The JUSTISIGNS project is a transnational education and training project involving experts from Ireland, Belgium, UK and Switzerland. JUSTISIGNS is co-funded under European Commission’s Life Long Learning programme and runs from 2013-2016 The partners in Ireland include Interesource Group (Ireland) Limited (project coordinator) and the Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin. The Belgian partners include the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (efsli), the European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association (EULITA) and KU Leuven (Antwerp). The other partners are The Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies at Heriot Watt University, Scotland and the University of Applied Sciences for Special Needs Education in Zurich, Switzerland.

Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 establishes common minimum rules for European Union (EU) countries on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings as well as in proceedings for the execution of the European arrest warrant. It contributes to the proper functioning of judicial cooperation within the EU by facilitating the mutual recognition of judicial decisions in criminal matters. The directive also aims to improve the protection of individual rights by developing the minimum standards for the right to a fair trial and the right of defence guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

When the law is applied, we use models of social policy, knowledge of majority cultural behaviour and morality, assumptions about the use of a shared common language and the application of legal precedents. None of these assumptions work well when Deaf people are included in legal settings. Consequently, the claim that justice will provide for the protection of an individual’s rights, is brought into question when it is assumed that Deaf people access the legal system in the same way and experience the same outcomes as their hearing (i.e. non-Deaf) peers.

JUSTISIGNS recognises three specific reasons for this problem:

  • The lack of or limited status afforded to signed languages inhibits access to information at all stages of the legal process for Deaf people;
  • There is limited understanding in legal settings of the constraints imposed by the interpreting process when working between any two languages, with additional challenges arising when working between a spoken (auditory-verbal) and signed (visual-spatial) language;
  • A lack of awareness of the historical educational and cultural background of Deaf people which gives rise to challenges in legal settings.


  • A 5-credit (ECTS and ECVET) course for sign language interpreters, Deaf community and front-line legal professionals available across the JUSTISIGNS European network;
  • A European guide for signed language interpreters practicing in legal settings;
  • A European guide for legal professionals working with Deaf communities and signed language interpreters to improve their communication skills;
  • An information resource for Deaf people in their national signed language to better understand the legal framework in each country;
  • Outreach seminars and awareness sessions for the Deaf community and legal profession;
  • Master classes for signed language interpreters;
  • Training posters with practical legal/signed language/Deaf culture & communication tips;
  • Video documentary evidence outlining the experiences of Deaf users in legal contexts and examples of good practices.

Target group

JUSTISIGNS focuses on creating training content for three target groups:

  • Qualified and qualifying signed language interpreters working in legal settings;
  • Deaf community;
  • Police and legal professionals.

While legal settings refers can refer to the court room, interactions with solicitors, barristers and lawyers, a particular emphasis of JUSTISIGNS is on the interactions of Deaf people with the national police services who are often the first point of contact where communication is often ineffective.


  • Interesource Group (Ireland) Limited (coordinator)
  • Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (contractor)
  • EULITA – European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association, Belgium
  • EFSLI – European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters, Belgium
  • KU Leuven (Faculty of Arts, Campus Antwerp, Belgium
  • HFH – University of Applied Sciences for Special Needs Education, Switzerland
  • Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, UK



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