Providing signed language interpretation at your virtual meetings

 | Interpretation best practices

Our collective awareness of the importance of signed language interpretation has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, since all over the world government briefings are being interpreted into the relevant national and regional signed languages to ensure that the deaf and deafblind communities have access to vital information. Events should always be accessible and virtual meetings are no exception. In this post we provide some insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by remote signed language interpretation, and explain how Calliope can help clients to open their events to the international and national deaf and deafblind communities.

Remote signed language interpretation at a Virtual Azure Community Day

Image: Remote signed language interpretation at a Virtual Azure Community Day

As we reported previously, it is possible to have multilingual simultaneous interpretation at your videoconferences, thanks to the use of remote simultaneous interpreting delivery platforms. Signers can also participate in virtual meetings in their native languages, thanks to remote signed language interpretation.

How does remote signed language interpretation work?

The preferred solution is for signed language interpreters to be co-located (with their spoken language interpreter colleagues) in what is known as a hub or studio. A hub is a meeting room equipped with ISO-standard interpretation booths and all the relevant equipment for remote interpretation, which in the case of signed language interpretation includes a booth at least twice the size of the spoken-language equivalent, a video camera and a green screen or a solid colour background. Signed language interpreters usually work in teams of two or three, relying on each other for support while they work, so as well as seeing the speaker or signer whom they are interpreting, they also need to see each other. As a result of travel restrictions and the demands of lockdown, however, signed language interpreters have also acquired the necessary equipment to interpret remotely from their home studios. Additional video connections are established with partners to ensure effective teamwork, using tools such as Jamboard.

The challenges involved in providing remote signed language interpretation are significant, not least because sign languages are face-to-face languages and use all three dimensions of space. Providing signed language interpretation on a screen, in 2D rather than 3D, has required signed language interpreters to think differently and adapt the orientation of some signs to make them comprehensible to their audience.

Above: International Sign interpretation of this blog post by Maya de Wit

How can I make my videoconference accessible?

Calliope’s signed language interpreter coordinator, Maya de Wit, has three pieces of advice for clients wishing to make their virtual events accessible:

  1. Preparation is key. Well before your meeting, check in with the participants who will be using signed language interpretation services and find out which signed language they use. For example, is it British Sign Language (BSL) or American Sign Language (ASL)? Tailor the languages provided to your participants’ wishes.
  2. Create a private channel of communication, such as a chat, for the conference organiser and the interpreters to use during the meeting. Remote signed language interpretation adds a layer of formality to the proceedings, and makes it difficult for conference organisers to have a private word with the interpreters in the main meeting room. Similarly, provide regular opportunities for users of signed language interpretation to give feedback to the interpreters, so that they can adapt their style and speed to the needs of their audience.
  3. Consider enhancing the accessibility of your meeting by providing live captioning. Closed captions (also known as Speech-to-Text services or CART) are beneficial to the entire audience, as they facilitate note taking and make sure that no one misses a crucial piece of information. A separate URL can be provided for the captions, enabling readers to adjust colours and font sizes to their specific needs.

Where can I find further information?

The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) has published Covid-19 Distance Interpreting Recommendations for Institutions and DI Hubs. A wealth of practical information is provided, including best practices for remote speakers and signers, and technical information required by signed language interpreters working remotely.

Are you considering providing signed language interpretation at your virtual event? Calliope-Interpreters can advise you on the best way to make it happen. Contact us to discuss your requirements.

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