Covid-19 pandemic highlights vital role of public service interpreters

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus the fundamental role that public service key workers play in our society. Social distancing and lockdown measures have also highlighted the importance of human interaction and communication, especially when it comes to vulnerable people in difficult circumstances.

There have been calls from the sign language sector to ensure that those with hearing difficulties are given equal opportunities to fully understand the implications of the virus on daily life as the ever-evolving situation unfolds. Likewise, there have been social media posts from frontline healthcare workers who have helped patients overcome language and cultural barriers in the absence of interpreters. This has put a spotlight on what a huge impact poor communication can have on potentially vulnerable individuals.

We now all know what it feels like to be isolated; keeping updated and accessing clear information about the unfolding situation and the response by the country’s leaders can feel like a life line. But what about those that can’t understand? What we must learn from this is that public service interpreters do not play a ‘nice to have’ role: what they do is vital. We must also not overlook interpreters as keyworkers when we are paying homage to those that play the most critical roles in our society. Just as it is hoped that the medical profession will be given greater recognition as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, we hope that public service interpreting will gain the respect it deserves as a rewarding and admirable career.

Thank you to all the public service interpreters who use their valuable language and interpreting skills to play such an important role in society now and in the future.

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