Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct

Sign Language Linguistics Society and Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Linguistics (TISLR) conferences





The SLLS board established a working group in 2021 to create a proposal for a code of conduct for TISLR conferences. Lindsay Ferrara, the academic liaison for SLLS at the time, chaired the group which included a number of SLLS members: Gabrielle Hodge, Natasha Abner, Daz Sauders, Jon Henner, and Woinshet Girma. A provisional draft was prepared by the working group and sent out to the SLLS membership for comment. After receiving and integrating valuable feedback from members, the working group and SLLS board finalized and approved the following Code of Conduct.

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Statement of Values

The Sign Language Linguistics Society is committed to building and sustaining an inclusive community. To foster an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, participants are expected to interact with others in a respectful and courteous manner, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical appearance, religious affiliation, creed, marital status, socioeconomic status, education background, differing abilities, medical conditions, personal characteristics, political orientation, technology choices, food choices, or any other differentiating factors. Moreover, we embrace the role of linguists in protecting the language and communication rights of all people. As signed language researchers, we take seriously our ethical obligations to deaf and hard-of-hearing people, including those who are members of our Society, and to signing communities and the broader public. We are dedicated to promoting awareness of and access to signed languages, especially within our own scholarly spaces, and to taking the actions necessary to correct the historical marginalization of deaf and hard-of-hearing people. 

See also SLLS Ethics Statement.

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Community conduct

Language considerations

  • We expect that conference attendees will use a signed language in conference areas, and/or event venues and at event-related social activities. In cases, when there is no shared signed language available, we encourage attendees to use other forms of communication that are accessible to everyone involved in the interaction, e.g., gesture, pen and paper, typing on a mobile phone, google translate, etc.
  • We expect conference presenters (on-stage and poster) to respect the diverse language backgrounds of their audience and to design their presentations in an accessible manner. This includes following Universal Design principles whenever possible. Accessible presentations include:
    • Providing access to posters and presentations via other media (e.g. documents) upon request,
    • Ensuring these materials are accessible for e.g., screen readers, etc,
    • Describing images, graphics and charts,
    • Pausing between slides to allow spoken and signed language interpreters to catch up.
  • We also actively encourage all presenters to present in signed language.

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Inclusive behavior

Policies alone cannot eliminate problematic conduct. Accordingly, this Code of Conduct includes an expectation that all participants proactively work to establish a culture of respect in which everyone feels welcomed and valued. To accomplish this, participants are asked to take action when these values are not adhered to, and recognize that power differences and hierarchies inherent to academia and broader society may inhibit many parties (including students and junior scholars) from feeling free to object to or report problematic behavior (details on reporting below).

SLLS encourages its participants to proactively engage in and promote inclusive behavior, including:

  • Promotion of inclusive behavior as chair/moderator of conference sessions:
    • Chairs/moderators to be strict with guidelines.
    • Chair/moderator to remind the presenter to slow down during their presentation, if they are presenting too fast;
    • After presentation and before Q&A, if possible, the chair/moderator should ask all to pause silently for one minute to give time for thinking; 
    • Chair/moderator to seek questions from junior scholars first and presenter to answer these first, before opening up floor to questions from all, including senior researchers;
    • Chair/moderator responsible for ensuring terms of engagement are followed by all.
  • Promotion of inclusive behavior and constructive critiquing practices for all participants:
    • Allow junior scholars to take precedence during Q&A periods
    • Follow inclusive engagement practices:  acknowledge the opinions, skills, and contributions of others;
    • Give honest feedback to others in a compassionate and respectful manner;
    • Refrain from disruptive or monopolizing behavior, especially during talks and question periods.
  • Advocate for others, especially when they are unable to advocate for themselves, or in instances of prejudice or discrimination, but make sure your advocacy respects everyone’s agency; and
  • Provide encouragement, help, support, or mentorship to colleagues; 
  • Recognise global disparities in access to language and education as well as inequities in human rights experiences (e.g., digital poverty, oppressive educational experiences) and seek opportunities to support and promote high-quality scholarship from scholars in less privileged positions, e.g. pre-conference workshops, arranging and paying for invited talks by these scholars in local departments, etc.;
  • Look for ways to recognise deaf epistemologies and expertise, which may be grounded outside academia, e.g., deaf researchers who have been working as research assistants for many years, deaf leaders in remote communities, deaf professionals working in early years education and other deaf spaces, deaf parents, etc.;
  • Describe research methods and how people consented to participate in the research being presented, including the nature of this consent, e.g., one-off, ongoing negotiated, etc.;
  • Presenters should comment on how their research and results contribute directly or indirectly to create “knowledge that will assist the host community in meeting its own goals.” (Pollard 1992:93)

We also encourage members and participants to promote inclusivity in ways beyond those outlined above.

