Major Skills and Abilities of Blind and Visually Impaired Translators | April 2015 | Translation Journal

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Major Skills and Abilities of Blind and Visually Impaired Translators

Major Skills and Abilities of Blind and Visually Impaired Translators


In this study, the main skills and abilities of a very specific group of translators were examined. Blind and visually impaired translators and investigation of their abilities were the major points covered in this study.

In this investigation, the researcher interviewed two blind translators, either studying translation at university, being a translator in an experimental manner, or a combination of both. Several questions, already prepared by the researcher, were asked and conclusions were made to answer research questions and either reject or verify its hypotheses.

The major instruments of a translator suffering from a visual problem are his/her computer/laptop and scanner. The most significant technologies utilized by such translators are screen-readers, particular software like Adobe-Reader and Easy-Transcribe, and dictionaries, and other data sources in accessible formats. Finally, it can be said that a translator poor in vision may possess three exclusive skills: superior listening, higher speed of typing, and better presence of mind.

Key Words: blind, visually impaired, translation, instruments and technologies, skills and abilities

1. Introduction

Mobility and independence are significant issues for those who are blind and visually impaired. While blind people can and do live productive lives, as well as receive full education, there are still some areas where greater independence could be achieved (Carcieri, Morris, & Perry, 2009). The progress of the modern world offers a better world with more suitable living and working conditions for people suffering from vision-related problems. Kirchner and Peterson (1996) state that blind and low vision individuals are successfully employed at every occupational level, for example, as scientists, engineers, secretaries, and teachers, managers of businesses, laborers, and household workers.

In addition to blind and visually impaired translators, there is another group of individuals who are similar to this group in some respects. These individuals, distributed all around the world, are known as deaf-blind individuals. A basic and concise definition of deaf-blindness is “a concomitant loss of sight and hearing that is severe enough to limit a person’s ability to conduct many functions of daily life. People who are deaf-blind may be completely deaf and blind, or they may have some usable hearing and vision, yet, it is the effects of a dual sensory loss that combine to create a unique circumstance. Today, people who are deaf-blind are no longer sheltered by their families. They live in the communities of their choice and are employed in every possible sector of the economy. Many individuals who are deaf-blind are teachers, program administrators, and businessmen and women” (Bourquin, Gasaway, Jordan, Pope, Rosensweig, & Spiers, 2006).

Loss of appropriate level of vision can also affect other disabled individuals. Many dyslexics experience visual problems when reading, often in addition to their phonological ones. These visual symptoms probably result from slight unsteadiness of the eyes when they are trying to fixate on the letters being read. This, in turn, results from their inheriting a mild impairment of the magnocellular component of the visual system, which plays an important role in controlling eye movements because it provides the major input to the ocular motor areas of the brain, such as the posterior parietal cortex, cerebellum and superior colliculus. This slight magnocellular impairment affects particularly the most vulnerable ocular motor control system, which is the control of the ‘vergence’ eye movements that point the eyes together to focus on near targets as when reading. Hence dyslexics’ binocular vergence control tends to be unstable compared to normal readers. Because their eyes tend to wobble, letters may seem to move around, merge, flip and jump over each other. This is the reason why dyslexics tend to confuse the order of letters when attempting to read (Clisby, Fowler, Hebb, Walters, Southcott, & Stein, 2000).

There are many challenges that come with being a visually impaired or blind person. For those who have congenital blindness or blindness from a very young age, it can be very difficult to imagine objects and scenery, such as a sunset, or even a dog (Cataruzolo, 2009). On the other hand, reading the ST and writing its translation on paper or on a computer, using the necessary instruments for the task of translation such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, Internet, etc., sending the translated text to the client either physically or virtually through e-mail, are some of the challenges facing blind and visually impaired translators. The need for visual ability is even more noticeable in oral translation (interpretation). Oral translation, by its nature, has specific characteristics including gestures and body language, facial expressions, eye contact, speaker’s clothing, his/her sitting or standing position. All are meaningful and should be taken into consideration during the translation process. Blind and visually impaired translators may encounter numerous difficulties reflecting such meaningful elements in their translations.

