Best practices in interpreter-mediated encounters with a visually impaired client
Title of edited book
Disability and communication. Scientific analysis, total communication, ICT tools and case studies
Year of publication
According to the European Blind Union (EBU), there are estimated to be over 30 million blind and partially sighted persons in Europe. This figure takes into account two groups who are difficult to quantify, i.e. elderly people who experience sight loss and people who suffer varying degrees of sight loss but who don’t declare their condition. All of these categories can be mobile, moving between countries for reasons such as emigration, tourism, family visits or medical treatment. In a context of language discordancy, visual impairment becomes an extra challenge. Service providers can face encounters with blind or low vision clients who don’t speak the national language and, consequently, may need assistance from an interpreter. However in general, interpreter training doesn’t prepare students for encounters other than with people without disabilities. Consequently, interpreters often are not aware of best practices for assignments where one of the clients is blind or has low vision. Interpreters have to make best guesses or find solutions on the spot, which is not the best method for the overall quality of the service provided to the sight-impaired person. The framework of the Erasmus Plus Project 2015-1-ES01-KA 203-015625 on "Enhancing Communication (EC+): Research to Improve Communication for People with Special Needs and Development of ICT Resources and Tools" offers an excellent opportunity to formulate best practices for interpreters working in this context. An online course (in Dutch) on Multimodality and Interpreting developed at Ghent University, one of the partners of the EC+ project devotes one of his chapters to interpreting for visually impaired people. This article focuses on this specific issue.