Bimodal bilingual interpreting in the U.S. healthcare system
A critical linguistic activity in need of investigation
Legislation guarantees communication access in the United States healthcare system for deaf citizens and this access is often made possible by bimodal bilingual interpreters, individuals fluent in spoken and signed languages. Yet there is a conspicuous lack of research on interpreted discourse in this setting. With the exception of research on mental health interpreting, not a single article investigating the practice of bimodal interpreting in the U.S. healthcare system has been published in a refereed journal, although interpreters work in healthcare with increasing frequency. This article examines this deficit in research, beginning with a review of the diagnostic benefits of language access in healthcare settings. Next, the demand for bimodal interpreting is examined in light of historical factors, legislative mandates, and linguistic research on American Sign Language. The lack of scholarship in bimodal interpreting and the potential impact of developing a specialization in healthcare interpreting are discussed. Finally, with the view of interpreting as an applied linguistic activity, critical research questions about interpretation between deaf and non-signing interlocutors in the healthcare setting are provided.