In addition to these challenges, lack of appropriate level of vision may influence the process of learning translation skills and the competencies of students who study such a major. Learning related vision problems are deficits in visual efficiency and visual information processing that can interfere with the ability to perform to one’s full potential. Visual efficiency problems include reduced visual acuity, uncorrected refractive error, ocular motility and/or alignment problem(s), dysfunction of accommodation, and vergence control systems. Visual information processing problems include delays or deficits in visual spatial orientation, visual analysis skills, visual integration skills (Retrieved from

Although there are many challenges for translators suffering from any visual impairment, the modern world and its progress have solved many of their problems. Numerous writing systems such as Braille and Moon, various software designed to make computers accessible, including screen-readers, various computerized dictionaries and encyclopedias, numerous organizations attempting to provide several instruments and technologies for such translators, etc. have facilitated the process of translation for blind and visually impaired translators to a large extent. With the rise of various support-based organizations, more visually impaired people have been given the opportunity to receive an education as well as training with various aids (Carcieri et al., 2009).

1.1. Statement of the Problem

It was assumed that blind and visually impaired individuals possess specific abilities which sighted people either do not have or possess to a lesser extent. Such abilities may be observable in their actions. For instance, they may help a blind or visually impaired translator produce a target text with higher quality.

Following the previous statements, it can be said that the investigation of the exclusive skills and abilities of translators poor in vision and the extent to which such skills and abilities are helpful to them during the process of translation will be the major issues discussed in this essay.

1.2. Significance of the Study

This topic is a unique topic, as it has never been discussed before. Many books, essays, newspapers, and journals have been written and published about translation and its different aspects. However, one is unlikely to find any material discussing such a subject.

Besides being unique, it can be said that this topic is an influential one. Reading this study may influence the way blind and visually impaired people view the phenomenon of translation and its various concepts and theories. It can also make them familiar with several organizations serving translators poor in vision and various instruments and technologies designed for them.

In addition to individuals suffering from visual deficiencies, this research can affect the way other people think about such translators. Some people might suppose that a blind or visually impaired individual is not able to translate a text, or even if he/she can do that, its quality will not be the same as that produced by a sighted person. In fact, such people are not aware of the skills and abilities of blind and visually impaired translators. Reading this research can change their viewpoint about these translators.

1.3. Research Questions

Q1. What are the main skills and abilities of blind and visually impaired translators?

Q2. In what areas are blind and visually impaired translators equal to sighted translators?

1.4. Research Hypotheses

H1. The main skills and abilities of a blind or visually impaired translator are high speed in typing the translated text, more competence in listening, higher speed in making decisions, and better use of such data resources as dictionaries and encyclopedias.

H2. Blind and visually impaired translators believe that people should not discriminate between them and sighted translators regarding any area like emolument and occupational opportunities. However, the only occasion in which they believe that there must be distinction between blind and visually impaired translators and sighted ones is in the selection of texts to be translated, where the texts given to them should contain fewer visual elements.

1.5. Limitations of the Study

The topic of this paper is a new and to some extent unique one. The researcher may be considered the first person to write about such a topic. This makes it excessively difficult for the investigator to prepare the References section for his research.

Due to lack of time and space and because of its being very time-consuming and costly, this study cannot examine all the issues related to translators poor in vision. The living conditions under which such translators live, the relationships between such translators and the way they co-operate with each other in translating a text, the viewpoints that people of various countries have about them, are among the many topics which cannot be examined completely in a single study.

Last but not least, it may be said that the researcher might be accused of being biased. The researcher himself is a visually impaired student of Translation Studies. This may lead some readers of his paper to suppose that he has frequently tried to make conclusions which would satisfy such translators.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Possible Accommodations and Assistive Technologies

If you have visual problems there is a wide range of specialist equipment and household items available to help. These include clocks and watches with large numbers, big button telephones, and large print books and calendars. There are literally hundreds of assistive technology devices for people with low vision and blindness:

  • cassette tape recorder, talking clocks, calculators, timers, etc.
  • a Qualified Reader: a person familiar with job-related technical language who can read material for the individual
  • personal Brailling computer printer or Brailling service (if the person uses Braille)
  • a computer with text-to-speech software (screen readers) or screen enlarger software
  •  PDA (personal digital assistant, a handheld computer organizer) with speech or Braille output
  • adjustable lighting intensity and a variety of possible light sources (different sources can be different colors: sunlight, fluorescent, incandescent, etc. and each person with low vision will have their own preferences for color and intensity)
  • adjustable source lighting, such as gooseneck lamps or clip-on lamps
  • pocket flashlight, magnifying lenses
  • clocks, telephones, calculators, etc. with large numbers, buttons, and displays
  • prescriptive sunglasses (‘absorptive lenses’)
  • photocopier with enlargement feature
  • writing tablets with bold lines or raised lines
  • boldly colored tape to mark edges of steps, edges of desks, etc.
  • tape or strips of different textures for tactile marking
  • large print or Braille labels to go on drawers, folders, bookcases, etc.
  • visor to block out glare from sky
  • non-reflective desktops or other surfaces
  • talking money identifier or talking cash register
  • telephone light sensor: monitors face of telephone and vibrates if a line is lit or flashing
  • low vision assessment, if individual is not familiar with the various low vision aid options.

