- Supervisors & managers
- Premia - making research education accessible
- Supervising disabled researchers - Premia
- Making the viva accessible
- Making adjustments - case studies
- Case study 3: Jack
Case study 3: Jack
Jack is a Deaf candidate and his first language is BSL (British Sign Language). He has worked with an interpreter throughout his research in seminars and supervision sessions.
Jack will need adjustments to usual practice in order to communicate verbally with the examiners. He would be at a substantial disadvantage as a candidate without adjustments.
Jack communicates in BSL. If all the examiners are hearing, then equity can only be achieved if a BSL/English interpreter interpreter is present to translate the examiners' questions into sign language and Jack's signed answers into spoken English. The professional Code of Ethics for BSL/English interpreters cancels out any concerns examiners might have about the interpreter enhancing Jack's answers.
The key adjustment to the assessment process is the use of an interpreter within the viva. However, that adjustment will only work if all the participants in the viva are confident with and in the interpretation process. The interpreter(s) needs to know the content and context of the viva and subject terminology if the communication is to work. The examiners and chair will need to know how to work with the interpreter. The researcher needs to be confident that the interpreter has sufficiently high level signing skills to be able to function in this academic context and that the examiners know how to manage communication.
There are guidelines on how to work with an interpreter, the layout of the room and the etiquette. The disability service within the institution or external agencies like the RNID can give advice. Interpreting is a physically and mentally demanding process. The quality of interpreting drops after twenty minutes. The viva will be longer and therefore examiners will have to be prepared to work with 2 interpreters, who will change over during the course of the viva, or agree breaks. Each interpreter will need to know the subject terminology; examiners will have to be ready to explain and unpack the meaning of their words during the viva.
‘It's necessary to discuss each participant's communication needs within the interpreted event. It is very important to provide sufficient preparatory information to the interpreter so they can prepare - explanations of terms may also be necessary.
As Jack's first language is BSL and it is a visual language where brevity is favoured, he may not be used to expansive verbal discourse. Practice will help and mock vivas would also assist his supervisor to identify the issues. Jack will be more confident in the viva if the preparation of all those involved has been thorough.'
Paul Hann, BSL/English interpreter