Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Languages and Lives in Deaf Communities

Hilde Haualand

Professorin an der Oslo Metropolitan University (Norwegen)

Abteilung für internationale Studien und Dolmetschen

Hilde Haualand ist Professorin in der Abteilung für internationale Studien und Dolmetschen an der Oslo Metropolitan University (Norwegen). Sie ist Expertin für integrative Pädagogik und die Verfügbarkeit und Qualität von Dolmetscherdiensten für Gehörlose im Bildungswesen und anderen öffentlichen Diensten.


The ANT perspective: understanding access with actor-network theory

Actor-Network Theory (ANT) shows that humans and non-humans are actors in networks where agency is not an internal or intrinsic ability in any individual. It is often only when material artefacts do not work or are inaccessible that we become conscious of them, and this is also when one is deprived of agency. Most of the time the materiality is so taken for granted that when a commonly used material object cannot be used or accessed, the people that cannot use or access the technology are blamed, not the inaccessible object or the material and social structure the artefact is embedded in. Disabled people have especially been victims of inaccessible social and material structures, but are also a manifestation of the human heterogeneity that rarely are recognized when discussing agency and accessibility. In this presentation, the video relay services with sign language interpreters that has been established throughout Europe and the US the past 20 years, will be used to show that “accessibility” is not only a question of ability to use single artefacts, but are the results of the continuous interaction between humans and non-humans in networks, which is a major tenet in Actor-Network Theory.


A core thesis is that the more systems of heterogeneous actors are integrated, the greater the flow of agency and the less disabled – or different – the actors become. If the provision of a technology and the services related to it are organised external to the system it is intended to give access to then the social and material exclusion mechanisms are reinforced or remain unchanged. In contrast, organisation of the technology and service provision within an existing sociotechnical system puts the users in a position that is more equal to others.