2.2. Organizations

There is a strong, active national community of people with blindness, which significantly increases the resources and opportunities available to them. The blind population continues to be one of the most vocal and active advocacy groups in the disability community. Thus, a blind culture exists, and has probably existed as long as blind people have constructed communities (guilds, organizations, informal associations, etc.).

2.2.1. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), founded in 1940, is the largest organization of the blind in the United States. Membership includes more than 10% of the nation’s blind persons (1991). The organization is dedicated to the complete, equal integration of blind persons into society.

The NFB serves as a public clearinghouse on information concerning blindness, directs and conducts research, produces and disseminates information to blind persons and researches and monitors legislation concerning the blind. It advises and refers blind individuals to services, provides assistance to blind persons with discrimination concerns, consults with congressional committees and state legislature, serves as an advocate for the rights of blind individuals and evaluates and promotes new technology.

2.2.2. The American Council of the Blind (ACB)

The American Council of the Blind advocates for mutual accommodation between people with blindness and their community. Like the NFB, they value independent living, but they usually pursue it by focusing on individuals accessing community support instead of insisting on accommodation. The ACB actively advocates for social change, but that change is focused on achieving community integration for people with blindness rather than achieving individual freedom.

2.2.3. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

In addition to the NFB and the ACB, there are other important and active groups in blind culture, including the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Unlike the NFB and the ACB, which mostly provide services to their members, the AFB provides service referrals and education resources to anyone with low vision or blindness. One noteworthy publication is the AFB Directory of Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons in the United States and Canada. This comprehensive manual lists all facilities and service providers involved with blindness and low vision.

2.2.4. The Blind People’s Association (BPA)

The BPA began in 1954 in Ahmedabad as the Blind Men’s Association (BMA), a recreation club for the blind started through the efforts of a few blind persons, including Mr. Jagdish Patel. Mr. Patel lost his eyesight in early childhood because of meningitis. However, he grew up to become an approved physiotherapist in a leading hospital, and a leading philanthropist dedicated to promoting self-reliance among the blind.

In 1998, the name of the Blind Men’s Association was changed to the Blind People’s Association, because the name BMA led many people to believe wrongly that its activities and services were confined just to men. It works for the prevention of blindness and disability through eye camps and surgery for cataracts and polio, and through the manufacture and free distribution of supportive devices, such as crutches and wheelchairs.

2.2.5. Prevent Blindness America

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, community and patient service programs and research. These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public.

2.2.6. The National Eye Institute (NEI)

The National Eye Institute (NEI), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supports and conducts research aimed at improving the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of diseases that affect the eye and vision. Research is conducted on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and at universities, medical schools, hospitals, and other institutions throughout the United States and abroad.

2.2.7. Some Other Organizations

In the 1900s, education and services for individuals who were deaf-blind slowly improved. By 1937, people who were deaf-blind themselves began to organize when the American League for the Deaf-Blind was founded by Frances Bates. The League gradually evolved from a service organization into a membership organization for the deaf-blind. It held the first national convention for the deaf-blind in Ohio in 1975 and became the American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) at its convention in San Antonio, Texas in 1979.

2.3. Some Other Significant Points

Different people with visual impairments have different needs. They will want information in different formats. Many people with visual impairments can read large print if it is written clearly and boldly. Lots of people with visual impairments want information on tape or CD. Some people need more than one format.

Think from the start about how you make your information easier for people with visual impairments. This is easier and cheaper than doing it later. This includes the design and layout of written information. It includes the way you use pictures and photographs. You can make it easier for people to listen to tapes, CDs and videos and remember what they hear. You should label your audio information so visually impaired people know what it contains.

Lots of people with visual impairments find reading tiring. They can only read a little at a time, even with a low vision aid or special equipment. Some visually impaired people learned to read using Braille or Moon. Braille is made up of dots. You need a good sense of touch to learn to use Braille. Moon looks like ordinary letters so it is easier for people who can read to learn.

Try to avoid using handwriting. Lots of people with visual impairments find it hard to read. If you have to write by hand, use a black felt tipped pen on white or pale paper and write in large letters. Easy information for people with visual impairments should be printed clearly and boldly. The words and pictures should be laid out in a way that is easy to see, read and follow. You should use 14 point print or larger to help visually impaired people. You can ask people what print size they like. One font and one print size will not suit everyone. The print on the page should show up well. This is called contrast. The contrast between the text and the background is important. Lots of people with visual impairments find it easiest to see dark print on white paper.

