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Academic joins call for increased sign language recognition across EU


A University of Wolverhampton academic presented to the European Parliament at an historic conference to demand better recognition of sign languages across Europe.

Dr Christopher Stone gave an address at the Multilingualism and equal rights in the EU: the role of sign languages conference.

The event was the largest event of its kind, with around 1,000 delegates, the majority deaf, representing all 24 spoken languages and 31 signed languages of the EU.

It highlighted key issues such as the importance of sign language recognition, availability of interpretation and legislation in the Member states to make sure that deaf Europeans have access to fully university qualified interpreters.

There is currently a lack of adequate interpretation and challenges with working conditions for interpreters, which are frequently inadequate.

The University of Wolverhampton has a strong Deaf Studies and Interpreting department, with a flagship interpreter education degree, and Dr Stone, Senior Lecturer (Interpreting and Deaf Studies), is co-course leader for foundation and interpreting studies.

At the conference he discussed sign language interpreting across Europe and the institutional barriers faced by deaf people due to a lack of access to learning other European sign languages and the disparity in interpreting provision across the EU.

He said: “It takes six to seven years on average to become fluent in a sign language. To become an interpreter, you also require a BA level education. This is detailed in the European forum of sign language interpreters’ (efsli) learning outcomes and assessment guidelines. More needs to be done to ensure qualified interpreters are accessible to deaf people across Europe.”

Colleagues in the Deaf Studies and Interpreting department contributed to the drafting of the efsli outcomes and guidelines.

MEP Helga Stevens, who organised the event, will present to the European Parliament at the end of this year to push for full recognition of sign languages in all EU member states and necessary revisions of the existing national and regional law and practices.

The aim is for all deaf Europeans to be able to fully participate in all aspects of life, on an equal basis with others.


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