Deaf citizens’ access to European institutions as a linguistic human right: An evaluation of the multilingual Insign project

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    Several studies have been conducted on video relay services (VRS) and video remote interpreting (VRI) in various countries (e.g., Brunson, 2011; Napier, 2011; Taylor, 2009; Warnicke & Plejert, 2012) that have documented the views of deaf people and interpreters about quality and access. Each of these studies focuses on VRS/ VRI in national countries with one signed language. In the European Union (EU) context, the EU aims to protect linguistic diversity and human rights by having 24 official languages. EU citizens have the right to communicate with EU institutions in any of these languages; all EU regulations and other legislative documents are published in these 24 languages; and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are fully entitled to speak in any of the EU official languages. Implicitly recognising the linguistic human rights of deaf sign language users, the Director General (DG) Justice of the European Commission funded the Insign project. Insign is a pilot 1-year project, launched in December 2013, to develop a web-based service platform, enabling European Deaf and HoH citizens to communicate independently and to contact their EU Institutions and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in their preferred signed language. Insign is led by the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) with a consortium of organisations from four European member states: Heriot-Watt University, Sign Video, IVèS, efsli, Designit. The goal of the project is to develop a ‘Total Conversation’ platform that offers the option of communicating via a sign language interpreter and/or real time captioning. The project methodology involves key stages to review existing VRI/ VRS practices, develop the platform, demonstrate and test the platform, and make recommendations to the DG Justice for future implementation. Our role is to evaluate the communicative aspect of the VRS calls made through the Insign service and platform. This project is breaking new ground in two ways: (1) It is the first VRS of its kind to provide access to deaf people in more than one spoken-signed language pair. All other services focus on national spoken and signed languages (e.g., English and British Sign Language in the UK). The pilot phase of Insign, however, involves the provision of 6 signed languages: British Sign Language, Dutch Sign Language, French Sign Language, Hungarian Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language, and International Sign; and 5 spoken languages: Dutch, English, French, Hungarian, Spanish. (2) It is the first international research study that will have access to natural (not simulated) data of VRS calls between Deaf sign language users and hearing people, as well as data from ethnographic observation field notes, surveys and interviews with Deaf people, interpreters, captioners/re-speakers, and MEPs. This presentation will give an overview of the research findings, and in particular the views of deaf sign language users and interpreters about their experiences of VRS generally and with the Insign project. Results will also be presented from observations and analyses of interpreter-mediated VRS calls through Insign. Recommendations will be made about how a service such as Insign can contribute to access to linguistic human rights for Deaf people in order that they can participate in the EU political sphere (Turner & Napier, 2014).
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusIn preparation - 2015
    EventWorld Association of Sign Language Interpreters - Istanbul, Turkey
    Duration: 22 Jul 201525 Jul 2015


    ConferenceWorld Association of Sign Language Interpreters


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