OF SIGN LANGUAGE
Creating Linguistic Access for Deaf and
A STRATEGY FOR
3 Illustrative Areas of Need
This report has given consideration to provision in a number of illustrative settings. These by no means represent the full range of contexts in which lack of linguistic access constitutes a barrier to social inclusion for deaf people. However, they will serve to provide an indication of the scale of the problem.
· Social Services
· The Justice System
· Television and the Media
Whilst not all deaf people will need the support of social work services, it is essential that all aspects of service provision should be accessible if required. There are some, such as residential and domiciliary care, which will see a higher proportion of deaf people, and as those who are deaf are rarely able to access other external support systems (eg; counselling) easily, they may be more likely to require social work help. Additionally, OPCS data (1998) showed that 48% of people with a learning disability had a hearing loss of at least moderate severity.
There is, therefore, not only a need for specialist services, but also strategies for ensuring access to non-specialist staff in eg; childcare, mental health, learning disability, and criminal justice settings. However, services to those who are deaf are often low priority. In 1998, the then Scottish Office published Sensing Progress which made a series of recommendations relating to social work services for people who are deaf, and in particular to the training needs of staff working with them. The following comments are taken from this Report:
While these observations indicate that deaf people face major barriers to access because of absence or paucity of trained personnel, there has been little or no action to reverse this situation. Certainly there has been no co-ordinated action to bring about much-needed structural change.
Since the demise of the post-qualifying Diploma in Social Work with Deaf People, offered at Moray House College in 1984, there has been no specialist training available in Scotland for social service personnel. The Central Council for Education & Training in Social Work confirms there are no Diploma in Social Work programmes in Scotland offering a sensory impairment pathway, and training which has been made available (Deaf awareness; BSL skills) has been provided on a very ad hoc basis.
In July 2000, MSP Alex Neil asked a question within the Scottish Parliament regarding a progress report on the monitoring of services for sensory impaired people, and the implementation of recommendations from Sensing Progress. He was told by Iain Gray, then Deputy Minister for Communities, that the Social Work Services Inspectorate would be reviewing progress on all the recommendations and would be reporting on this in its Annual Report for 2001. No information is as yet available in relation to this review. In January 2000, a task force was established, consisting of representatives from both the voluntary and statutory sectors working with deaf people, chaired by Dr Sue Ross, Director of Social Work, East Renfrewshire Council and Lilian Lawson, Director of the Scottish Council on Deafness. The main aim of the task force was to look at establishing Best Practice Standards for social care agencies providing services to deaf people. This work is being co-ordinated by Dr Pauline Banks of the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research, University of Glasgow, and is likely to be launched formally in the autumn of 2001.
It is probable that the standards will make explicit reference to the training needs of all staff (eg; receptionists, social workers, residential and supported care staff, technicians, etc) with suggested levels of attainment. For those who require communication skills at higher levels (eg; specialist social workers etc) the current provision of training is minimal, with only one provider in Scotland at present submitting candidates at Level Three BSL. The first accredited training course of its kind - a BTEC Technical Certificate for staff working with equipment and aids to daily living - was due to take place in Birmingham in October 2001. This has now been deferred until at least 2002, leaving technical staff with no technical training opportunities in the UK.
It can be seen, therefore, that whilst the need for a range of skilled bilingual service providers within social services is clearly acknowledged and requirements may be specified, Scotland currently has no training infrastructure to enable this to take place.
The Legal Context
Deaf and deafblind children and young people have
a right to full access to all aspects of education. These rights are enshrined
in a range of international conventions and UK legislation. The most recent
legislation of direct relevance is the Special Education Needs Disability
Act 2001 which became law on 11 May 2001 and which is due to come into
force in September, 2002. This Act extends the provisions of the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995 to education. The Disability Rights Commission
has produced two draft Codes of Practice arising from the Act: these relate
to Schools and Post 16 Education respectively. The Codes are currently going
through a consultation period. Thus although we do not have the final versions
of the Codes of Practice, it is possible to make some informed
predictions as to future rights and responsibilities.
Linguistic Access within Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education
The new Act will make it unlawful for educators
to discriminate against a disabled child by:
a. treating a disabled child or young person less favourably on the grounds of their disability than a non-disabled child, without justification, in the arrangements made for the provision of education;
b. failing to take reasonable steps to change any policies, practices or procedures which place a disabled child/person at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled child;
c. failing to take reasonable steps to provide education using a reasonable alternative method where a physical feature places a disabled child/young person at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled child/person.
