The Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD), in collaboration with the National Association of Sign Language Interpreters Ghana (NASLIG), have developed standards and guidelines to regulate the work of sign language interpreters in Ghana.
The rules, which were designed in accordance with international standards and best practises, aim to eliminate common misunderstandings, including payment after performing interpreting services.
In a presentation to stakeholders for validation, Mr Richard Doku, Sign Language Project Officer at GNAD, expressed satisfaction standard procedures have been developed for payment of sign language interpreters in the country.
After several years of scrutinising the document, he said, Ghana has for the first time developed such important guidelines to govern sign language interpreting services.
He explained its usefulness to both individuals and industries, particularly those who are concerned about interpreter service charges, as it would serve as a permanent reference document.
He also noted that it reinforced responsibility and accountability on the part of all sign language interpreters to protect their profession and reputation within the atmosphere of confidentiality.
“These guidelines therefore seek to provide clear guidance on rendering payment and how to address issues relating to mischarges during interpretation services,” he added.
In a speech read on behalf of GNAD Executive Director Mr. Juventus Duorinaah, he highlighted the importance of communication in human existence and stated that deaf people were among the minority group of people who are disproportionately affected by communication challenges.
“The absence of an appropriate channel for communication puts us deaf people in dire situations such that our participation in society is significantly affected,” he said.
For that reason, he said GNAD initiated a project to minimise challenges impeding Ghanaian deaf people’s full inclusion in social and community activities and to help bridge the overall communication gap between deaf people and their families and friends.
Unlike today, he added, sign language interpreters were formerly confined to family members and teachers due to their intimate relationships, but graduate sign language interpreters with varied degrees have sprung up, and their services are no longer free.
Despite GNAD’s observation that sign language interpreters’ services should be rewarded, confrontations usually arise between interpreters and clients over the matter.
Mr Duorinaah stated that the association’s current “recognition and promotion of Ghanaian sign language in Ghana” initiative recognised those problems and charged a committee with developing guiding principles for SLI payment in Ghana.
He continued by stating that the GNAD and NASLIG had both reviewed the document and confirmed its viability and desirability matched high quality standards.
Mr Mathew Kubachua, GNAD’s national president, spoke to the Ghana News Agency through SLI and reaffirmed the various challenges confronting SLI in Ghana, including discrepancies in charge which often spark conflicts.
He also said the policy would help regularise the SLI service profession and encourage providers to deliver better quality service and make things easier for all.
“For example, some SLIs charge GH₵200.00, while others charge GH₵500.00, and so on; however, if we have these guidelines, all of these 200 and 500 will be cut short, and we’ll know exact charges for service done, and there will be no conflict.”
Mr Dzeani Okai Phinehas, NASLIG’s national president, stated that the regulations were long overdue given the current circumstances, but that it was better late than never.
Aside from restoring confidence and overcoming a trust deficit in the profession, he stated that while dealing with a minority group—the deaf community – it was essential to match service and effort to protect the rights of deaf people.
“Now, as we are rendering this service, if you don’t put these structures and documents in place, everything will be haphazard,” he added, “So every organisation needs such structures. And then it will help all operations be successful.”
Mr Phinehas urged SLIs around the country to join the national group, which currently has roughly 62 members, and said the policy will help unionise the interpretation service, creating a common ground for working and benefiting all.
He also raised concerns about the health risks involved with sign language interpretation, and that interpreting for a long period of time might result in repetitive strain injury.
Medical professionals describe repetitive strain injury as a condition in which repeated activities, generally with the hands, cause pain or impairment of function in the tendons, nerves, ligaments and muscles.