The position of pictures on the page is important. You should not fit words around pictures. Pictures should show important things clearly. Big pictures are easier to see than little ones. Simple clear outlines usually work best. It can be hard for people to see small cluttered drawings. Try to avoid putting text over pictures or photographs. People with visual impairments can find this confusing. Some people with visual impairments find photographs easier to see than pictures.

There are different ways of reading information on a computer using Microsoft Word. You can change the font, print size and colour of the background of the screen. This can help some visually impaired people to read from the screen. Some visually impaired people are helped by software that makes the letters big on the screen.

You can buy screen-readers for computers. Screen-readers read out the words on the screen. There are different screen-readers. JAWS is currently the most popular one with people with visual impairments. JAWS can read text from Microsoft Windows format and accessible documents on the Internet. It is important to design your website so visually impaired people can access it.

It is a good idea to think very carefully about how you record an audio version. Tapes should start with a short overview of what the information is about. People may not understand things if the reader goes too fast. You may need to read complicated things extra slowly. If you have the time and energy, you might decide to make two audio versions. You could do one with someone describing the pictures. And you could have a second audio version with a person just reading the words. You need to take great care to make sure your audio version tells the important things that are not written in the text. If you decide to describe pictures, you should write down in advance the words to be read out. You need to describe pictures briefly and clearly. Read the text on the page and then describe the pictures on that page.

You need to think about making your videos accessible to visually impaired people. If you are separating sections with captions, read them out for visually impaired people. Audio description is another way of making video accessible to visually impaired people. A narrator explains what is going on in the video. He speaks when the people in the video are silent. The narrator’s words are recorded onto the video after the video has been made.

You should also label audio and video information so visually impaired people understand what it contains. It is important to label your audio or video recording carefully. You need to say who made the audio or video and how long it lasts. People find it helpful if you put labels on the box and on the tape, CD or video itself. You will need to include a picture or logo as well as words for people who cannot read. Some people with visual impairments cannot see print, logos or pictures. They need things labeled in Braille or Moon.

Make sure people have enough light to see the information. Most people with visual impairments also find glare (from glass, mirrors or shiny surfaces) painful. When reading, use rulers and markers to highlight the beginning and end of sentences and to help keep the position along a line of text. Make sure lighting is good and, where possible, have it positioned to the side and not behind, as this causes shadows.

3. Methodology

In this study, the researcher has attempted to gather a variety of useful information about the main skills and abilities of blind translators. He has used the method known as ‘structured interview’. First, he prepared six questions based on his research hypotheses in order to ask his subjects. After finding the individuals who had the characteristics required for being considered as the subjects of the research, he called them and explained to them his purpose and the way he was going to conduct the interview sessions. Once receiving their consent to participate and determining the time required, the interview sessions were started. For each subject one session was sufficient. After a short welcome, the researcher asked the subject to give some primary information about himself, including name, age, gender, degree, job, whether single or married, experience in the field of translation, and a brief biography. After that, he asked his questions one by one and the participant answered them as much as possible. Finally, the researcher checked the recorded interview sessions, wrote down participants’ answers for each question, compared the answers given by each subject for each question with the answers given by others for the same question, made conclusions about each question on the basis of his comparisons, and at the end, made conclusions about the whole research conducted in order to answer the research questions and to either reject or verify its hypotheses.

3.1. Participants

In this study, the researcher interviewed two people whose characteristics are as follows:

1. Subject A: The first participant is named Javad Hosseini, born on December 5, 1982. He is a visually impaired translator who was born in Shiraz. He has Diploma in Mathematics and he has studied Irrigation Engineering at Azad University of Shiraz and received his B.A. He has started to learn English in a professional way since 1996 and received a J.C.E. and an S.C.E. from the Iran Language Institute. An individual who has received these two degrees is considered to have as much English knowledge as a junior and a senior student of English language respectively. After receiving his S.C.E., Mr. Hosseini continued his education in the English language at the same institute and received an F.C.E., which is considered a degree equal to an M.A. in English. Mr. Hosseini is single and from eight years ago up to the present time, he worked as a translator in the Information and Communications Technology Services Company of Nopendar, where his job is to translate texts and to transcribe audio files in written format from English into Persian and vice versa.