If a child or young person is not provided with opportunities to access education fully in their preferred language, it would seem that those responsible for the childs education would be failing in their duties as outlined within the Act. Yet the evidence available at the moment suggests such access is not fully available to many, possibly most, deaf pupils in Scotland.
In some respects, the education of deaf children and young people has changed markedly over the last two decades. The major change within the context of schools has been in the number of children being educated within mainstream, rather than specialist settings: it is estimated that over 90% of deaf pupils are now placed within a mainstream setting. These changes have been made under the broader educational policy of inclusion.
However, educational inclusion is dependent upon linguistic inclusion: if the pupil is unable to understand the language used within education and if teachers and other pupils cannot understand the language of the deaf pupil, then there is unlikely to be social and linguistic inclusion.
Indeed there appears to be a large gap between rhetoric and reality with respect to linguistic inclusion. The widely used A Manual of Good Practice in Special Educational Needs published by the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department in 1999 and explicitly supported by the then Minister for Education in Scotland, places a major stress on the rights of the child. The Manual describes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education and the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities as providing the policy framework in which developments in Scotland should be taken forward. As the Manual points out:
The idea that children have special needs has given way to the conviction that children have rights, the same full spectrum of rights as adults: civil and political, cultural and economic (REF: The State of the Worlds Children, UNESCO, 1994).
Manual of Good Practice, 1999, p.9
It is worth noting that several of these international sources make explicit mention of the rights of deaf children and adults to linguistic access. The Framework of Action Statement linked to the Salamanca Statement stresses that:
The importance of sign language should be recognised and provision made to ensure that all deaf persons have access to education in their national sign language.
Salamanca Statement, 1994, para 21
Similarly the UN Standard Rules stress that states should introduce programmes of action. One of these is access to information and communication. The specific elements in this programme include the following:
Despite this focus, the majority of deaf pupils
are not able to access education fully in their preferred, sometimes their
only, language. Often the authorities and services concerned have no explicit
language policy in relation to deaf pupils and many appear not even to have
considered access through BSL as well as English. Thus only a very small
number of schools and services attempt to provide access through BSL. Even
where authorities wish to go down this path, the implementation of the policy
is typically limited by lack of teachers fully skilled in both English and
BSL, the limited number of deaf professionals and deaf support staff involved
and the general lack of bilingual resources. Moreover, where English is
the preferred language, even the most obvious forms of access, such as provision
of subtitled curriculum and assessment materials, use of textphones, support
personnel such as notetakers and lipspeakers are often not available.
The use or non-use of signing within education has been a controversial topic over decades and indeed centuries. It is not feasible to rehearse all of the relevant arguments within this Report. Rather the Report draws attention to the rights of all deaf children and young people to be given access to a language which they can acquire fully and to have their language preference fully respected.
There is evidence that many young deaf people do not acquire a spoken language fully and that delays in the development of fluent English, in the absence of the use of a sign language, can lead to other types of difficulty (Brennan, 1999). Linguistic delay in deaf children is often accepted as being inevitable by educational professionals and others working with deaf pupil such as educational psychologists and speech and language therapists. Indeed advice from the Scottish Council on the Curriculum explicitly refers to likely syntactic and cognitive delay (SCCC, 1993). However, members of the Deaf Community and organisations representing them, such as the British Deaf Association, argue that if the deaf child is given access to BSL, language acquisition can take place at the same rate and time as spoken language acquisition for hearing children.
The BDA believes that the majority of deaf children will best realise their potential through a bilingual/bicultural approach to learning. Under such a system, the deaf child learns BSL alongside English, enabling him or her to build confidence and acquire at an early age, the basic linguistic skills that are the foundation for all subsequent learning. - British Deaf Association, (in print)
The issue of access to a sign language at an early age is one which will have to be addressed when the new Special Educational Needs and Disability Act comes into force. One argument against early access to BSL is that well over 90% of parents of deaf children are hearing.
Therefore the language of the home is likely to be a spoken language, such as English, Punjabi or Gaelic, rather than a sign language. However, if deaf children are given some access to BSL, it appears they can acquire it efficiently. Where parents have a limited use of sign language, research shows that the deaf child surpasses the linguistic model, ie they are able to develop more complex grammatical forms.
