On the 9th of April, the event on the Employment of Sign Language Users in Europe was held in the European Parliament in Brussels and which was hosted by Helga Stevens, Member of the European Parliament. It was an opportunity to present the last stage of the DESIGNS project. An overall aim of the project was to develop Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Continual Professional Development training (CPD).
Mark Wheatley, Executive Director of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD), opened the session by introducing the speakers and mentioned that one of EUD’s goals is to ensure that the barriers faced by the deaf community while seeking employment and after having obtained it are removed. EUD closely follows the developments on the EU level and the progress made in terms of improving accessibility for deaf people in employment.
Prof Jemina Napier, Director of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt University (HWU), and Prof Lorraine Neeson, Associate Dean of Research at Trinity College Dublin, presented that in the setting of a job interview where a deaf person is being interviewed through an interpreter, it is difficult for qualified interpreters to have advanced knowledge in a particular field. Even if the interpreters have targeted knowledge, the little-to-no prior material preparation delivered for selection interviews makes the interpretative work less effective. Regarding the organisational culture, if the interpreter has a lack of understanding of the cultural norms of the company, for example about how to address a manager, it can impact the recruiters’ perception of the deaf candidate.
Dr Audrey Cameron, Research Associate CTISS at HWU, and Chris Peters, researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin, shared their experiences of interviewing deaf students about their studies and the difficulties encountered during job interviews. Such as the unavailability of interpreters, the stress involved in finding interpreters or the lack of professionally qualified interpreters, all of which can lead to miscommunication or misrepresentation.
During the interviews, the students highlighted that it is very complex to obtain employment following their studies due to several factors. For example, while in education, some deaf people are only surrounded by deaf peers which leads to them being insecure about how to behave among mostly or exclusively hearing work colleagues later in employment. Additionally, many barriers exist due to the tedious and bureaucratic nature of the organisation for work assistance (such as interpreters), which leads to difficulties while seeking support at their new workplace.
Following this lecture, Adina Braha, Governments Affairs Manager at Microsoft, presented the measures that Microsoft is taking to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities and especially deaf people at the workplace via assistive technologies. She also described Microsoft’s recruitment programme which ensured that the focus is on the potential of the interviewee and not on their disabilities. Microsoft aims to ensure the accessibility of the workspace to maximise employees’ productivity.
Marinella Salami, Executive Director of the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (EFSLI), explained the need for continuous training of sign language interpreters who could work with deaf people while they are seeking employment and or during it.
This was the final public event before the end of this Erasmus + project funded by the European Commission. EUD, as a partner, plans to disseminate the outcome of the project to ensure a greater participation of deaf sign language users in employment.