Meet Peter Bracchi: Multi-skilled Deaf Relay Interpreter, Deaf awareness tutor and sign language assessor and teacher

Posted on June 10, 2015

Peter Bracci is 49 and lives near Leeds. Recently, we found out about all the varied work he does and wondered just how he manages it. Here, he talks about his work and what it means to him. To find out more about him or contact him, go to:

What kind of work do you do?

I have many strings to my bow. For over 25 years I worked in the care sector for a number of national organisations, supporting Deaf people with additional needs.

The organisations I worked for provided me with the skills and qualifications required to enable me to adequately meet the varying needs of the Deaf people I supported.

Throughout my career I attained many qualifications; Advocacy, Mental Health, NVQ in Social Care, to name but a few.

In 2004 I decided I wanted a change and left the organisation I was working for to work freelance. The first services I provided was teaching BSL (British Sign Language) and providing Deaf Awareness/Communication Tactics training, I prepared myself for this by training with Signature in 2003.

Wanting to broaden my horizons and to enable me to have more variety in my work I qualified as an Advocate in 2008.

Graduating from University of Central Lancashire in 2009 as a Teacher in Life Long Learning provided me with a qualification which is requirement to teach BSL.

Also that year I qualified as an A1 assessor to assess NVQ BSL Level 6 with Chesterfield College, then in January 2012 I completed my training as a Deaf Relay Interpreter with Sign Solutions which qualifies me to work with Deaf people who are not fluent in BSL or Deaf people who use Hands On Signing.

Is it easy juggling different roles?

Juggling the different roles can be quite demanding. Time management is key. Responding to requests for Deaf Relay work is probably one of the more stressful aspects of my role as there is a very short window between the request going out and it getting filled.

Each role provides me with so much variety offering me new and exciting opportunities to work along side so many different people from all walks of life, grassroots Deaf people, BLS/English Interpreters, hearing and Deaf professionals.

I find teaching and Relay work to be incredibly interesting and challenging in different ways, having such a variety of roles is demanding but extremely rewarding.

One day I could be creating a tailor-made Deaf Awareness programme for an organisation to help improve access more widely to their customers or developing communication tactics for Social Services for example if they have a Deaf looked after child. Another day I could be in Court or a Mental Health Tribunal working with people who are not fluent in BSL.

As the work I do is so varied to help me with this I try to keep on top of current affairs and attend as many training courses as possible, I am a strong believer in CPD, continuing professional development.

I find attending generic training courses provides me with the general knowledge I require to carry out my role as a Deaf Relay Interpreter.

It enables me to see how things are interpreted which in turn gives me the understanding of how I would then adapt that information to suit the Deaf person using my services.

What’s the most satisfying thing about teaching deaf awareness?

The lack of awareness still amazes me when I teach. The most satisfying thing about teaching Deaf Awareness is that lightbulb moment participants have, when they stop viewing Deaf people as a hearing person who cant hear, but to see us as a linguistic minority, to understand our culture and then to begin to discover solutions to the barriers we face.

Its really important to me to continue with my teaching as I have as much to learn from my students as they do form me. They come to classes with a variety of backgrounds and experiences and the shared teaching and learning broadens everyone’s mind.

I always ensure the courses I provide are enjoyable, fun and entertaining whilst still being informative and interesting.

You’re also a Deaf Relay Interpreter. How is that different than a typical interpreter?

The role of a Deaf Relay Interpreter is quite distinctive, very different from a typical BSL/English Interpreter who work between two languages.

Deaf Relay Interpreters are Deaf native British Sign Language (BSL) users who can identify with the Deaf persons’ unique experience of being Deaf in a hearing world.

They have the skills, knowledge, experience and understanding to modify BSL in such a way that it will be understood by someone who does not function within the usual BSL parameters. They have experience in both the Deaf world and hearing world and can fully appreciate the barriers Deaf people face.

Their role in an interpreting interaction would be working between the BSL/English Interpreter and the Deaf person, modifying the language in such a way that it is presented at its most refined form. They do this by the following methods:

• Checking

• Clarifying

• Monitoring

• Acting as a cultural mediator As with BSL Interpreters, a relay must never undertake any assignment they feel is beyond their ability.

How can you become a Deaf Relay Interpreter?

Being Deaf and a BSL user is not the only qualifier to being a Deaf Relay Interpreter. I strongly believe the requirements for working within these settings would be to gain NVQ level 6 BSL language units; this sets the standard on a par with BSL/English Interpreters who must qualify to this level prior to completing an Interpreters Training Programme.

This alone would not be sufficient to enable someone to be a Relay Interpreter. Further training is required, such as the course I attended which is similar in structure to the NVQ Level 6 Interpreter training.

Life experience and exposure to working with people who have difficulty in communicating is essential as it enables the relay to adapt the information they receive via the BSL Interpreter into a far more accessible format.

Why are Deaf Relay Interpreters important?

As a Deaf Relay Interpreter I work with Deaf clients who may be suffering from ill mental health, have a learning disability or minimal BSL language abilities, this would include Deaf people who are not indigenous to Britain.

I also work with Deaf people who have a dual sensory loss, using hands on/visual frame signing, modifying information by breaking it down in such a way allowing for a more refined form of sign language to emerge whereby the Deaf client can access the information.

Deaf people rely on visual clues to gain information, they do not experience the incidental learning a hearing person takes for granted. This can result in gaps in knowledge and information. The Deaf Relay Interpreter is experienced in searching for knowledge hooks and using those to relay modified information in a format more easily accessible to the end user.

Everyone has a right to access and understand what is being done to them/for them. Access to information is a person’s human right. By modifying BSL into a more refined form of visual language the person requiring the Relay is able to access information which may otherwise be denied.

What is the best thing about your job?

There are many things I love about my job, probably the best thing is knowing I make a difference. Whether it is delivering Deaf Awareness training, teaching BSL, advocating on a Deaf person’s behalf or acting as a Deaf Relay Interpreter, each role is as important as the other.

As a teacher I enjoy the interaction with such a wide range of hearing people, informing them about the issues and barriers Deaf people face in society and how to overcome them. I love to see students of BSL progress through the year eventually attaining the qualification, this gives me great satisfaction and my pass rate is extremely high.

I enjoy the freedom of managing my own diary, although there is a risk involved, if I don’t work I don’t get paid! However if I were to choose, my passion is being a Deaf Relay Interpreter.

To find out more about Peter Bracchi’s work, and to contact him, go to:

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Posted in: interviews