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The Five Step Path to Resiliency for Sign Language Interpreters

Resiliency Among Sign Language InterpretersOne of the strengths of our community of practice is our diversity of thought, background, and belief systems – it is also is what poses the greatest challenge when we come together to create positive change. The potential outcome in deepening our abilities and our commitment to dialogue is that while alone we don’t have the ‘answers’, together we can create them. I believe we’ve taken some first steps toward a true dialogic exchange, and we still have some challenges to overcome in understanding what dialogue is, how we must create the space to really have honest exchanges of perspectives, and talk to each other instead of talking past each other.

The Goal of Understanding

Dialogue is both the act of expressing ones thoughts and, equally importantly, the act of listening with the goal of understanding what’s at the heart of the discussion. The hazard of not placing an emphasis on understanding is that we get closer to debate than dialogue. Debate is zero sum—one right answer/one winner, either/or, pro/con—this isn’t to say there isn’t a place for debate but is it our ‘default’? If the goal is to transcend diverse perspectives and include a myriad of ‘voices’, we need a way to expand our conversations not to restrict them.

Creating ‘Other’

What can complicate our ability to understand is the creation of the ‘other.’ It prevents us from suspending judgment and ‘hearing’ perspectives or values that we perceive as negative. It is easy to fall into creating ‘stories’ that allow us to alienate and separate – they are certified/they aren’t certified; they have a degree/they don’t have a degree; they have deaf parents/they don’t have deaf parents—the ‘vilified other’ makes it easier to marginalize and discount those views that clash with our own. Perhaps we’ve had a bad experience with a member of ‘the other’, how is it we can stop reacting to our ‘ghosts’ and spring back as individuals and as a community of practice and move upstream?

People Not Villains

In the weeks after 9/11, I was involved in a series of resiliency dialogues to bring together members of our very diverse community in a safe space to share feelings, values, and perspectives. In a time of national pain and violence, I was struck by the power of listening to, what was at that time, ‘the other’. During one of these dialogues, several Muslim women shared their experiences–their dread in hearing that Muslims were involved, their experience of being verbally insulted, and their fear for their personal safety, because they wore a ḥijāb. Those exchanges didn’t erase the differences between us–it did, however, serve as a powerful antidote to the ‘poison’ of the time—a reminder that there were people behind those differences, not villains.

5 Steps to Beyond Otherness

One: Ask Real Questions

How do we get past this ‘otherness’? One of the most powerful tools in dialogue are questions–real, curious, inquiring questions—the kind that lead to deeper understanding of the ‘heart’ of an issue, why it is important to that person, and gets to the values underpinning their dialogue. Questions that come from a place of curiosity and discovery allow for movement in what might have been considered an irreconcilable difference. What do they believe to be true to have that view of the issue? Being curious also frees us from our debate ‘default’ where we have the tendency to listen for points of disagreement, where the person’s logic is faulty, or have an ad hominem type of thinking where we disagree with ‘who’ the person is and then are unable to process what they are saying. The result is we end up talking past each other and not to each other.

Two: Re-make the Map

Kuhn in this book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, suggested that ‘revolutions’ and leaps forward in progress are created when new questions are asked of previously-held beliefs and the result is a totally different ‘map’ for future directions—a true paradigm shift (he actually coined the phrase). The potential for ‘remapping’ exists for our professional organization in the motion that was recently passed to establish an ad hoc committee to ‘review the RID philosophy, Mission, Goals, Diversity Statement, and Strategic Priorities.’ This group will make recommendations to the membership and Board. How can we ensure that we engage the largest number stakeholders in these reviews and recommendations? How can we create an organizational culture of dialogue around this effort? The larger the number of voices that contribute to re-making the map, the more powerful the buy-in, and the more indelible the progress.

Three: Contribute More Than Criticize
Stephanie Criner
Stephanie Criner

The challenge then becomes how to include large numbers of individuals in the dialogue and how do we create a space that is engaging and safe for this multitude of ‘voices’? While most of us would agree that it is an RID members’ personal responsibility to be engaged, there is also the reality that without a safe space within which to offer those views, it won’t happen.

Volunteering your opinion is an act of courageous engagement.

Brené Brown who presented a Ted talk on vulnerability and listening to shame said this, ‘I don’t think engagement can happen without vulnerability, and I definitely don’t think it can happen in the midst of shame.’ How is it that we, as a collective,’ can take responsibility for the creation of safe dialogue spaces?’ Brené may also have the answer when she said her goal, ‘at the end of every day, and at the end of every week, and at the end of my life, I want to be able to say I contributed more than I criticized.’