2. Subject B: The second participant is named Davood Choobiny, born in Sabzevar on September 21, 1988 but grew up in Tehran. His Diploma is in Human Science and he has studied at IAUCTB (Iran Azad University Central Tehran Branch) to receive B.A. in Translation. He is single and works as a translator in a governmental organization in Tehran. Meanwhile, it should be said that this participant, contrary to the previous one, is completely blind.

3.2. Instrumentation

As the method used by the researcher in this study was interviewing, this part of the paper describes the devices used to conduct the interview sessions. All the interview sessions were virtual, using a computer and the software named ‘Skype’. A good laptop with high-quality speakers and microphone were the instruments used by the researcher. All the interview sessions were recorded, using a recording software for which high-quality speakers and microphone were necessary.

3.3. Procedures

In order to prepare this paper, the researcher went through four steps as follows:

Step 1: The researcher gathered a large amount of information with both general and particular aspects related to the main topic of research. This information was gathered from a variety of books, essays, and websites.

Step 2: Two people who have had some experience in translation, either studying translation at the university or having some experience in this field or a combination of both, were selected as the subjects of the research. They were both either blind or visually impaired. After a short conversation between them and the researcher, they agreed to participate in the study. As the subjects lived in cities far from where the researcher was living, all the interview sessions were held via the internet, using Skype. The appropriate time for each interviewee’s interview session was announced to him by the researcher, and at the time already determined, the interview started.

Step 3: After testing the recording devices and the interviewee’s announcement that he was ready, the interview started. The interviewer welcomed the interviewee and thanked him for agreeing to participate in the interview. The interviewer reminded him that his answers should be based on his own personal knowledge and experiments, and asked him to feel free in answering the questions. It started with asking the interviewee to introduce himself and to provide a short biography about himself. The questions were asked one by one and the interviewee answered them carefully. At the end, the interviewer thanked the interviewee once again and the interviewing session was finished.

Step 4: The researcher wrote down the responses given by each subject for each question. He made a comparison between answers given and made a conclusion about a total response to each question. After making conclusions about each question separately, the researcher reviewed all the answers together and made conclusions as a whole about the major skills and abilities of blind and visually impaired translators so that he could answer the research questions one by one and either verify or reject its hypotheses.

4. Results

4.1. Data Analysis

As stated, the researcher conducted an interview session with each individual, during which he asked them six questions. The questions are listed in the last part of the paper.

1. Subject A believes that blind and visually impaired translators are able to produce target texts with the same and even higher quality as sighted translators, depending on specific circumstances. For example, if the source text contains visual elements or if the translator has to navigate with the client, a blind or visually impaired translator may face some difficulties which are likely to decrease his/her translation speed.

Subject B believes that a text translated by an individual poor in vision can have the same quality as one translated by a sighted person but their speeds cannot be equal and a blind translator can’t translate as fast as a sighted translator. However, he points out that there can be many variables affecting translation quality and vision isn’t the only influential factor in this field. For example, he says that the difference between translation by a sighted translator and that of an individual poor in vision might be due to the difference in their knowledge and not because of the difference in their level of vision.

Both subjects believe that translators poor in vision can translate as well as and even better than sighted individuals, depending on the specific conditions provided for them. Less visual elements in the ST, navigation with the client, and the translator’s knowledge are some such conditions. The researcher recommends clients keep these issues in mind when asking a blind translator to translate a text for them. He also suggests that various software and facilities should be designed to increase their speed of translation.

2. Subject A believes that there are more similarities rather than differences in their process of acquiring such skills and knowledge. He says both groups go to the same universities and institutes and study the same books. However, he believes that such individuals travel a pathway more difficult than sighted translators because they need to utilize specific tools such as recording devices, computers with particular programs, Braille and so on.

Subject B emphasizes that there are undoubtedly particular differences between their corresponding process of acquisition of such knowledge. He indicates two most important cases of such differences:

It is easy for most students to find their university sources since most, and to some extent, all of their sources can be easily found in print format. Even those which are not published in print can be found on the Internet through a short search. This is not so easy for students suffering from visual problems. They are not able to read printed materials and the books they require are rarely and sometimes never published in a format accessible to them. Subject B added that such an opportunity is true for those students that study in Iran and not abroad.

To use dictionaries and to learn the spelling of words is another area in which he believes that there are differences between sighted people and those with poor vision. He says that although a dictionary is the main tool for any translator, most of the existing notable dictionaries are either produced only in print format or those produced in a computerized manner are not compatible with screen-readers designed for such people. He also indicates that the spelling of words is one of the most challenging areas for blind and visually impaired students to learn. This may affect the quality of their translations.