This in itself is evidence of the deaf childs innate linguistic ability. Lack of linguistic support for parents, such as lack of access to BSL classes and lipreading classes can limit the opportunities available to parents and thus, in turn, limit the type of linguistic access available to the child. Similarly, lack of provision of basic equipment and resources such as text telephones and equipment for accessing subtitling can limit the childs familiarity with English. In some areas, deaf family support workers have been employed to facilitate communication within the family. However, such provision remains the exception rather than the rule and parents wishing to learn BSL or to learn more about deaf people find it very difficult to do so.
Creating Inclusive Education
It is proposed here that in order to create linguistic access for deaf pupils, we need to:
It is clear that in order to ensure this type of provision, it is essential to have available the trained and qualified personnel specified in Chapter Four.
Linguistic Access within Further Education and Higher Education
The Special Education Needs Disability Act 2001 also applies to Post 16 Education. In some ways, it may appear that young deaf and deafblind people in Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) fare better than those at school. Typically FE and HE institutions have disability and equality policies which seek to ensure that appropriate support services are in place. Also, deaf and deafblind people can receive additional funding, for example through the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) which can help them access appropriate personnel and resources. However, in practice, provision is far from perfect.
While within FE and HE there is more recognition that it is appropriate to provide the services of BSL/English interpreters and notetakers, the key problem is the lack of appropriately trained personnel. There is less awareness of the potential of using lipspeakers and speech to text operators, although where such personnel are offered there is usually a good take-up of their services. Thus in order to meet their obligations as set out in the new legislation, FE and HE institutions will need to take action to ensure that appropriate personnel are available to help provide adequate linguistic access.
In England and Wales considerable use is made within FE of support staff known as Communication Support Workers ( CSWs). CSWs are seen as having a wider role within FE in that as well as providing interpreting provision, they may also provide other types of support, including notetaking, reviewing lecture notes, giving advice on technical vocabulary and so on. CSWs typically undertake the Professional Development Award: Communication Support Work with Deaf Students. However there are concerns that as stated CSWs may undertake an interpreting role, lipspeaking or notetaking without having the appropriate skills and there are concerns about the appropriateness of this particular award. Some FE institutions have given consideration to running courses leading to this award. No course as yet been run in Scotland.
Discrimination within Admissions and Enrolments
The Special Education Needs Disability Act also makes it unlawful for a responsible body to discriminate against a disabled person
Although the GTC guidelines recommend that the Medical Officer should take advice from a panel, nevertheless the final decision is made by the Medical Officer. This is seen by many deaf people as providing an unnecessary barrier to entry into the teaching profession. A significant number of deaf students would be fully able to access teacher education, including placement, if they were given appropriate linguistic access. There are at present very few qualified signing deaf teachers within the Scottish system, yet their contribution to the education of deaf pupils is recognised as being very positive. Deaf people are being prevented from making a major contribution at all levels of education by an unnecessary barrier to inclusion. The GTC is currently undertaking an overall consultation with regard to entry into the teaching profession. It is therefore hoped that this particular barrier can be removed in the near future.
The Justice System
Research into deaf peoples experience of the justice system in Scotland and in the UK suggests that deaf people are regularly denied full access to the justice system. The Access to Justice for Deaf People project (Brennan and Brown, 1997), conducted by a team at the University of Durham, England, observed a wide range of court cases throughout the UK. In Scotland, the main observations were carried out within Sheriff Courts, although some were also undertaken within the High Court. Although the Crown Office has an agreement with the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) that only fully trained and qualified BSL/English interpreters will interpret in court, the research team observed individuals without an interpreting qualification interpreting in court.
They also noted that in many cases a single interpreter was used, rather than a team of two. This meant that there was no monitoring of quality and accuracy and no support systems in place. Where teams (including teams of two) operate, the second interpreter usually takes on a monitoring and support role, so that if any information is inadvertently missed or an inaccuracy included, these errors can be repaired quite quickly. Obviously this is particularly important in legal situations, especially as there is currently no requirement to videotape any of the legal proceedings involving the use of BSL.
The detailed analysis of the courtroom interactions undertaken by the Durham team also revealed that there were at times differences between the original message, eg; a comment by the sheriff, and what was conveyed by the interpreter. Such differences have the potential to skew the interactions and could ultimately lead to miscarriages of justice. Such differences may be due to lack of training, lack of support or inefficient monitoring systems.
The research also revealed that other professionals, particularly social workers, were often asked to interpret in police stations, even though they had no training in interpreting. Indeed, it seems that deaf people are often cautioned without the presence of an interpreter and in some cases, police officers felt it appropriate to conduct interviews without an interpreter present. Sometimes this was because the deaf person used some English and the police officers wrongly inferred that they could therefore hear English. In other cases, this was because of the time involved in locating an interpreter willing and able to undertake the task or the expenditure involved in employing interpreters.
