Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on Auslan Interpreters at Emergency Broadcasts

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent, have you had a good weekend?

Kelly Vincent: I have. Dignity for Disability had a little team together at the City to Bay this morning so it was good to get down there and support them.

Andrew Reimer: We’ve had a big week when it comes to bad weather. It’s brought home the fact that we don’t do enough when it comes to people who have hearing impairment when it comes to disasters and important issues to be discussed.

Kelly Vincent: You might recall Andrew that last year Dignity for Disability worked very hard to get the Government to agree to a change the State Emergency Management Plan policy to ensure that Auslan would be used in all live televised presentations about emergency situations where there’s an official speaker like an emergency management person, or perhaps the Premier for example or the Minister. But even though the Government has agreed to this when the initial announcement was made about the floods on September 14th there was no interpreter available and we’re certainly calling on the State Emergency Minister Malinauskas to give a very clear answer as to why that was and to ensure that will not happen again.

Andrew Reimer: How hard is it to learn Auslan and become an interpreter?

Kelly Vincent: I’ve managed to learn some basic Auslan myself, I wouldn’t consider myself anywhere near fluent. It is its own distinct language and it’s not directly similar to English. It does take a long time to learn and you have to go through a particular official process to become an accredited interpreter. It’s a real job and for those interpreters working in this area I know particularly emergency information is an area of passion because we need to make sure that everyone is as informed as possible so that they can keep pace.

Andrew Reimer: So you need to hear confirmation from the Minister that this is going to go ahead, how many Auslan interpreters would we need?

Kelly Vincent: Off the top of my head, there are about 25 accredited Auslan interpreters in South Australia but those would be of varying levels of experience and qualification. Having said that I know that those interpreters who I know who have worked during times of emergency have been very much willing to make themselves available because they’re very skilled and very passionate about this work.

Andrew Reimer: How much does it cost to train an Auslan interpreter and how much remuneration would they expect?

Kelly Vincent: I have to admit I don’t know that information off the top of my head. The payment would obviously vary on things like the nature of the announcement that was being made and how much work the interpreter had to put in, but I think that does bring me to another important pointthat is the fact that people working in the media need to receive additional training on how to include Auslan interpreters in the announcements because even when there has been Auslan interpreters available they’ve often been, from what I’ve heard reported, cut out from the frame and given that Auslan is a visual language and cutting them out of frame is not acceptable. We would certainly appreciate an answer from Minister Malinauskas about why this happened and have his assurance that it will not happen again, and I understand from his initial response that he thought, I hope I’m not misquoting here, my impression is that he believed that the situation wasn’t serious enough to necessitate an Auslan interpreter being made available. Well I’ve got the agreement under the State Emergency Management Plan that we reached with the Government right in front of me and I can tell you there is nothing in there about the nature of the announcement, it’s simply that if it pertains to an emergency and its feasible then an Auslan interpreter has to be available. We’re not asking the Minister to make an interpreter available every time he gets a paper cut, we’re asking about some very serious information that needs to be relayed here and the thing is even if it might not start off being very serious but people who rely on Auslan might still need that information to make decisions about how to get themselves out of the situation before it gets worse.

Andrew Reimer: You need that awareness. What about captions? Does that to a large extent help negate the need for somebody with Auslan?

Kelly Vincent: Not necessarily because there are a number of people whose primary language is Auslan and because there’s no written version of Auslan, some of those people who’ve relied very heavily on Auslan as their primary language might struggle to develop written skills and so captions might not always be the answer. And they’re not always 100% accurate or keep up with the speed of the speaker either so they’re not the whole answer but I certainly know that is something we need to work on and particularly live captioning rather than the automatic captioning that you sometimes get on your TV can be much more accurate so we do need to push forward with that because that could benefit a wide range of people, even hearing people who might have the TV on in the background but have the sound down and might pick up on a message with the captions available if they were an integral part of the broadcast. We’re proud of the changes made with the Auslan but it doesn’t stop there and we have a long way to go and we look forward to seeing those changes as well so that everyone can be kept informed and safe.

Caller Neil: My captions would also include perhaps a direction to go to a website for the hearing impaired so they could look it up on their computers.

Andrew Reimer: That’s a good point.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, and I do know that the CFS is developing some resources to be more accessible to not just people who are Deaf or hard of hearing but have maybe intellectual disability or other issues as well and they’re working very hard on developing those resources and I’ve certainly had Dignity for Disability involved in that. In the meantime, you’re right, we do need to make sure there is a variety of options available for people to get information and not just for people with deafness or disability either. We all get our information in a variety of ways these days, particularly with the rise of social media as a primary source of information. So we do need to keep developing those resources and I can definitely say that we are working on it and looking very much forward to keeping the Government accountable. But in the meantime I think primarily we need to make sure that the Government is at least adhering to the policy change that it has agreed to.

Andrew Reimer: Andrew at St Peter’s wants to make a comment

Caller Andrew: As a carer of a young lad who is Deaf and uses Auslan as his first form of communication, I totally agree with you and even though I can sign myself, trying to access Auslan communicators and interpreters has been a bit of a challenge. For example when he was in hospital having a seizure their response to me was ‘well, we need to have somebody in there that can actually sign to him’. It felt as though accessing a communicator for his medical needs and that was also a bit of a struggle. I think that getting your Auslan interpreters and communicators out there and making sure that everyone is on the same page about having an inclusive society so that we do include the hearing impaired as well as other individuals with a range of disabilities. So well done, Kelly – it brings that discussion, very important issues for individuals out with a disability.

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent, thank you very much for coming on the program.