Translators with disabilities: Getting started
Thread poster: Dr. Tilmann Kleinau

Dr. Tilmann Kleinau  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:37
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Mar 11, 2008

Dear all,
my name is Tilmann. I am a German native translator with 2.5 years experience as a freelance translator. Besides that, I sit in a wheelchair and need assistance all day long. I work from home because this has proved to be easier and more comfortable for me. I have found out that I can work as a freelance translator without any problem.
The reason I´m writing this post is that I want to offer my advice to colleagues with disabilities who want to start in the translation business, too.
So please don´t hesitate to e-mail me if you have any question or are interested in an exchange of experience. Go to my profile www.proz.com/profile/128202 and send me an e-mail.
Thank you,
Tilmann


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Alan R King
Local time: 22:37
Basque to English
+ ...
I welcome discussion of this Mar 11, 2008

Dear Tilmann,

I am not a disabled translator, but I am a work-at-home translator, and my 22-year-old daughter (who is not a translator) is physically disabled and in a wheelchair.

From my own translating experience and my awareness of my daughter's physical limitations, I cannot think of any particular reason why such a person (with the required translation and computer skills, needless to say) should not manage to be a perfectly good professional in this line of work. In fact it could be a very good idea for some people as it requires less physical mobility than most jobs.

But as I am aware of and sensitive to the issues involved, I can only say that I think it would be excellent and potentially very useful for such matter to be discussed openly in a forum like this one. I appreciate your willingness to help others, but would suggest that doing so on a forum thread rather than through private correspondence might be a good idea. For one thing, the information will thus be made more easily available to more people who could need it, and be preserved for future readers. And for another, although a secondary reason, this might be a good way to raise general awareness among everyone, which is always beneficial.

Very best wishes,
Alan

[Edited at 2008-03-11 10:36]


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:07
German to English
Best wishes Mar 11, 2008

Dear Tilmann,

I don't have any disabilities, but I had a look at your profile and wanted to congratulate you on all your achievements as a translator.

I'm sure other colleagues with disabilities will be very encouraged by your example and it's wonderful that you are offering to help them.

All the best to you,
Niraja

[Edited at 2008-03-11 10:52]


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 22:37
Swedish to English
+ ...
Great idea Mar 11, 2008

I think this is a great idea and would welcome a forum thread (public discussion) about the subject. I am not disabled myself, but I think the discussion would also provide help and insight for able-bodied translators - as Alan says, it would raise awareness of the issues involved and that can only be beneficial!

Best,

Clare


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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 04:37
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
Dialysis Mar 12, 2008

Hi Tilmann,

I used to live in Germany; I just came back to Singapore in January. In Germany, I was considered 100% disabled because of my dialysis. I had started translation before I was diagnosed with renal failure, so it is not really because of the illness that I got into this line of work. But I am really glad I am able to work from home. I do dialysis four times a day, every day. It is possible to work outside, but it will be very troublesome. Some bosses or colleagues may not understand my needs. Moreover, I get tired very easily and sometimes I take naps in the day. If I was working in an office, I would not be able to do this. In Singapore, the employment form always has a section on health declaration. Everyone knows that people like me will hardly even be considered for a position. Companies rather have a healthy employee and not worry about sick leaves, medical costs, etc. Well...

Pass auf dich auf!

Denyce


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Alan R King
Local time: 22:37
Basque to English
+ ...
The importance of timetable flexibility Mar 12, 2008

Denyce Seow wrote:

Moreover, I get tired very easily and sometimes I take naps in the day. If I was working in an office, I would not be able to do this.


Hi Denyce, and thank you for your contribution. As I mentioned above my daughter is in a wheelchair. What I didn't mention is that her disability involves not only lack of mobility but other problems too, one consequence of which is that she also gets tired easily and sometimes needs to stop and rest.

Actually I, without a physical disability, also like to stop and rest sometimes and it's very nice to be doing a job where that is entirely my decision and doesn't affect anybody else (unless I have a big job to finish in a few days and am forced to work under pressure to meet my commitment, as has just happened to me, but I only accept such commitments when I feel confident I can meet them, of course).

But what for me is just "very nice" is a necessity for some people. I sympathise with your comment that "Some bosses or colleagues may not understand my needs... Everyone knows that people like me will hardly even be considered for a position." That is a reality, and this kind of work is one good solution.

Perhaps I should add, though, that in addition to needing "the required translation and computer skills" which I mentioned above, you also need self-discipline and the capacity to orgnanise your time well to make this work. But the advantages make it well worth the effort, especially when economic independence is at stake.

Summing up, I think that these are the prerequisites for this kind of work: translation skills, computer skills, self-discipline and self-organisation. If you have these things, and a bit of initiative and a desire to work, I think it's possible. Anyone have anything to add to that?

Good luck,
Alan


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Dr. Tilmann Kleinau  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:37
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The individual situation counts Mar 12, 2008

Dear Alan, Denyce, Clare and Niraja,
dear readers of this forum thread,

thank you very much for your interest in this subject I have proposed.
The reason I want to keep it private - i.e., between those who need help and myself - is that it is a subject where only individual, tailor-made situations work because the individual situation depends on factors like type of disability, living and working conditions, national law, organisation of the working day, degree of impairment, reduction of daily performance, need and kind of work assistance, care, etc . So, if someone needs personal advice, please contact me on a private basis.

My own situation is this: I was born with short, crippled arms and legs because of the drug thalidomide (in German: Contergan), and after my studies of English and American, French and Italian literature, I wanted to work as an editor for a book publisher. But soon I had to accept the fact that, here in Germany, publishing houses are mostly old houses with many steps and without elevators, and I could not work to my full potential (i.e., in my electric wheelchair) in such a non-adapted working environment. Therefore, I started working at home as a freelance editor and proofreader of books for all kinds of book publishers, and I also translated literary book manuscripts, but this kind of work was not well paid at all. Then I worked (at home) for three companies in Stuttgart in a row (always for 2-3 years only), but the work they gave me didn´t have much to do with my qualified knowledge of foreign languages.
So I decided to return to my languages and qualify as a business translator and work as a freelance translator at home. I have to admit that, considering my disability and the fact that working somewhere else would almost certainly affect my working performance, this was the last straw for me to cling to if I seriously wanted to earn a living. It turned out to be a good decision, and after having gone through the normal problems of a beginner, I get along well and will stay in this trade.

Anyway - the requirements which Alan has named in his contribution (translation skills, computer skills, self-discipline and self-organisation) are essential for any beginner, especially for beginners with disabilities.

I wish you all the best for your carreer,
Tilmann


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