Four: Allow for Difference

As Laura Wickless mentioned in her article, Vulnerability: A Collaboration Killer, ‘so many of us fear being mocked, criticized, and torn to shreds by fellow practitioners that we avoid taking worthwhile risks.’ If we want positive change and to make engagement less risky, we must find ways to value experience and personal narrative and the expression of those experiences in ways that are not critical or attacking. It will be a space that allows for difference and actively seeks perspectives from those that may feel disenfranchised—interpreters with deaf parents, faith-based interpreters, interpreters of color, educational interpreters, and others.

Five: Create a Space

It will be important that the space that’s created, whether virtual or physical, be one that can absorb multiple views and ways of engagement. Not all of us are comfortable with external processing and formulating thoughts ‘on the fly’. There are personality types who process internally and need a moment before they are ready to share their views. Can we purposefully create some silence in our dialogue space that allows for everyone to feel confident in participating? Not all of us feel confident in our public speaking or writing abilities, which may chill our level of participation. Can we create spaces that are inviting and patient that allow for everyone regardless of linguistic aptitude to share their ideas?

Mini-Mindfulness

Ultimately, we can each make small, every day contributions to larger, system-wide transformations. The nuggets that I receive from colleagues and friends—some from an in-person conversation, some through an IM, or a Facebook post—all create bits of mini-mindfulness that ultimately help make me resilient, open to dialogue with others, and growth. True, often we work in physical isolation, how is it we can ask new questions of old paradigms and overcome that isolation? Many of us work in settings where there are numerous colleagues; do we make the most of those interactions or miss opportunities to participate in dialogue that can move us all forward?

Revolutions of Thought and Practice

It is safe to say that most of us have no desire, either individually or as a professional organization, to mirror the current political environment of debate and polarization. It is destructive, the opposite of engaging, and disheartening. Dialogue that creates conversations that respect and appreciate a multitude of contributions, that are inquisitive and curious, and that allow for revolutions of thought and practice is the path forward.

Perhaps we can’t change the world, but we can certainly change our footprint.

 

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References

Kuhn, Thomas S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Asking new questions of old data on pages 139, 159. Moving beyond “puzzle-solving” on pages 37, 144. Change in rule sets on pages 40, 41, 52, 175. Change in the direction or “map” of research on pages 109, 111.

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language Interpreter

It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language InterpreterWith fall upon us, students in interpreter training programs all over the country have begun another semester on their journey to becoming a sign language interpreter. Along with the classroom lectures and hands-on practice teachers are planning, they are also reaching out to the interpreting community for one of the most crucial pieces of the students’ development, observation and mentoring opportunities. However, these opportunities are becoming increasingly difficult to find. While some of the scarcity can be attributed to specific requirements of the situation, some of the difficulty is also due to a lack of support by the sign language interpreting community.

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“Why would I train students to take my jobs?”

The statement above is a common one given as an explanation as to why sign language interpreters don’t want to work with students.  This statement saddens me not only as an interpreter, but as an interpreter educator as well. Personally, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have today if it wasn’t for the mentors and interpreters that I looked up to and served as models during my early development. As an educator who is striving to find opportunities for students, it’s equally frustrating.

How many of us benefited from these types of relationships that our students are striving to find and often cannot? What if, while we were developing our own skills, interpreters had given us the same reply? Would we be the interpreters we are today?

Where’s the disconnect? All interpreters who have gone through an Interpreter Education Program (IEP) experienced similar requirements for working with interpreters as students are doing now. Has it been so long that we’ve forgotten what it was once like when we were in their shoes?

Overall, students in these programs truly want to become interpreters and be contributing members of the profession. They sacrifice their time to focus on their skills and are committed to that process. As Stacey Webb highlights in her article, The Value of Networking for the Developing Sign Language Interpreter:

In order for students to be successful sign-language interpreters, prior to graduating it is critical that they develop a relationship with both the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community (DHHC) and current-working professionals within the DHHC.  This would include interpreters, educators and DHHC advocates. By fostering these relationships, students will create educational, professional and personal opportunities that would not be available to them outside of the classroom environment.”

So while students do make attempts at networking to cultivate these opportunities, it is very often a struggle.

“They have no respect for the elders in the profession”

This statement above, and variations of it, is another common sentiment towards students. While I don’t deny that attitudes reflective of this statement do exist among students, I also have to wonder how much responsibility can be attributed to the current state of the ‘system’?  What I have learned is that students are very observant.  They learn by watching and they often emulate what they see. In our reluctance to work with students, have we conveyed to them that we don’t value them or their work?   Have we somehow systematically disrespected the label “student” through our actions or lack thereof? In her article, What Role Does Civility Play in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession?, Carolyn Ball stresses the importance of civility in the field of interpreting and interpreter education. She states:

If all interpreters, educated through formal training, were given a clear sense of the importance of civility in the workplace and in interactions with colleagues, perhaps more recent graduates would benefit from repeat business and high levels of job satisfaction.”