Despite the publicity given to this research and the interest taken in the work by legal officers within Scotland, there is ongoing evidence that linguistic access remains inadequate. The following observations were made earlier this year by one of the few experienced legal interpreters in Scotland:
Although there is some increased awareness and a willingness to carry out appropriate procedures, legal personnel and police officers still often operate outside existing guidelines. Recently I was asked to interpret in a police station for an interview between the police and an accused Deaf person. The police officer suggested that it would be inappropriate for them to use the same interpreter for the interviews with witnesses and the accused. I agreed. However, the police officer then went on to suggest that another police officer with Stage One in BSL should act as interpreter for the witness interviews. There seemed to be no awareness of the inappropriateness of a police officer taking on such a role and no recognition that Stage One represents a very low level of BSL skill. A less experienced interpreter, or a non-qualified person acting as an interpreter might well have accepted this course of action. As is almost always the case, none of the Deaf people involved had any say in who should act as interpreter.
Brenda Mackay, SASLI Registered Interpreter, former Research Associate,
Access to Justice for Deaf People Project, Durham University
Throughout the period of court observations involving deaf people, the Durham team did not see the use of lipspeakers. Recent information from interpreters suggest that they are sometimes asked to provide an interpreting service when what is required is a lipspeaking service or a speech-to-text service. Unfortunately, the courts are not aware that the choice of professional support will depend upon the deaf persons preferred language.
Deaf peoples experience of prison is all too often one of additional isolation and exclusion. Deaf people report that interpreters are rarelyused, even for formal reviews and parole boards. Ordinary interactions are difficult unless fellow prisoners or prison officers make some efforts to learn sign language. Little effort is made to enable access through visual English, eg; through using subtitled TV and video or making use of text telephones. Thus while other prisoners can take advantage of contact with the outside world through telephone conversation, the Deaf prisoner is denied such opportunities (Brennan and Brown, 1997).
As with other areas, the key problem faced by deaf people within the justice system is one of linguistic access. The lack of access means that there is potential for a miscarriage of justice to occur. The situation could be improved considerably by ensuring that all concerned are given appropriate training. This means ensuring that only trained qualified interpreters and lipspeakers are used in police stations and courts of law and for consultations between lawyers and deaf accused or lawyers and deaf witnesses. Additional legal training is required for the professionals concerned. While current initiatives by the Crown Office and SASLI are helpful, they cannot deal with the underlying problem: in-depth training is required.
As well as training of legal interpreters, it is also essential that court personnel and police officers have Deaf Awareness training and that some staff develop fluent BSL skills. The detailed recommendations in Brennan and Brown, which were positively received when the report was launched in Edinburgh in 1997, have not as yet been seriously addressed by the justice system.
While it is recognised that employment is a responsibility reserved to Westminster, it is essential that measures be implemented within Scotland, which will ensure equality of employment for deaf people. A recent report by the RNID, Deafness Employment and Discrimination (RNID, 2000) suggests that deaf and hard of hearing people face widespread discrimination in the workplace. The research showed that deaf or hard of hearing people are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than a hearing person. Those between the ages of 25-45 are four and a half times more likely to be unemployed. Even when deaf people are successful in obtaining employment, many (68% of the survey) feel that their communication needs are not understood or met.
My employer insisted I didnt need communication support, although I tried to explain the limits of lipreading. I was ushered into a classroom with about 20 trainees, all of who could hear. A woman came in and started talking. At the end of the hour, having not understood a word, everybody suddenly got up and left. I had no idea where they were going or why.
Trevor Smith on his experience of in-work training. RNID, 2000, p9
The research also showed that the biggest barrier to deaf people getting a job was the lack of understanding by employers of their communication needs. Most employers now have an equal opportunities policy and the majority of employers are also aware of their legal obligations towards staff under the Disability Discrimination Act. Yet despite this, relatively few employers actively recognise the communication needs of deaf staff.
Of 82 companies, which employed deaf and hard of hearing people, only 25 (30%) said they had made special adjustments to accommodate the needs of these staff.
RNID, 2000, p10
The situation for deaf people should have been improved considerably by Government legislation. In particular, the Access to Work scheme has the potential to transform deaf peoples employment opportunities. The Access to Work legislation gives deaf people the right to support, which will enable linguistic access to employment. Such support includes BSL/English interpreting and access to visual English, such as note-taking provision, lipspeaking and speech to text provision. Such support is available not only during the period of employment but also during the application and interview stages.
