When computers became part of the daily lives of ordinary people, and along with it the nascent capabilities of a then burgeoning Internet, many futurists and technologists already saw how such advancements would make a positive effect on certain industries. And of course, one of such industries is the language translation and interpretation industry. The internet has specifically given sign language interpreters a new means to make their work easier to conduct while enabling them to serve even those who are in a remote location.
This, in fact, is nothing new: certain television shows in the past decades used some early form of “remote sign language interpretation” integrated in their shows, which were broadcast to a wide stratum of audiences.
However, this would be very limited when compared with today’s currently available video-based remote sign language interpreting services. With cheap broadband internet connection, along with equally inexpensive webcams or video cameras with audio pickup capabilities, anyone who may need the service of sign language interpreters can avail of it right in the comfort of their home.
And with the emergence (and eventual popularity) of computer tablets such as Apple’s iPad, as well as netbooks (small laptop computers), video-based remote sign language interpreting has become even more pervasive.
Despite these technological advancements, however, much of the job of typical sign language interpreters will remain essentially needed to be performed on site. For instance, clients who are deaf or hard of hearing and who would, say, attend an important meeting or a professional conference would require the services of such sign language interpreters, with the interpreter to be physically present with the client.
Medical or dental appointments involving a deaf patient might also require a sign language interpreter. In the court of law, the services of professional sign language interpreters are commonly needed, especially in ensuring that the rights are observed of deaf or deaf and blind participants in a court proceeding.
There may be exceptions to this (depending on the skill or the technological savvy of the interpreter), as one can also use a laptop computer or an Apple iPad to replace the physical presence of a sign language interpreter, coupled with the use of wireless network connection so that the interpreter would be able to do his job remotely while the client is at some conference or meeting or a seminar.
But at bottom, however, it is difficult to see or ascertain at this point whether or not technological advancements would totally replace the required physical presence of sign language interpreters at the job site. One thing is certain, though: such advancements have a clear goal: to make interpretation services as accessible as possible to those who need them, regardless of their location.
Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, a well-established translation services provider in London, UK.
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