Lockdown measures created an increased demand for remote interpreting provision across the UK, which the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) acknowledges was necessary during that unprecedented time.
Nonetheless, NUBSLI’s position remains that ‘in person’ interpreting is the most appropriate method of delivery for British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreting services in the vast majority of situations.
As the UK continues to move out of lockdown and demand for interpreting services increases, the ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in must not be used as a reason to deny deaf BSL users the right to in person interpreting services.
We recognise that some organisations have made efforts to make their remote offerings more sustainable for interpreters and translators but many more are falling short in terms of fees, terms and conditions and best practice, and there is still much work to be done.
It is vital that each assignment be assessed on its own merit and the most appropriate method of interpretation be provided. Interpreting between British Sign Language to English is an extremely complex and nuanced task, there are many unseen factors and processes at play that in a remote context could easily lead to miscommunications and potential harm to those involved.
We understand that organisations and individuals seeking to source interpreting services through agencies may expect to pay lower fees. However, NUBSLI would like to take this opportunity to remind all stakeholders, including organisations and individuals who request the services of interpreters, the agencies who source those interpreters for them and the interpreters themselves that, regardless of which method of interpreting is provided, it should not result in a decrease in interpreters’ fees or terms and conditions.
Providing interpreting services remotely comes with its own unique challenges, does not diminish the quality of the service being received and must not be thought of as either a ‘cheaper’ or ‘inferior’ option.
In addition, the maxim of there being ‘no travel expenses incurred’ as a reason for reducing fees is misleading and makes no attempt to inform those requiring the services of the additional outgoings interpreters incur in order to provide services remotely, such as specialist equipment, reliably high speed broadband, etc.
As the intermediaries in these instances, NUBSLI expects that agencies know and are able to explain why professional interpreters charge the fees they do and will not to agree to lower these on their behalf.
In terms of fee guidance, updated information is available on our website, however, we take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is published for advisory purposes only and that individual interpreters will, and should, determine their fees taking into account the nature of each assignment, their individual experience, skills and expertise, etc.