Remote Sign Language Interpreting in Times of COVID-19

In March 2020, when COVID-19 became a pandemic, there was a significant impact on the work of sign language interpreters. Working remotely from home let to a sudden shift in their daily work. Through three online ‘living’ surveys, this project explores and documents how this shift has been experienced by them.

"Location helps to get me in the right mindset. When I enter a university, I am aware of all the university aspects of a setting, entering a hospital gets me ready for a medical conversation. Now I interpret all kinds of conversations in the same physical space.” (Survey 3, the Netherlands)"

Objective

This research project surveys and documents how the sudden shift towards remote interpreting has been experienced by sign language interpreters, and how it has been impacting and innovating the sign language interpreting profession and the training of future sign language interpreters.

Results

The majority of survey respondents had never or only occasionally worked remotely before the crisis. The same majority said they had not received any training on how to interpret remotely. Respondents claimed remote interpreting is more stressful than face-to-face interpreting, but also saw benefits.

Follow-up research

After the first phase of the project (which captured the period between March 2020 and July 2020) we plan to do a follow-up survey in Summer 2021. We also plan to survey deaf users of sign language interpreting services about how they experienced the shift to remote interpreting.

Approach

The study was carried out between April 2020 and July 2020, and consists of three online ‘living’ surveys. A total of 2.634 self-selected sign language interpreters from 63 countries participated, often more than once.

HU researchers involved in the research

  • Maartje De Meulder
    • Teacher-researcher
    • Research groups: Speech and Language Therapy: Participation through communication

Collaboration with knowledge partners