Deaf professionals’ perceptions of 'trust' in relationships with signed language interpreters


  • Dai O'Brien York St John University
  • Gabrielle Hodge Australian National University
  • Sannah Gulamani University College London
  • Katherine Rowley University College London
  • Robert Adam Heriot Watt University
  • Steven Emery Heriot-Watt University
  • John Walker University of Sussex



Deaf, signed languages, interpreting, signed language interpreting, trust


The concept of ‘trust’ is frequently used when discussing the working relationship between deaf signers and signed language interpreters, with interpreters often claiming that trust is a prerequisite to a successful interaction. This paper presents original data from an in-depth research project which used collaborative autoethnography to gather the experiences of seven deaf academics who work regularly with British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, who interpret between BSL and spoken English, to analyse the concept of ‘trust’ in our working relations with BSL interpreters. We found that ‘trust’ is not a useful or productive concept for our interpersonal and professional aims. Instead, we outline multiple ways in which deaf academics can assess and evaluate interpreters’ values, competencies, and performance without relying on ‘trust’. Our findings provide an important, powerful and under-explored perspective on the working relations between deaf academics and interpreters. We suggest these findings can be applied by deaf BSL signers and interpreters in contexts beyond academia, and constitute an important contribution to the literature on interpreting.

Author Biographies

  • Dai O'Brien, York St John University
    School of Education, Language and Psychology, Associate Professor
  • Gabrielle Hodge, Australian National University
    College of Asia and the Pacific, Researcher
  • Sannah Gulamani, University College London
    Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, Reasonable Adjustment Co-ordinator
  • Katherine Rowley, University College London
    Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre,
  • Robert Adam, Heriot Watt University
    School of Social Sciences, Languages & Intercultural Studies, Assistant Professor
  • Steven Emery, Heriot-Watt University
    School of Social Sciences, Languages & Intercultural Studies, Honorary Research Fellow
  • John Walker, University of Sussex
    Sussex Centre for Language Studies,School of Media, Arts and Humanities, Lecturer