Thursday, 3 May 2012

How to Work Effectively with an Interpreter

an article I wrote for KSLIA in 2006


How to Work Effectively with an Interpreter

The People with Disabilities ACT 2003 requires that all organizations, service providers, companies or institutions, both private and public adapt the environment to provide reasonable accommodations as well as provide resources (such as interpreters, note takers, assistive devices, etc) so that the establishments and presentations are completely accessible.

Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA) in its continuing effort to provide information, support and equal access to the Kenyan Deaf community has listed, circulated a Code of Ethics - standard practices, and a Registry of Interpreters in Kenya in order to assist you in your communication needs. This information should prove helpful to both the hearing and Deaf/Hard of Hearing who may be using an interpreter (s) for the various Interpretation needs.

Because the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community is varied in the methods of communication, a vast majority of Deaf Kenyans uses Kenyan Sign Language (KSL), some use lip reading, or various combinations of communication options. The method of communication has nothing to do with the Deaf person’s intelligence.


The basic purpose of the interpreter is to facilitate understanding in communication between people who are speaking and/or signing different languages.

1. Facilitation = implies that the interpreter may have an active, rather than passive, role to play.
2. Understanding = implies that the goal of the interpreter goes beyond simply repeating words to being reasonably sure that the message was understood.
3. Communication = is important because the interpreter cannot facilitate understanding on all levels but rather must focus on an understanding of what was said.
4. Speaking = Refers to the fact that interpreters deal with spoken language; those who render written messages from one language to another are called translators

In this process communication barriers are bound to affect communication between the parties. Some of these are: -

1.   Linguistic barriers: differences in spoken or signed languages
2.   Conceptual Barriers: some lawyers, doctors, therapists, professionals in varied fields use very complex language which might be understood by someone with an advance education but no by someone with limited formal education.
3.   Cultural barriers: differences in culture that lead to dissimilar expectations of behavior that affect both the meaning of the communication, quality of care, and level of interaction.

To work effectively with Interpreters here are some tips: -

1.   A professional Sign Language interpreter is provided to you to facilitate communication between you and the Deaf person(s). This means the interpreter is not there to answer personal questions, but will interpret everything you say to the Deaf person(s) and everything the Deaf person (s) says to you, the hearing person (s).

2.   Everything that is interpreted is kept strictly confidential by the interpreter and will not be discussed with any unrelated parties. (Exhaustive explanations available in the KSLIA Code of ethics document)

3.   In order to assist the interpreter to do their work with the most efficiency and accuracy, any materials, speeches, lesson plans, textbooks, etc. should be supplied to interpreter prior to the assignment.

4.   Because of the mental and physical demands of Sign language interpreting, the presenter/speaker should be cognizant that the interpreter may need rest periods. For assignments over two hours long, two interpreters (or more depending on nature of situation) will be assigned to team interpret. Each interpreter will still remain present to provide support to the other even when in the “off” position.

5.   While on assignment, interpreters will not participate, make comments, add or edit anything that is being presented by either party. If you wish to have further information about the interpreting process, profession and other related matters, the interpreter may agree to meet/present at convenient time when not on assignment.

6.   Questions about the Kenyan Deaf community are best directed to primarily the Deaf person(s); the professional interpreter may be able to also assist with additional information.

7.   In order to maximize the communication process, the seating arrangement should be such that the Deaf person(s) can see both the instructor/presenter and interpreter in the same sight line. This is generally, but not always, at the front of the room, with the interpreter seated or standing by the instructor/presenter. Other arrangements, such as circle or semicircle may be appropriate in certain group settings. In all situations, the Deaf person(s) should be consulted.

8.   It is important for the benefit of all that one person speak at a time, and that, due to the natural momentary delay in the interpreting process, that a few seconds are given in order for the deaf person to “catch up” and participate in answering, asking questions, etc.

9.   Due to the visual nature of the language, lighting should be sufficient at all times, including partial lighting during video or other visual presentations where the lights are generally completely off.

10. Always speak, ask questions, and maintain eye contact with the Deaf person(s), not the interpreter. Speak at a normal pace. If there is any problem with the speed or in understanding some particular segment or terminology, the interpreter or the Deaf person(s) will let you know.

11. Please do not walk or stand in front of the interpreter and the Deaf client (s). If it is the tendency of the presenter/instructor to move around the room and/or refer to posted/written material, the interpreter may need to be seated or position at a visible place.

This list is not an exhaustive list and is intended to give a guideline and examples of some of the most common situations experienced while in an Interpreting situation. If you have any questions or if we can be of further assistance, please feel free to call us at any time.

