Only fully trained sign language interpreters can ensure full accessibility

Only fully trained sign language interpreters can ensure full accessibility

2013. 12. 17.

The project involved more than one hundred sign language interpreters and trainers from the whole Europe with the aim of defining the minimum skills of a graduate interpreter. The study supports the principle of the free movement of people by laying the foundations of training standards for sign language interpreters and quality services for the European deaf citizens. In his speech efsli President Mr Llewellyn-Jones stated that this book will bring us one step closer to our goal of ensuring high quality sign language interpreting standards which would mean equal access to essential services and full citizenship for deaf people across Europe.

In his speech MEP Kósa reminded of the unprecedented event that happened last week on the memorial of late Nelson Mandela, where a fake sign language interpreter appeared on stage next to President Obama and used totally unintelligible gestures causing the protest of all major relevant NGOs. "This could never happen in the European Parliament however it is not enough that only I am provided with sign language interpreters as an MEP. Even though the Parlamentarium has shown a good example for providing sign language course for its selected staff, deaf visitors on EP conferences or even on the plenary sessions are not provided with official sign language interpretation at all. I hope the next legislature will ensure that all sign language interpreters will have a similar status as the other 6.000 EP staff members have" – underlined the Hungarian EPP Group MEP. The President of the Disability Intergroup added: "The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is clear: we have Articles 9 and 21 dealing with sign language-related obligations in Member States and in the EU, who has also ratified the Convention".

Ms Olga Cosmidou, Director General of DG for Interpretation and Conferences (European Parliament) stressed out that a democratic Europe should be inclusive and not exclusive. “The question is whether we are ready to pay its cost?” – she demanded. Mr Marco Benedetti, Director General of the EU Commission's Directorate General for Interpretation (DG SCIC, European Commission) touched upon DG SCIC's role in the EU multilingualism policy, its efforts to meet the demand for interpretation for non-EU languages and for sign language interpretation as well. Mr Rytis Martikonis Director General of DG Translation (European Commission) underlined that the efsli project sheds light to the current and future level of demand for information on the EUROPA website adapted to people with sensory disabilities.

Mrs Lorraine Leeson, Chair of efsli Committee of Experts pointed out that the core value of the organisation is a collaborative action towards quality interpretation. The process engaged European interpreter educators and practitioners with a common focus on competency-based education for degree programme graduates.

Mr Mark Wheatley, Executive Director of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) highlighted that according to the EUD 2013 UNCRPD survey report, 50.6% of the respondents stated that their sign language interpreters were not qualified enough. He claimed that this situation shall be rectified. Mrs Carlotta Besozzi, Director of the European Disability Forum (EDF) said that accessible services in society can only be achieved by responding to the needs of the diversity of European citizens. Accessible communication is key as well as appropriate training of service providers and dedicated means in order to achieve full access for persons with disabilities to education, employment, justice, transport, media, etc. To see real changes, we need to have a legal framework and a proper budget that are developed in cooperation of organizations representing persons with disabilities as well as decision-makers.