Both subjects pointed out that these individuals go through a more difficult process to become competent translators. They point mainly to their need to use specific recording and writing tools and books and resources in accessible formats. It is the duty of different organizations and institutions to provide these facilities for such people and also essential for academic and publication centers to disseminate various scientific and educational sources in formats which can be used by such students.

3. Major skills possessed by most individuals poor in vision which other people normally do not have, according to subject A, are computer skills. The most important of these skills is the skill known as touch-typing. Sighted individuals mostly use their vision while typing but individuals poor in vision keep the order of buttons on the keyboard in their minds and type without having to spend time finding a key on the keyboard. This can increase the speed of their typing, which can help them to translate faster.

Subject B regards oral translation as the area in which blind and visually impaired translators mostly surpass sighted translators. He gives two reasons for his claim:

Firstly, these translators can learn foreign words and keep them in their minds. Even if they face technical terms, they can ask a sighted person to record such words for them and subsequently learn them. Secondly, one of the major skills of blind and visually impaired people in which others are weaker is listening. It can help them perform oral translation more successfully than sighted people.

The researcher concludes from the responses that blind and visually impaired individuals possess three skills which can be helpful in the process of translation. They can type without need to look for the keys on the keyboard. This may increase their speed of translation and can be regarded as a solution to the problem mentioned in the first question. It is recommended that clients use blind translators for the task of oral translation as a consequence of their higher listening capacity and their ability to keep a greater amount of input in their minds.

4. Subject A divides the necessary instruments and technologies of such translators into hardware and software. He regards the most important tool of these individuals to be a computer and a scanner both of top quality. Major software mentioned by him are screen-readers like JAWS and NVDA, and some other important software such as Easy-Transcribe for converting audio files into text ones. Mr. Choobiny considers on-line dictionaries, some computerized accessible dictionaries, and Google-Translate as the first and most useful instruments and technologies utilized by these translators.

The researcher concludes that computers and scanners are the most significant instruments utilized by these translators. They use computers with particular software and screen-readers installed on them and scanners to scan printed materials and convert them into accessible formats. Both these instruments are essential for such translators, since they need to read the source text for the purpose of translation and also to review the receptor text and revise it if required.

5. In subject A’s view, quality is the first and most important criterion for clients. They pay no attention to the visual level of translators, and, in fact, they make no distinction between blind and visually impaired translators and sighted ones. He even mentions some instances where a client asked a sighted person to translate a text for him but after receiving the translation and checking it, he has changed his mind and returned to the subject to translate the text.

Mr. Choobiny answered that first most people do not view blind and visually impaired translators in the same manner as sighted ones. However after a period of time when the blind or visually impaired translator proves his/her abilities and competencies, most people change their viewpoint and trust his/her capacity to translate. He uses himself as an example and says that many people are at first surprised to see that he is able to translate, but after a period of time, they recognize that he translates better and faster than many sighted translators.

The investigator believes that many attempts should be made to changes people’s views about the skills and abilities of translators poor in vision. The government and other officials must adapt numerous policies and take a variety of actions to make people, and especially employers, familiar with the abilities of these translators and accept them like all other translators.

6. Subject A believes that blind and visually impaired translators can take part in the process of oral translation as long as visual elements carrying semantic value are not involved. Subject B believes that oral translation is the field in which a blind or visually impaired translator can surpass a sighted translator because of his/her superiority in listening. He says that if there were two translators, one sighted and another one blind or visually impaired, both with the same level of linguistic competency, the blind or visually impaired translator will give a better performance in oral translation. The reason he gives is that visual elements in the environment may distract the sighted translator; something which would not happen for the translator poor in vision.

Both the subjects are sure that blind and visually impaired individuals can participate in the process of oral translation. They both believe that many of the difficulties that these people may encounter in written translation do not exist in oral translation. They even claim that this is an area where blind and visually impaired individuals can perform better than sighted people.

5. Conclusions and Discussion

5.1. Conclusions

Translation is a profession which does not require much physical ability. Translation mostly involves mental capacity to learn lexical, structural, semantic, stylistic, pragmatic, and, in a word, linguistic and to some extent, extra-linguistic aspects of another language, learning to use them practically to produce target texts acceptable in that language. It can be concluded that blind and visually impaired individuals can become translators due to the non-physical nature of this work. Thus, translation is one of the professions suggested by the researcher to blind and visually impaired individuals to earn their living.

It should be kept in mind that translation has specific aspects which necessitate visual ability. All texts may have non-lexical elements bearing semantic values, such as pictures, figures, tables and diagrams. Some words and sentences may be bold or italicized or may be written in a color different from the rest of the text. Different sentences might be located in different places on the page for some purposes. All these issues can be problematic for a translator poor in vision.

