moser Mercer, Kunzli & Korac, 1998; Brasel, 1976) regarding the interpreting process, as it it taxing BOTH physically AND mentally. Many interpreters are now being asked to sign for an hour or more, with no breaks. This can cause tiredness and headaches due to both the deaf  individual and interpreters having to focus intensely on a 2D image, and needing to sign within a small area on screen (which isn’t natural). Extra strain can be caused by the need to accommodate poor internet connection and the image freezing. To avoid this, schedule short breaks every 20 minutes to half an hour allowing the interpreter and deaf person to rest. Also best practice is to have interpreters work in teams to best ensure effective communication.

Why have interpreters work in teams?

  1. Protects the occupational health(RMI/CTS tec.) and well-being of professional interpreters
  2. To assure the highest quality communication
  3. Provides a backup in the event there is a power outage or other technical disruption
 Note: In a team situation, both interpreters are “on” at all times, not just the interpreter who is moving his/her hands. With two (or more) interpreters, the team can rotate which interpreter is “active” allowing for the interpreter who was just in the active role to work in the supporting role. Thus enabling a semi-recovery period for each interpreter until they rotate back into the more active role. The interpreter in the supporting role is responsible for monitoring “miscues” such as omissions and additions (Cokely, D. 1982) in the interpretation and offering corrections to ensure the interpretation follows the original discourse as closely as possible. A team of qualified interpreters for meetings or other assignments helps ensure the goal of “effective communication”.