Simultaneous simplification

A world first, to include persons with intellectual disabilities

by Myriam Nahón Guillén (Representative of AIIC’s Israel Region in the Advisory Board) —  October 2020 

Reinventing ourselves, now more than ever

Simultaneous simplification is a new modality of interpretation through which we make conference speeches and presentations available to persons with intellectual disabilities. This might involve giving a simplified version of a speech in the speaker's own language or providing an interpretation from one language into a simplified second language. 

Our audience is made up of persons with intellectual disabilities or cognitive deficiencies, which may be developmental, the result of a stroke, an accident or ageing. This service may also benefit immigrants who have not yet mastered the local language.

From the outset we have sought to place this new interpreting modality in an AIIC context so that the same professional rules would apply. It is a novel initiative and a world first which we hope will find resonance elsewhere. From our experience, it is fundamental to develop simultaneous simplification in each country in cooperation with entities that work directly with the target audiences and can provide feedback, as well as with the experts who set the standards for written simplification. 

"In this conference there is Simultaneous Simplification. Simultaneous Simplification is a translation to a simplified language in real time.
You may borrow headphones here (you may take headphones and return them later)."
Photo courtesy of the Israel Cognitive Accessibility Institute. 

Israiic working in collaboration with local experts

In Israel we have developed simultaneous simplification as a collaborative project between Israiic (AIIC’s Israel Region) and the Cognitive Accessibility Institute of Israel that includes representatives of Ami, an association that provides services to persons with cognitive disabilities, as well as researchers in the field of simplification at Ono Academic College

It was thanks to the management skills and boundless energy of Ornit Avidan-Ziv of Ami that simultaneous simplification came to play a prominent role in Israeli public television. Professor Shira Yaalon-Chamovitz from the Ono Academic College was the first to come up with the idea of simultaneous simplification and has been the intellectual driving force from the outset. Israiic has provided its professional experience in simultaneous conference interpretation as well as the interpreters themselves. 

Increased exposure and recognition

Since we started, we have had the opportunity to provide simultaneous simplification services in different sorts of situations. We started providing simultaneous simplification at conferences dealing with disabilities to facilitate participation by persons with cognitive disabilities, following the general inclusive principle of “nothing about us without us” that has become a fundamental pillar in the world of disabilities. 

We were then invited by the Israeli Public TV Broadcast entity to provide simultaneous simplification services in Hebrew during the Eurovision Broadcast in Israel in 2019 as part of the implementation of their vision to provide broadcasting services to 100% of the population: simultaneous simplification together with audio description for the visually impaired and sign language interpretation. 

This event put simultaneous simplification on the map in Israel. Suddenly, we had feedback from thousands of viewers. Everybody seemed to know what simultaneous simplification was. Our next assignments for the Israeli Public TV Broadcast were the general elections results programs in September 2019 and March 2020. And then the Coronavirus forced us into lockdown. 

The Israeli Public TV Broadcast decided to make the Coronavirus news accessible to persons with cognitive disabilities through simultaneous simplification of the main news broadcast every day for a month. We went on to interpret three broadcasts of ceremonies that nobody misses in Israel: the Ceremony of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Ceremony of the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, and the Ceremony of Israel’s Independence Day. So far, we have had very positive feedback from our audience.

Simultaneous simplification during the Israeli Public TV Main Daily News Broadcast 
From right to left: Ella Bar-Illan and Myriam Nahón Guillén. Photo courtesy of Israiic

Training interpreters in simultaneous simplification

In view of the growing demand, last year we decided to organize a crash course on simultaneous simplification for conference interpreters. The course includes an introduction to our audience (the world seen through the eyes of persons with cognitive disabilities), the basic principles of simplification (learning a new language) and hands-on sessions on simultaneous simplification (there is nothing like practical experience to understand the complexity of the task). 

As any conference interpreter who has participated in our crash course will attest, simultaneous simplification is not as easy as it sounds. In addition to the multitasking required by simultaneous interpretation, this exercise involves more processing in order to determine what will be kept and what will be discarded, rendering an intelligible message and delivering it in a respectful non-patronizing fashion. Easier said than done, some would say.

Spreading the message – increasing accessibility

We hope this form of accessibility will become the rule and not the exception in the framework of equal rights for persons with disabilities. We are striving to raise the awareness of public institutions and the general public regarding the present lack of accessibility for persons with cognitive disabilities, even though they represent the highest percentage within the population with disabilities. We derive great satisfaction from providing a service that allows persons with intellectual deficiencies to participate on an equal footing in conferences, exchanges, TV broadcasts and any event of interest to them.

We will be more than happy to share our experience with those interested in developing simultaneous simplification in other countries. Feel free to get in touch with us.

Simultaneous simplification during the Eurovision Contest at the Israeli Public TV – May 2019
Sitting from right to left: Giséle Abazon, Prof. Shira Yaalon-Chamovitz and Myriam Nahón Guillén. Standing behind (with glasses) Ornit Avidan-Ziv. Photo courtesy of Israiic  

Examples of simultaneous simplification from the Eurovision Song Contest 2019

When we prepared for the simultaneous simplification from English to Hebrew at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019, we took into account all the general principles of simultaneous simplification and seasoned them with the enthusiasm and excitement of this international broadcast. Here are a few examples:




Welcome to the most fabulous room in the arena. This is the beating heart of the Eurovision contest - and I think I can hear _____ ‘s beating from here.


Welcome to this wonderful room. 

This room is called the green room.

The green room is like the heart of the Eurovision contest.

Can you feel your heart beating?

When this contest was launched sixty-four years ago, it was in the hope of bringing people together through the power of music. 


The Eurovision contest was created many years ago.

This contest hoped to make people feel together with the help of music.

All of the contestants will remember this night for the rest of their lives. But will it be a memory of extreme joy or bittersweet disappointment? 


All the singers in the contest will remember this night. 

Some will remember this night with joy.

Some will remember this night with joy and sadness at the same time.

And, of course, thank you all, the Eurovision fans. You are the true spirit that brings the Eurovision Song Contest to life.


And, of course, thank you for watching the Eurovision Song Contest. You were wonderful!

Articles published in Communicate! reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.


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