The researcher suggests that translators poor in vision, before accepting any material to translate, would be best to ask the client to give a brief explanation about the location of texts on the page and the visual elements existing in the material. Being aware of the location of texts on the page can help prevent producing a low-quality TT due to missing any significant point in the ST. The researcher believes that it is helpful for such translators to receive some information about the various visual elements of the text and their content. Blind and visually impaired translators can ask the client to write down on a separate sheet or record on a tape or CD a brief explanation of the pictures, tables, figures, etc. accompanying the source text.

The researcher also suggests that blind and visually impaired translators, providing that they receive no explication regarding such elements, would be best to refuse to translate such material. Ignoring the visual elements may lead to missing significant points and producing low-quality and unacceptable target texts. Such a phenomenon may have more harmful consequences and cause other clients to not to trust him/her with the task of translation.

Most blind and visually impaired individuals prefer to translate with a computer rather than on paper. Translating on paper has numerous difficulties for both blind translators and for visually impaired ones. People who have limited vision and are not completely blind may be able to read printed texts and even write such materials, however, their reading speed is less than sighted individuals. In order to read each word and line, they have to make more effort, which may cause them to get tired sooner. Their ability to read may be limited to specific circumstances, including the particular amount of light, certain paper types with specific color and contrast, and many other factors. Such individuals are likely to miss some points included in the text. The researcher believes that it is fair and helpful to have documents with more appropriate fonts and darker words typed on white sheets translated by translators poor in vision, and other documents lacking such characteristics translated by sighted individuals. Blind people can use such systems as Braille to read texts on paper. However, using these systems in the task of translation has more severe challenges. Very rarely are materials produced in such formats. Even if material is produced in, for example, Braille format, the blind translator cannot deliver his/her rendering in Braille since most sighted people cannot use it. It is also impossible to send a Braille text via e-mail. It can be thus concluded that it is more reasonable to use a computer for the task of translation.

The modern world and its progress has made the computer an accessible tool for blind and visually impaired translators. Visually impaired individuals can use a variety of software to adjust different parts of their screen in a way suitable for them. Blind individuals can also use various screen-readers designed to make computers accessible for them. The researcher believes that blind and visually impaired translators, like other translators, should recognize the prominent status of the computer in the world of translation. He indicates that it’s a crucial duty of translation teachers and principals to make such individuals aware of this and help them to add computer skills to their other skills and abilities.

Most blind and visually impaired translators also use scanners in order to scan printed materials so that they can convert them into accessible formats and read their content. This device is mostly utilized with a famous software named Kurzweil. This software converts the scanned material into a format that the blind or visually impaired person can read using his/her screen-reader. However, the problem of supporting the Persian language does exist for scanners. No scanner currently exists that is capable of scanning Persian documents. The researcher indicates that individuals suffering from visual problems must recognize the significant connection between scanners and Kurzweil and the importance of their combined use to be able to translate printed materials.

Nobody can deny the high significance of dictionaries and encyclopedias in the process of translation. Use of appropriate bilingual and monolingual dictionaries and adapting a correct strategy to utilize them can to a large extent guarantee a successful translation. Like other translators, blind and visually impaired people need different kinds of both bilingual and monolingual dictionaries and encyclopedias. The researcher offers some suggestions for blind and visually impaired translators in this area. He believes that all publication centers should produce dictionaries and encyclopedias in such accessible formats as Braille and Moon. He also suggests that blind and visually impaired individuals can establish a group in a company or institution whose role is either to ask other companies to produce such data sources in accessible formats or they themselves attempt to produce such accessible data sources. A better suggestion can also be to design software capable of converting any computerized dictionary or encyclopedia into an accessible format and permitting these individuals to perform the task of converting by themselves.

The following four cases are the major areas in which blind and visually impaired translators can surpass sighted ones:

1. Listening: It is common knowledge that most people poor in vision try to utilize their auditory senses so that their ears do what their eyes are unable to do. Thus, we can conclude that people who suffer from visual deficiencies possess a better listening ability. Higher listening ability can be very helpful for blind and visually impaired translators. It can help them to read their documents with their screen-readers more rapidly, and therefore to translate the text more quickly and deliver it to the client earlier than a sighted person. The area in which listening plays a very significant role is oral translation. Reading these sentences, it can be concluded that blind and visually impaired translators can use their stronger listening competencies to surpass sighted translators, particularly in the case of oral translation.