Visit us at Email: Call: 254 723 343 516

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Halting the Mask of Benevolence:- Empowering the Deaf Kenyans

As a friend to the Deaf People in Kenya and throughout the world, I have come to appreciate and be part of a dynamic culture, heritage and history of the Deaf Kenyans. I have met some of the most brilliant people in this community and worked with some very excellent programs working with the Deaf.
However we have had several organizations come to Kenya masquarading as missionaries of benevolence helping and giving hope to the Deaf Kenyans. This has become a multi million venture where people of great intentions are sucked into the unending cycle of oppression, dictatorship and neocolonialism disempowering the Deaf leaders and reducing it to beggers and sweets/cigar peddlers and hawkers.
In 1985 SHIA and the Swedish Deaf people helped Kenya form and manage a national Deaf association. 20 Years later we are back at zero due to lack of capacity and empowerement. This is not to discredit SHIA or paint black it’s good name, we acknowledge and are thankful for the benevolence and goodwill though we recognize there have been several mistakes and gaps in this process. Personally I still believe that KNAD was disadvantaged to be funded by one donor for that long without systems or mechanism for accountability and transparency.
Over the last two decades there have been several organizations coming into Kenya and establishing ‘great’ project ideas and visions. Sadly they have not learnt from the mistakes of their forefather – Perpetuation of the Mask of Benevolence. My opinion is that these organizations have never appreciated community entry approaches, view the Deaf as objects of benevolence and not partners in development and are ‘copy/pasting’ foreign solutions to complex local issues. Many of these organizations have fueled the continued oppression of the Deaf Kenyans, muzzled the voices of the weak and poor while ‘eating the ugali’ in their big mansions and driving huge luxurious cars in the name of ‘helping’ Deaf Kenyans.
As a Kenyan and a critic of these initiatives and organizations I would like to elaborate the key priorities of the Deaf Kenyans as expressed by faceless Deaf Kenyans in English and in a non threatening environment:-
Clearly we have the following priorities that need to be addressed:-
1. Recognition and acceptance of Kenyan Sign Language as the native language of the Kenyan Deaf people – It is the official language for business, instraction and mode of transfering culture and Deaf history and heritage.
2. Coordination of the various scarce resources available for this community. The Finance, Personell and Infrastructure need to be chaneled, phased and equally distributed to the key areas of need – Education, Employment and Environment.
3. Strengthening of KNAD or similar organizations eg KSLRP, KSLIA, and Regional branches of KNAD to better represent the Deaf from these regions.
4. Policy amendments – PWD Act 2003, Special Education Act/policy need to be amended to explicitly and implicitly talk about the Deaf issues – Language, Education, accessibility, healthcare – deaf VCT is a starting point we need the whole continum of care. Policy change is the begining, implementation strategy is very very critical.
5. Empowerment, Empowerment, empowerment – Deaf Kenyans need to be trained, mentored and see models that work. Shinning examples are right here with us – Liverpool VCT, DOOR International, DMI, Peace Corps/Kenya etc etc They are making a difference because they are educating the Deaf and giving them a chance to prove themselves.
I would like to challenge my fellow development workers and the directors and program managers to rethink the strategies that they are employing and to refocus their energies to the bigger issues
- Policy Change – Key to successful advocating.
- Education – Key to success
- Empowerment – Key to good governance
The resounding prophetic call is – NOTHING FOR US WITHOUT US!!! Those who hear and transform will be saved the hardliners will keep fueling the mask of benevolence and keep disempowering the Kenyan Deaf community – Enriching themselves pretending to make a difference with the little hand outs.
Join me in Halting the Mask of Benevolence and fight for the Empowerment of the Deaf Kenyans. The time for those advocating for change is NOW. Stand or be blown away.
Stop the mask! It is your enemy!
Jack Owiti is an Interpreter, a Trainer and a ‘member of the Deaf community in Kenya. December 18, 2007

Jack Owiti - Bio

Here is a brief intro and bio from various sources...

Mr. Jack Owiti is a team player, self-initiator with ability to communicate effectively across cultures and enjoy taking on challenges as opportunities for growth and advancement. He holds among other qualifications a Bachelors Degree in Theology -  Deaf Ministry Leadership, Advanced Certificate in Sign Language and Interpretation, an Honorary Diploma in Theology – Chronological Bible Storying for the Deaf and Oral Communicators. He has been involved with the disability movement in Kenya in Special Education especially Deaf Education working with Deaf Opportunity OutReach (DOOR International) training Deaf pastors and planting indigenous Deaf congregations across Kenya; US Peace Corps placing volunteers working in Special Education settings partnering with teachers in the schools of the Deaf, training of Interpreters and mentoring teachers for the Deaf. Recently he has been actively involved with various Deaf related consultancies and trainings. He is a practicing interpreter, a founding member and former president of the Kenya Sign Language Interpreters’ Association (KSLIA) an association working with Sign Language Interpreters in Kenya. He has sat on the GDC/Kenya board and Deaf AID/Kenya advisory board. He has also been involved in community development work for 8 years and recently worked as a Training Assistant with CHF International building capacity of local community and faith based organizations to provide expanded and sustainable health and development programs. Having had this experience of learning and working in the various capacities he has been able to gain a wealth of knowledge about the Kenyan development sector. He has participated in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects, developing and maintaining strong productive relationships with development organizations, government ministries, and donor agencies. He has also been involved in designing and delivering technical and organizational capacity building training workshops on education, health (HIV/AIDS), ICTs and enterprise development. - 

Jack Owiti

Location - Kenya
Industry - Professional Training & Coaching

Sign Linguist, Scholar, Interpreter and Consultant

Jack Owiti @Owitie
Translator and Interpreter, Sign Linguistics Scholar, Trainer, Consultant, SocioEnterprenuer - Nairobi, Kenya ·

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