Unfortunately this access is limited by several factors:
The Broadcasting Act 1990 required the ITC
To draw up and from time to time review, a code on promoting the understanding and enjoyment of programmes by persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and blind or partially-sighted.
A major element of this code relates to the use of subtitling. As the ITC recognises, subtitling is now well established in terrestrial television, across the full range of programmes (drama, factual, entertainment etc). Monitoring by the RNID reveals that regularly approximately 75% of terrestrial programmes are subtitled. This has had a major positive impact on deaf peoples social inclusion. In January 2001, the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport published a review of subtitling, signing and audio description. In May 2001, some of the main recommendations of this review were incorporated into legislation. More recently, June 2001, the UK Government announced that a new media and communications regulator, OFCOM, will be established which will ensure that subtitling is provided by all television broadcasters. Section 20 (3) of the Broadcasting Act 1996 and the Statutory Order issued in January 1997 require specific minimum proportions of programmes in a digital programme service to be accompanied by subtitling before the tenth anniversary of the commencement of the broadcasting. The Code requires a steady progression towards this minimum target, although, of course, broadcasters are free to exceed the suggested targets for each year.
The improvement of subtitling provision represents a major achievement for deaf organisations, such as the Deaf Broadcasting Campaign, who have campaigned for improved services over many years. However, the situation is still not perfect. Until now, BBC Scotland Schools programmes have not been subtitled. This has been a major disadvantage for deaf pupils and students who have regularly missed out on information. It is good to report that BBC Scotland will subtitle schools programmes from Autumn 2001. Discussions are ongoing with STV and Grampian in this regard. Currently cable and satellite broadcasters can opt out of the requirement to provide subtitling services. However, an announcement within the Queens Speech in June 2001 indicated that targets will be introduced which will require cable and satellite broadcasters to subtitle programmes within the ten year period indicated above.
BSL Provision on Television
The same legislation referred to above with respect
to subtitling also covers British Sign Language. Again a specific minimum
proportion of programmes within a digital service, in this case 5%, must
be presented in, or translated into, sign language within the ten-year period.
The impact of this legislation can already be seen with a range of programmes
now being accessible through BSL. However, the number of programmes available
in this way remains very small indeed.
BSL on analogue television is very limited indeed and is only available in what is termed open form ie it is visible to all viewers. The technology of digital television has the potential to provide viewers with choices: just as the viewer now, with the appropriate equipment, can choose whether or not to watch subtitled versions of programmes, it is technically possible to allow viewers to make comparable choices in relation to signing.
Although members of the Deaf Community have warmly welcomed the Government initiatives with respect to increased use of signing, 5% over a ten-year period remains a very small proportion indeed. Schools programmes are not signed so pupils and students whose preferred or only language is English cannot access these programmes directly. The provision of BSL within these programmes would be a very positive step towards the social inclusion of young deaf people. It would allow hearing peers to see BSL as a normal part of provision, would provide parents with greater opportunities to become familiar with the language and would allow deaf young people to have access to information which is currently denied them on an everyday basis.
The Deaf Community is also keen that there is ongoing monitoring of the signing provision that does exist. Thus it is vital that there is Deaf involvement within OFCOM. In July 1999, the ITC produced ITC Guidelines on Standards for Sign Language on Digital Terrestrial Television: these guidelines are likely to be reviewed on a regular basis. The ITC Guidelines demonstrate that the ITC recognises some of the key criteria, which must be followed if a high quality service is to be provided. These criteria relate to the quality of the language, including the quality of the translations and interpretation; the quality of the display and factors such as synchronising, ie the need to ensure that the timing of the sign language and the timing of the spoken language are as closely matched as possible.
Deaf and deafblind people, including those with Usher Syndrome, have commented on the variation of quality within the current provision. Many have complained about the size of the signer in some programmes. The size is so reduced that it can be very difficult, even for those without any visual impairment, to see the signing adequately. Non-manual features, such as eye-gaze, movements of the eyebrows, mouthshapes and so on, which are key components of BSL grammar and therefore necessary for full comprehension, can be completely lost. Again, it would appear that new technology can, in principle, allow the user to alter the size of the signer: it should at least be possible to choose from a set of options. This may require further research and development funding. There have also been concerns about the quality of the signing and the interpretation or translation. In some cases, the quality of the actual BSL produced may seem acceptable, but it is a poor interpretation of the original spoken language. Unfortunately. Deaf people may be unaware of this. In other cases, the quality of signing is poor. All of those involved in this provision are likely to need appropriate training.
