Speakers of other languages are fortunate to have videoconferencing when they need an interpreter but there’s not one available in-person. With a webcam, microphone, videoconferencing software and a solid Internet connection, those who might otherwise not be understood can communicate clearly and easily through a remote interpreter. Having video enhances the conversation and makes it more of a personal experience, just like having an interpreter in-house.
But for people who use sign language to communicate, video conferencing is essential if an interpreter is not available on-site. Audio-only is not an option. Video remote interpreting (as interpretation services given remotely are called) for deaf individuals provides a much-needed service that can deliver information and even save lives. It was one of the earliest consistent uses of videoconferencing solutions designed to meet a specific need.
How does it work?
During a video remote interpretation session, the interpreter listens to the speakers and then signs the message to the webcam, which the deaf person sees through their video display. The deaf person will in turn sign their message into their camera, which is viewed by the interpreter, who then relays the message verbally to the listeners.
Where is remote video sign-language interpretation most needed?
Hospital emergency rooms are one of the most common settings for its use. Retaining a sign-language interpreter on-site at all hours can be costly for hospitals, so instead they will contract out the work to interpreters who are available during rotating hours. Having quick access to a sign-language interpreter via videoconference allows nurses and doctors to complete triage and intake procedures without delaying care and treatment. Courtrooms and other legal settings are other locations where video remote interpreting for deaf people is commonly used.
Businesses and schools are also taking advantage of the simplicity, convenience, and practicality of video remote interpreting for the deaf. For many organizations, it doesn’t make sense to hire a sign-language interpreter full-time if they are only needed once in awhile for meetings and conferences. Also, many times an in-person interpreter might not be available, especially in locations where there are few sign-language interpreters serving the area. Remote sign-language interpretation services accommodate any kind of interaction, whether brief or long, simple or complex, and can initiated quickly.
Video sign-language interpretation advantages
The use of video remote interpreting, especially in high-stakes situations, such as a hospital or courtroom, is criticized by some as not offering adequate communication access to the deaf. They argue that videoconferencing is an unreliable means of providing an interpreter. However, responsible and appropriate use of videoconferencing services provides the same services that an in-person interpreter would. It is important to provide high-quality equipment and a clear Internet connection so that good communication can be facilitated and nothing becomes “lost in translation.”
Many language services companies now offer virtual services, including sign-language interpretation, through videoconferencing. Performing these services virtually saves travel time and costs, benefitting both the service provider and the client. Best of all, videoconferencing allows for increased access to high-quality, professional interpreters to people who might not otherwise have it. Virtual interpreters can make all the difference, whether they’re helping a doctor understand a patient’s symptoms, communicating a testimony in court or facilitating a parent-teacher conference.