“I feel a bit more of a conduit now”: Sign language interpreters coping and adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Authors Maartje de Meulder, Nienke Sijm
Published in Interpreting and Society
Publication date 2024
Research groups Speech and Language Therapy: Participation through communication
Type Article


This article examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sign language interpreting profession drawing on data from a fourth and final survey conducted in June 2021 as part of a series of online “living surveys” during the pandemic. The survey, featuring 331 respondents, highlights significant changes in the occupational conditions and practices of sign language interpreters due to the sudden shift towards remote video-mediated interpreting. The findings reveal a range of challenges faced by interpreters, including the complexities of audience design, lack of backchanneling from deaf consumers, the need for heightened self-monitoring, nuanced conversation management, and team work. Moreover, the study highlights the physical and mental health concerns that have emerged among interpreters as a result of the shift in working conditions, and a need for interpreters to acquire new skills such as coping with the multimodal nature of online interpreting. While the blend of remote, hybrid, and on-site work has introduced certain advantages, it also poses new challenges encompassing workload management, online etiquette, and occupational health concerns. The survey’s findings underscore the resilience and adaptability of SLIs in navigating the shift to remote interpreting, suggesting a lasting transformation in the profession with implications for future practice, training, and research in the post-pandemic era.

Language English
Published in Interpreting and Society
Year and volume 4 1
Key words audience design, backchanneling, COVID, remote interpreting, sign language interpreting
Digital Object Identifier 10.1177/00333549231173941
Page range 1-23

Speech and Language Therapy: Participation through communication