How COVID-19 impacts sign language interpretation in Germany

The coronavirus affects society profoundly. But in what ways has the pandemic influenced the access to and need for sign language interpretation around the world? In our blog series “Deaf interpretation in the time of Corona”, we will take a closer look at the situation in different countries. This time, we focus on Germany, as Sabine Broweleit, CEO of the relay service TESS, discusses accessibility for the deaf in the country.

How extensive are services for sign language interpretation in Germany normally?

”In Germany, VRI and Remote Interpretation are available. Community interpretation is offered sometimes. The German sign language has been recognized as an independent language since 2002. For this reason, the profession of translation became more and more established. Sign language interpreter training has been professionalized.”

Has the Corona situation affected the availability of sign language interpretation?

”On-site interpretation has almost been canceled altogether, while the call volumes have risen to an enormous degree. The demand for remote interpretation is increasing. In the beginning of the Corona crisis, information from the government was not provided in sign language. There fore, the German deaf association had to intervene. So today most information from federal and state government is also available in German sign language. But deaf people don’t have a direct connection to the emergency medical service 116 117 regarding the corona. They have to call us first to establish a telephone connection and they have to pay for it. (Non-deaf people don’t have to pay. The calls are for free.) We cannot give a statement regarding the increasing isolation of the deaf people. Maybe it’s similar to hearing people.”

What would the best-case scenario look like? What tools and decisions should be in place to increase accessibility for deaf people?

”We hope that the medical service 116 117 will soon be available for deaf individuals free of charge.”

Sabine Broweleit, CEO of the relay service TESS
Sabine Broweleit, CEO of the German relay service TESS

Read more about TESS services here: TESS relay service