2. Faster Typing: Blind and visually impaired individuals usually type faster than others. This is so because they spend no time finding the button which they’re going to press on the keyboard. They keep in their mind the location of each key and the arrangement of buttons on the keyboard. Sighted people use their eyesight to find a button on the keyboard. This would decrease the speed of their typing. We thus conclude that blind and visually impaired translators might be able to type faster than sighted translators.

3. Better Presence of Mind: As blind and visually impaired translators are not able to see the texts, they have to practice to keep more information in their minds. This is true for both written translation and more significantly for oral translation. In the case of written translation, if a blind or visually impaired translator keeps a small amount of the source text in his mind, he will be forced to repeatedly navigate the open windows of source and target text. This would be too boring and waste his time. However, blind and visually impaired translators, due to their conditions, try to keep large amounts of the source text’s information in their minds. This would contribute to them translating more rapidly. Such a capacity is more helpful in oral translation where the information received is temporary and disappears as soon as it is spoken. Higher presence of mind can help the blind or visually impaired translators to translate faster than sighted translators.

4. Freedom from Presuppositions: A sighted person may start translating with a variety of backgrounds in his/her mind. These backgrounds may include different pictures, locations, scenes, people, and other phenomena that (s)he has seen during his/her life. These visual elements may affect his/her translation. They may distract the translator or create particular attitudes in his/her mind which cause him/her to translate in a specific manner. A blind translator is free from such presuppositions and his/her rendering can be a regarded as a ‘pure’ text.

The researcher concludes from the above paragraphs that blind and visually impaired individuals can perform oral translation better than sighted ones. Superior capacity of listening and better presence of mind, facilitating the ability to keep more information in mind are helpful in this type of translation. So, he suggests that blind and visually impaired translators should be preferred for the task of oral translation.

Another skill possessed by translators poor in vision, assumed by the researcher, is that their pronunciation is more similar to native speakers. They use various screen-readers. The eloquence of these screen-readers is mostly native English. Thus, they are more familiar with the correct pronunciation of English terms. The researcher recommends ESL students to follow their pronunciations, as they pronounce words in a way more similar to native speakers.

5.2. Discussion

1. As stated before, translation is a task which is influenced by numerous factors. Such issues as age, sex, social class, educational background, the translator’s financial and economical status, the amount of his payment, the deadline given for the delivery of a translation, his emotional condition, all influence the quality of his translation. The next issue is to discuss whether the changes that occurred in a translated text are due to the visual level of its translator or any of these factors.

2. In addition to vision, the deficiencies in the other parts of body can influence the quality of a translated text. The other task is to identify any other deficiency which may have more severe effects on translation quality.

3. As stated before, blind and visually impaired individuals are distributed all around the world. In each country there are either a large majority or a small minority of such people. Translation is the profession of many of these people. Thus, the living and working conditions of translators poor in vision are not the same all around the world. The other issue to be discussed is a comparison between the living and working conditions of blind and visually impaired translators in Iran and those living in some other modern countries like the U.S. and Canada.

4. Dictionaries and encyclopedias are among the first and most important instruments used by a translator. In fact, no translation task can be done without using such data sources. In the past, translators had to use paper dictionaries and encyclopedias in order to find a word and its meanings. This was exhausting and very time-consuming. Today translators can find various meanings of a word very rapidly and without spending a large amount of energy by using computerized and on-line dictionaries and encyclopedias. This fact is also true for translators suffering from visual problems. There will be a comparison between the way blind and visually impaired translators used such data sources and the way they use them in the modern world.

5. As stated before, oral translation is one of the areas in which blind and visually impaired translators can perform better than sighted translators and may even surpass them. In our country, a number of conferences, festivals, and interviews have been held where the task of oral translation was done by a blind or visually impaired individual. Make a list of such opportunities and compare them with those done by sighted translators.


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In this study, the researcher has asked the interviewees the following questions. These questions were prepared by the researcher before conducting the interviewing sessions and they were designed based on the research questions and its hypotheses.

1. Do you think a blind or visually impaired translator can translate a source text and produce its corresponding target text with the same speed and quality as that of a sighted translator?

2. How differently do you think a blind or visually impaired person acquires the linguistic and extra-linguistic knowledge and abilities necessary for a competent translator?

3. In your opinion, what are the exclusive skills and abilities of a blind or visually impaired translator?

4. What kinds of instruments and technologies do you use in order to accelerate the process and enjoy an easier task of translation?

5. Do people view blind and visually impaired translators in the same manner as sighted ones?

6. Is it possible for blind and visually impaired translators to participate in the process of oral translation known as ‘interpretation’?

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