Interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreting services began in Norway in 1980, and when Randi Torgunn Myren acquired deafblindness in 1985, she took the opportunity to apply for their services. Access to these services meant that she didn’t need to rely on family members for all of her communication needs.
“The first time I used one was for a summer meeting for the Norwegian Deafblind Association (FNDB). I requested a specific interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreter, and we hit it off and had good chemistry. She put me in contact with other persons with deafblindness so that I could make new friends and so that I learned about deafblindness.”
Randi studied at university and worked in a governmental department which supported the deaf and deafblind with the support of interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreting services.
“[The service] is free in Norway. There used to be a limited number of hours that you could use the service, but now there is no restriction on the number of hours to use the service. The only restriction is the availability of interpreters.”
Randi books interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters and then meets them close to her home. She is retired now and uses them primarily to support her in organising, facilitating, and participating in a peer group of persons with deafblindness that meet in a local café.
“We talk, read the newspapers, and sometimes we have a quiz. We may also go out to dinner at a restaurant together.”
Randi also uses interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters to hike in the mountains, go on holiday, and to attend international meetings for FNDB. She has to pay the travel expenses, such as the hotel, for the interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreter when going abroad, but the government covers their professional fees.
The service in Norway offers sign language interpretation services for the deaf and interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreting services for the deafblind housed within a combined service. Interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters can be booked via phone or email, and urgent matters, such as hospital or doctor visits are made a priority. There are usually enough interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters available, and you can often choose the interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreter that you want to work with if they are not already booked.
The service directly employs some interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters that have fixed working hours (e.g., 9:00 am – 5:00 pm), but there are also freelancing interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters, who are just as qualified but often work more flexible hours. For example, when Randi travels abroad, she uses freelancing interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters because their flexible hours enable them to travel, whereas interpreter-guides/Deafblind interpreters directly employed by the service cannot travel because of their fixed hours. Freelancing professionals help to fill the demand gaps and bring greater flexibility to the service.
Flexible and free interpreter-guide/Deafblind interpreting services have ensured that Randi has been able to remain fully active in employment, obtain further educational qualifications, engage as an active member of her national organisation of persons with deafblindness (FNDB), socialise, travel abroad, and enjoy her favourite recreational activities. Randi has been supported to fully participate in society and has enjoyed independence and autonomy without needing to rely heavily on family members. Moreover, she has avoided the social isolation that many older persons with deafblindness experience.