Medical Signbank: A cure-all for the aches and pains of medical signed language interpreting?

Jemina Napier*, George Major, Lindsay Ferrara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Citations (Scopus)


Language, cultural and educational impediments in the effective use of signed language interpreters in medical and mental health service delivery have been identified by Australian researchers (Cornes and Napier 2005; Napier and Johnston 2005), but until 2008 no linguistic research had been carried out in Australia on signed language interpreter-mediated medical encounters. This paper described an Australian project that involves the development of an innovative web-based interactive multimedia dictionary and database of Auslan. It was designed to create an effective, accepted and shared signed language vocabulary for the discussion of medical and mental health issues by deaf clients and health professionals, mediated through Auslan interpreters. The conceptual framework was language planning and development within a small linguistic community of 'limited diffusion'. The technology enables the direct participation of interpreters, deaf people and medical practitioners in a project managed by linguists, signed language interpreters, and language service providers (the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service, and the New South Wales Health Care Interpreting Service). The paper outlines the progress of the project, and specifically reports on findings from surveys and discussions conducted with interpreters about the strategies they use to deal with medical terms that have no Auslan equivalents, and their thoughts on challenges in medical interpreting.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSigned Language Interpreting
Subtitle of host publicationPreparation, Practice and Performance
EditorsLorraine Leeson, Svenja Wurm, Myriam Vermeerbergen
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781315760209
ISBN (Print)9781905763337
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Auslan
  • Healthcare interpreting
  • Medical signbank
  • Medical terminology
  • Signed language interpreting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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