Fact-finding mission on sign language interpretation visits US [2008/02/20]
A lecture at the U.S. National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Efforts are underway in Japan to train specialized sign-language interpreters, with the aim of opening the doors to advanced education for those with hearing disabilities. In December, the Postsecondary Education Programs Network of Japan (PEPNet-Japan) dispatched fact-finding mission to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the United States, the world leader in this field, to observe its sign-language interpreter training program firsthand.
When hearing-impaired persons wish to study specialized fields at universities or graduate schools, the fact that they cannot hear course lectures is a definite handicap. Even when universities allows sign-language interpreters or note-takers to attend class with the student, highly specialized course content can pose problems. This is a field in which Japan has made almost no advances.
U.S. law guarantees education for hearing-impaired students, through such means as sign language interpretation. Each university has counselors to work with students with disabilities, and specialized sign-language interpretation has come to be a recognized occupation. RIT, which provides training for sign-language interpreters, shares its campus with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and has 1,000 hearing-impaired individuals in its student body.
The Japanese delegation consisted of 10 persons, including a number of university staff members that assist students with disabilities at places such as the Tsukuba University of Technology—a national university for people with hearing and visual impairments—as well as researchers and sign-language interpreters. On its one-week tour of the U.S., the group visited the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and other facilities. Lectures that they attended covered subjects such as the social structures needed to establish sign-language interpretation as a specialized occupation, and curricula for related vocational education. They also visited a private-sector firm headquartered in Rochester, New York that provides interpretation services throughout the U.S. （Photo : At a sign-language interpretation company）
Mayumi Shirasawa of the Research and Support Center on Higher Education for the Hearing and Visually Impaired at Tsukuba University of Technology, said, “Although in Japan sign-language interpreters have established a solid position in the community, I have become painfully aware that Japan is definitely behind the times in training sign-language interpreters who can handle advanced content. However, the introduction this tour provided to state-of-the-art efforts in the U.S. has given me hope that such efforts will be adopted in Japanese universities as well.”
The National Technical Institute for the Dear also runs the Postsecondary Education Network International (PEN-International), which is working to create environments around the world for hearing-impaired education. In addition to the Tsukuba University of Technology in Japan, participants include universities and organizations from China, Russia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Czech Republic, and South Korea. The Nippon Foundation was involved in the establishment of PEPNet-Japan and continues to provide support to PEN-International.
In addition to continuing its observation of activities in facilities that have taken the lead in this area, PEPNet-Japan, operated by the Tsukuba University of Technology, plans to invite specialists from the U.S. to Japan this year to take part in experimental interpretation activities at Japanese universities and other institutions. PEPNet is aiming to adopt the expertise in higher education for hearing-impaired students that have accumulated in the U.S. over 40 years, hoping to develop a firm base for such programs in Japan as well. （Photo :The Rochester Institute of Technology）