Proximity Interpreting: This PhD will investigate the way video-mediated interpreting services may be utilised to facilitate access to Police Scotland services and the participation in police interviews of deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users in Scotland. More specifically, the study seeks to draw on interdisciplinary expertise in interpreting studies and intercultural communication (Napier) and research into crime, policing and criminal justice (Fyfe) to examine how signed language interpreters mediate interaction through video technology and to establish the stages of police procedure where video-mediated interpreting can appropriately be used (e.g. an emergency call; charging a deaf person with a crime; taking a deaf person into custody; interviewing with a deaf person as a victim, witness or suspect) without face-to-face interpreting being deemed essential.
The objectives of the project are to produce recommendations for Police Scotland policy relating to when and how to make use of video-mediated interpreting with deaf BSL users; the technological set-up required to meet the needs of Police Scotland to ensure that deaf BSL users have appropriate access (which can benefit SignVideo and other video interpreting service providers); sign language interpreter training aimed at working in legal settings and video interpreting contexts.
This PhD is being supervised by Prof Jemina Napier (Deputy of School and Head of Languages and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University) and Prof NIck Fyfe (Scottish Institute for Policing Research Director at University of Dundee).

Robert Skinner is a qualified British Sign Language/English interpreter registered with the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD). Robert began his career as an interpreter in 1998 and his areas of specialism include: broadcast media (BBC News), video remote interpreting (with SignVideo), psychology, language processing, applied linguistics, mental health, community and international development.

In 2007 Robert became involved with academic research where he undertook an Applied Linguistics Master degree at Birkbeck (University of London). For his thesis, Robert conducted a typological study of BSL number variation in the UK: What Counts? A Typological and Descriptive Analysis of BSL Number Variation. This research documented four distinct BSL number systems and several sub-categories and led to Robert’s employment as a researcher & in-house interpreter at the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL), University College London. During his time at DCAL Robert worked closely with Gabriella Vigliocco’s lab on a series of signed language processing studies investigating the effects of iconicity (the imagistic properties of sign), for more information click here. As an interpreter at DCAL Robert worked alongside deaf academics in neurology (the Deaf Brain project), language development (the BSL McArthur Bates CDI), sign linguistics and the BSL Corpus Project. In 2009, whilst at DCAL, Robert completed an MSc in Research Methods in Experimental Psychology. For his thesis, Robert developed a phonological decision paradigm where participants were required to identify upward or downward movements within BSL production: We Have Lift Off: Iconic effects with Up/Down Motion. This study contributes to the embodied theory of language processing, having found a facilitation effect when the upward/downward movement itself was iconic.

Between 2014 and 2016 Robert continued his work as a Research Associate at Heriot-Watt University. Here Robert contributed to three research projects: Insign, Justisigns and Translating the Deaf Self. Find Robert on Research Gate or Academia.

October 2016