It is useful to recognise that the ITC recognises the different roles that BSL may play within programmes. Rather than assuming that all programmes will be presented in English, the ITC recognises that some programmes may be presented directly in BSL, usually by deaf presenters, and require spoken language interpretation. They stress that presenters, narrators and reporters using BSL should be of native competency standard in BSL and should be able to communicate effectively through the medium of television. Although the number of programmes presented in BSL remains small, it is increasing. The use of BSL presenters means that young deaf people can now have a further area of professional opportunity. However, once again, opportunities to train in this area are essential. Many deaf young people currently do not have access to BSL within school education. Thus they may well require the opportunities to develop BSL skills to a high standard once they leave school. There is evidence that such deaf people can tune into the language very quickly. Nevertheless they need appropriate opportunities.
The ITC Guidelines specify that BSL/English interpreters should have a level of competence and fluency at least equivalent to the minimum standard of Registered Qualified Interpreters as set out by CACDP and SASLI. Thus the increase in the use of BSL on television is bringing with it a need for an increase in the number of qualified personnel. Current numbers are insufficient to meet the present demand within television. The new developments are also demonstrating a new role for Deaf BSL users as translators/interpreters, given that translations of many programmes can be prepared in advance. This allows Deaf people to play a part both in the translating work and in the actual in-vision presentation. However, once again such Deaf people need opportunities for education and training. Increasingly there is a recognition of the value of teams of Deaf and hearing people working together (see further in Chapter Five re training issues).
Other Media: Information Resources
While subtitling and signing on television are key
elements of access, there are other areas of public information systems
and leisure provision where access by deaf and deafblind people remains
limited. While some Government departments and local authorities have been
good at providing information leaflets in a range of languages, others regularly
fail to provide information in BSL. Even groups who are good at providing
translations into community languages seem to ignore BSL. Similarly when
information videotapes are produced, subtitling is not always used. Given
the improvements in technology, it is relatively simple to provide this
type of service. However, many government departments, both within Scotland
and the UK as a whole, local authorities and publicly funded organisations
are simply not sufficiently aware of the needs of deaf and deafblind users.
In some cases, provision is available but deaf and deafblind people are unaware of this. The Scottish Parliament provides an illustrative example. Deaf and deafblind people can attend any debate or other parliamentary session and have the right to be provided with appropriate communication services. So far there has been very little awareness of this. Following discussions with the Scottish Parliaments Business Team, SCoD and the RNID will be giving further publicity to this provision. Thus we need a focused Deaf/Deafblind Awareness Campaign across Scotland to ensure that Deaf people are aware of their rights and to help public services to become aware of their responsibilities.
Cinema, Theatre, Galleries
There is an increasing recognition that deaf and
deafblind people should have access to arts and entertainment. Indvidual
public and private institutions have increased the access over the years,
often working directly with deaf organisations. However, overall the access
remains very limited. As the RNID indicated in their 2000 report, By
Invitation Only, the cinema experience is out of bounds
for most deaf people. Deaf people typically only gain access to films once
they have become available on video in captioned format. Recently the UK
cinema industry has begun a trial of subtitled prints of films. At any one
time there are approximately 5 subtitled films on release. However, it is
still often up to individuals or groups of deaf people to encourage their
local cinema to make subtitled copies available for special screenings.
There has been an increase in the number of signed performances within the theatre. However, the options are limited once again by the lack of appropriately trained interpreters. Interpreting live drama requires highly specialist skills, but currently there are no specialist courses available in Scotland. Technology is also making possible the use of captioning within theatres and in other arts venues, such as galleries. Direct captioning of live drama obviously requires not only appropriate equipment and software, but trained and skilled text operators. As Stagetext suggest, a skilful operator can format the script in a way that conveys to the audience the subtleties and power of the drama being captured. (Stagetext, 2001).
If deaf and deafblind people are to be fully included within Scotland, they need to have opportunities to participate in the cultural life of the country. There also need to be increasing opportunities for hearing people to participate in the arts and culture of the Deaf Community and of deaf and deafblind groups generally. While there may be some aspects of arts and cultural life which are geared only to a specific group, eg; the Deaf Community, there is much that can be shared. The interaction of deaf and hearing cultures can itself be a dynamic contribution to the wider community. In order for such interaction to take place, full linguistic access is essential.
Last updated 06.Mar.03
Scottish Sensory Centre
Moray House Institute of Education
University of Edinburgh