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A Prescription for Change: Report on EU Healthcare Provision for Deaf Sign Language Users.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Sign Language.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3150-1492
Heriot Watt University.
Heriot Watt University.
2013 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Executive Summary

During 2010-2012, a Leonardo da Vinci-funded EU project focused on enhancing the language skills of Deaf people, interpreters and Health Care Professionals. Project partners from Cyprus, Ireland, Poland, Scotland and Sweden reviewed current knowledge of policy and practice, and embedded the resulting analysis into a programme of materials to support reflection, knowledge and skills development internationally. This report presents the project's initial 'state-of-the-art' review, with particular reference to the partner countries.

  • Sign languages are now widely recognised, for theoretical and practical purposes, as full, natural languages, and sign language interpreting has consequently been established as a respected profession.
  • Sign language interpreters mediate between hearing and deaf people: this entails a complex transfer of meaning between languages, cultural domains and linguistic modalities, and between members of highly literate communities and those whose languages have no written form.
  • Decades of development in understanding of the most effective part to be played by interpreters in small-group dialogue have concluded that communication is best facilitated with recognition of the interpreter as a linguistic partner, and an active participant in the joint creation of meaning. Good practice in interpreting rarely entails a passive role whereby the interpreter acts as a mere conduit for others' words.  
  • In respect of healthcare interpreting, the situation in the partner countries (and beyond) varies widely, from minimal recognition of the need for dedicated provision for deaf patients, to relatively explicit and well-resourced entitlement to services. In none of the partner countries do services address all identified requirements, despite recognition that inadequate provision can lead to damaging and indeed life-threatening consequences.
  • Training and associated resources for all three key groups – interpreters, healthcare staff and deaf people – are insufficient or non-existent across the board. No-one has a stable, clear set of expectations about how communication can most effectively proceed in these situations. In this context, it is predictable that regulation of quality can be highly problematic.
  • Comparison with North America and Australia highlights a range of adoptable best practices, requiring investment over time in order to generate and implement more effective approaches.
  • It must be recognised that the mere provision of sign language interpreters is only the beginning of true access to healthcare for deaf people. In order to maximise positive outcomes, members of all three key groups must become familiar with a common set of assumptions and practices to reinforce the need to operate as a collaborating triad in the co-constructing of effective interaction. Consistent, high-quality outcomes need to be assured through empowered regulatory mechanisms, for which models exist internationally. 
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Dublin: Interesource Group Publishing , 2013. , 51 p.
Keyword [en]
health care provision, sign language, deaf patients, sign language interpreter
National Category
Research subject
Sign Language
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-86261OAI: diva2:586691
Available from: 2013-01-12 Created: 2013-01-11 Last updated: 2013-11-15Bibliographically approved

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