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Hello, I'm asking this because I am physically impaired (I use a walker to move) and a student of interpretation and translation in Italy. I'm only on year two of a 3 year first-level graduate course, but I really enjoy interpreting rather than translating so I think this is what I'd like to specialise into one day once I'll be graduated.

However, I have some doubts concerning my personal condition. Let me explain: as you all know interpreters are often required to travel or they often interpret while standing up and possibly taking notes for consecutive at the same time.

Now, in my situation, it's very hard for me to take notes while standing up because I use my hands and arms to hold my walker.

At school we have agreed that I'll interpret while seated and using a table to put the block notes upon. This would be the ideal setting for me, since I have no problems in delivering the interpretation under such circumstances.

However I was wondering:" How realistic could such a setting be once in the job market, in a perspective of earning enough to make a living out of interpretation?

Then there's also this problem: Interpreters are also required to travel a great deal.

As you might know traveling for disabled people can be a bit harder, not for the plane itself but rather for the tube, railway and so on..things aren't that nice from that point of view and pretty much everywhere as far as I know.

I know it might sound as an "odd" question and probably a tough one, but these questions have been popping up into my mind quite often lately.

asked 10 Apr '14, 10:57

fnovi's gravatar image


edited 31 May '14, 06:35

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

The short answer is yes. It's your brain that will make or break your career prospects. There may be some parts of the job that would be more hassle for you than other interpreters, but then I suppose that applies to lots of areas of your daily life already.

You might also have to turn down some itinerant assignments, like walking around pig farms or guided tours across the hills of national parks, but as long as specify to your client in advance that there are some limitations to where and how you work you'll be fine and they can choose to recruit you or not depending on how many canoeing trips or zip-wire rides are involved in a given assignment ;) ).

For info: I can immediately think of 5 blind conference interpreters I know, another who uses a wheelchair to get around and one who uses a walker. So there's evidence that it can be done.

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answered 10 Apr '14, 16:14

Andy's gravatar image


Yes, you certainly can! I see other colleagues have already made the point quite effectively, but let me just add my voice to theirs: I have seen students and colleagues with a range of disabilities get on very well in this profession, and there's no reason why, if the skills are there, you shouldn't as well.

Also, it's worth noting that the European Institutions' latest guidelines for accreditation tests have a specific clause exempting applicants with a demonstrated disability from having to take the consecutive portion of the exam.

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answered 11 Apr '14, 10:40

Michelle's gravatar image


Freelancing for the EU with only C languages (you'd need at least 3 for the IT booth) doesn't involve much travelling - except for taking the bus from one building in Brussels to another. Nor any consecutive whatsoever (except for the accreditation test - and you'll be sitting for that one). So, you'd be more than able to do the job just like the next (wo)man.

Consecutive on the private market (you'd need a B language to be able to work for private clients): Just as in school, if you give your clients the heads up, providing you with a table and a chair doesn't seem to be a major obstacle to me. On occasions and depending on the room configuration, I decide to sit at least for the note taking. Nowadays, consecutive is the exception, while standing is the exception ( ;-) ) within the exception.

Travelling: Even for private clients, you wouldn't be sitting on a plane every week. If you got a drivers licence and if you live in a region where your languages are needed, you won't get to see an airport that often.

I'm sure each of us knows at least one differently abled colleague. I can think of two visually impaired colleagues (working for the EU) and one who's in a wheelchair (private market).

If you have the right language combination, don't let this challenge discourage you. And take up all the other challenges everybody faces on their path to becoming a conference interpreter - there are many, but it's worth it! :-)

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answered 10 Apr '14, 11:51

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Gaspar ♦♦

edited 10 Apr '14, 11:51

thank very much for your answer and encouragement Gaspar! :) and, by the way, the picture is very funny!!

(10 Apr '14, 12:11) fnovi

See my answer at

I was assuming you were a wheelchair user - this seems to be a slightly different case. However I think the same conclusions hold.

Conference interpreting doesn't often involve working while standing up.

Buses and trams in Brussels are generally quite good, and have low floors (except for trams 39 and 44, the historic lines that go down Avenue de Tervueren - this doesn't affect your work as an interpreter). The Brussels metro has escalators at all stations, and lifts at a few - but it's slowly improving.

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answered 10 Apr '14, 14:08

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William White

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answered 14 May '14, 23:46

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question asked: 10 Apr '14, 10:57

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last updated: 14 May '14, 23:46

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