The focus of this qualitative study is on the interpreting experiences of 10 deaf interpreters and the factors that influence decisions they make when accessing source text in a variety of interpreting practices and settings. The study addresses a significant gap in sign language interpreting studies literature created by the scarcity of research on the views and experiences of deaf interpreters given that most sign language interpreting research tends to focus on hearing sign language interpreters. This study includes the views and experiences of deaf interpreters’ collected using qualitative interviews as well as the researcher’s personal narrative. Interviews gathered narratives around factors that influence interpreting decisions which, in turn, sheds light on the deaf interpreter’s position and status as a professional. The theory of professional autonomy frames the research and the aim is to address the central research questions:
- Can deaf interpreters be considered as having professional autonomy?
- How is this professional autonomy evidenced?
- What factors influence this?
- What is the deaf interpreter experience of professional autonomy with specific focus on accessing source text?
- How is professional autonomy of deaf interpreters perceived or not by satellite organisations?
The evidence suggests that satellite organisations face a challenge when considering deaf interpreters as autonomous professionals and that this has an impact on deaf interpreters’ ability to make independent decisions on the basis of their clients’ needs. The lack of professional interpreting courses for deaf interpreters compounds the problem. The research notes the implications for the future of deaf interpreters as a developing profession and offers recommendations on how we frame the position of deaf interpreters in the industry.