The way ethics works is that the profession decides is on what is ethical behaviour within the profession that we agree on. The code of ethics defines the roles and responsibilities in our work
Ethics are how we work and how we work with people, to have an understanding and what our instinct is on what is right or wrong. Sometimes it is hard to concur difficult issues. It is about taking responsibilities for the decisions that we make.
Ideally a code of ethics encapsulates our values but also does not hold us back when we work. Especially for new interpreters it is helpful to have a starting document.
ASLIA started with a first code of ethics that was based on the RID code of ethics (1979). At the beginning you should have a sort of introduction and then a more detailed explanation. Our code has 9 articles and encompasses amongst others confidentiality, impartiality, accuracy, etc. At that time we did not know any better and it was very much rule based. It came from conference interpreting, but it does not connect with the community work that sign language interpreters do.
Interpreters were conflicted about what the code said that they should do, and what in reality happened. The issues were on:
- Confidentiality: sometimes not telling causes more harm than telling.AIIC has a 'Code of Honour': strictest secrecy
- Impartiality: it is very limited in what it says that novice interpreters think that you cannot move around these ideas. AIIC does not even mention this issue.
The new ASLIA code (2007) has 5 values and 18 principles. A questionnaire that Della carried out last year amongst the interpreters showed that the majority was still naming values from the previous code. The reason why it failed in Australia is that we did not consult the interpreters or other stakeholders and we looked at other codes instead of looking at what we needed.
Two weeks ago SLIANZ had a conference looking at ethics, a process to revise their code of ethics. They had the same issues with confidentiality, impartiality and accuracy. They have started the process on what is needed to stay in the code and what needs to be reviewed.
Some suggestions on working on your code of ethics:
- Check what is working and what is not
- You might not need to revise the whole code
- Do a needs analysis, consult, draft, pilot and educate
- And involve the stakeholders
Design the code that fits your situation or organisation best!