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Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Comments that marginalize, intimidate or belittle based gender, race, ethnicity, age, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical appearance, religious affiliation, creed, marital status, socioeconomic status, education background, differing abilities, medical conditions, personal characteristics, political orientation, technology choices, food choices, or any other differentiating factors;
  • Sexual images in public spaces;
  • Unwanted, excessive and/or repeated intimidation or stalking;
  • Unwelcome photography or recording;
  • Sustained disruption of talks or other events;
  • Inappropriate physical contact or unwelcome sexual attention;
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior;
  • Continuing to speak in front of deaf signers when requested to sign or to seek an interpreter.

In addition, although it may not always fall under “harassment,” our society strongly discourages any disregard for inclusive behavior (as described above), including comments that disparage or dismiss an individual, group of people, or field of research as being irrelevant or unimportant, and any attempts to use seniority or status to your advantage. 

This Code of Conduct is intended to encourage open and respectful scientific inquiry. We affirm that critical examination of a person’s viewpoint, when expressed respectfully, does not constitute harassment. Similarly, we affirm that presenters can respectfully contextualize material that is sexual or that pertains to group status.  We expect SLLS members to maintain an inclusive and respectful environment (as described above) when expressing disagreement or presenting sensitive material.

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Enacting a safe and inclusive SLLS/TISLR

We expect participants to follow this Code of Conduct at all event venues, event-related social activities, as well as on event-related social media. We also encourage conference attendees and SLLS members to follow these rules outside event activities.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. If a participant engages in harassing behaviour, event organisers/SLLS board retain the right to take actions to keep the event a welcoming environment for all participants. This includes warning the offender or expulsion from the conference [with no refund]. Guidelines for handling misconduct are included in the TISLR handbook.

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Bystander awareness

Harassment is not an isolated issue: it reflects community conditions and requires community responses. Bystanders are those who observe or are subsequently informed of instances of harassment. Individuals react differently when witnessing or learning about such behaviors. It is important that TISLR participants know how to recognize harassment and consider safe, responsible, and effective ways to respond.

Bystanders should help ensure safety and should engage in the most appropriate course of action including, but not limited to, creating a distraction or interjecting yourself into the conversation if you feel it is safe to do so. You should also ask the individual if they are okay, and offer them support in reporting the incident (including acting as a witness), but respect their choice to report the incident or not while encouraging them to seek appropriate support. When considering bystander intervention, individuals should be mindful to respect the agentivity of all people.

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Harassment and other code of conduct violations reduce the value of TISLR and SLLS for everyone. If someone makes you or anyone else feel unsafe or unwelcome, please report it as soon as possible to an SLLS board member or member of the organizing committee. Reports can be made via email or in person. Depending on the nature of the infraction, the report may be shared with other responsible parties.

When taking a personal report, we will ensure you are safe and that the information shared will remain private. Again, other event staff may be included to ensure your report is managed properly. Once safe, we’ll ask you to tell us about what happened. This can be upsetting, but we’ll handle it as respectfully as possible, and you can bring someone to support you. You won’t be asked to confront anyone, and we won’t tell anyone who you are.

Our team in collaboration with the conference organizers will help you take other action as you deem appropriate (e.g., contacting hotel/venue security, getting in touch with local support services, providing escorts), if that is relevant, or otherwise assist you to feel safe for the duration of the event.

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This Code of Conduct reflects the work by many academic communities and their commitment to making conferences and events safe for constructive and engaging dialogue. Parts of this document are drawn from the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS), The Association for Logic, Language and Information, the Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT), the International Conference on Linguistic Communication, and the International Conference on Sign Language Acquisition (ICSLA) conference series. Reporting procedures are drawn from the Geek Feminism Wiki. Text on bystander awareness is drawn from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Policy on Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault.

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