As educators, cultivating an attitude of civility is definitely something that we can incorporate into our interpreter education programs. In turn, as experienced interpreters, we can also be the models of civility that we want them to emulate by embracing these students and guiding them into the profession.

As a profession, we recognize there is a shortage of qualified sign language interpreters. While several factors contribute to this, the fact is that most of these graduates will go on to work as interpreters. Many of them, like most of us when we started working as interpreters, will not be as prepared as they should be. Additionally, at some point, they will become our colleagues. If, as a profession, we made a commitment to being more involved with students early on in their professional lives, we could be training the team member we will want to work successfully with later. The latter scenario also suggests apossibility, the interpreted interaction as much more successful.

Brian Morrison - Sign Language Interpreter and Educator
Brian Morrison

“I can’t believe you don’t know that!”

Interpreter education programs have a finite amount of time. We know that they aren’t able to teach everything we would like students to know before they enter the field. The field of sign language interpreter education has grown in the last several years thanks to organizations such as the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT), the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE), and National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC). New research, new curricula, and improved standards for education programs are now available and these programs have access to materials and information which weren’t previously available.  Rather than viewing interpreter education programs negatively or putting the sole onus on them for having not taught students all they need to know, we can shift our focus to building on their existing foundation. To echo Kate Block’s sentiment in her article, Mentorship: Sign Language Interpreters Embrace Your Elders, take advantage of this new information that the students can bring to our work. Imagine the outcomes when the new student and the experienced interpreter learn and grow from sharing their knowledge with each other.

“What can I do?

I think first and foremost, we can be the manifestation of the theme, “I Am Change”, as StreetLeverage challenges us to do through this website. Interpreter education programs and students cannot be ignored, so as a responsibility to our profession, we can decide to step up and support our novices.

How can we make that change? There are several things that as individuals we can do right now.

Remember your passion.

Reflect back on your journey to becoming an interpreter. Remember what it was like to be that student…eager to learn and wanting experiences.

Offer observation.

Offer 2-3 opportunities a month to the local ITP for student observations. While much of the work may not be suitable or possible to have students present, we often do have situations that would be perfect.

Present.

Offer to go and speak to students at the local ITP. If you can’t offer them observations, offer them your wisdom in the classroom.

Sponsor a student.

Become a “Big Brother/Big Sister” to an ITP student. I think if we all look back to our early days, at least one name will come to mind as someone who “took us under their wing” and got us through. Be that person to a student. Be the interpreter you want to see the students grow to become.

Host an induction.

As a community and/or alumni association, host an induction ceremony for a graduating group of interpreting students. Acknowledge their hard work and dedication while welcoming them into this sometimes crazy, always wonderful world of interpreting.

Start a group.

Establish reflective practitioner groups that include students and new interpreters. StreetLeverage articles provide excellent discussion material for all levels of sign language interpreters. Case conferencing allows for insightful discussions of the decision making process based on actual scenarios.

I’m a strong believer in the idea of “it takes a village.” This is our profession and as such, we need to actively commit to the next generation of interpreters. Let’s face it, as individuals we will not be in the field forever. In order to preserve our legacy, we can leave positive impressions on the lives of the next generation. Let’s raise them well.

What will your contribution be?

 

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Dave Coyne | Social Justice: A New Model of Practice for Sign Language Interpreters?

Dave presented, Social Justice: A New Model of Practice for Sign Language Interpreters?, at StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta. His talk explored how sign language interpreters, acting on the basis of social justice work, can better align themselves with the Deaf Community and their plight for autonomy.

You can find the PPT deck for is presentation here.

Interpreters and Social Justice

Today I will be discussing Social Justice and its connection to interpreters. Many people are not sure about this association. Regardless, we must not let fear prohibit discussions – truly open discussions – because it is those conversations that are at the heart of a social justice lens, which is achieved via leadership.

I would like to start by asking how many of you present would call yourself leaders? Raise your hands. I have asked this question to numerous groups of sign language interpreters and there never seems to be enough answering that they do. For me, I am not satisfied with these numbers and this lack actually increases my own work towards, and my motivation towards urging interpreters because now is the time to step up into leadership roles.

“We must be the change we want to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

This has been a recurring, inspirational theme, at StreetLeverage – Live. And I’m glad it has been. Indeed, we must be the change, we must think that “I am change”, and that “we are change.”

Lets look at why a social justice lens works. I know that when I first started working as an interpreter, I witnessed oppression of various types, even marginalization. Lets get a show of hands if you too have seen such types of oppression. We feel helpless while we witness these experiences.  We are at a loss for what to do. We feel confined by professional boundaries, we take in each of these experiences, and the impact takes its toll on us.  Answers to what actions interpreters could take and appropriate approach comes from this lens.

Social Justice and LeadershipDave Coyne at StreetLeverage - Live 2013 | Atlanta

A Social Justice Lens can be attained via leadership. It allows us to partner once again with Deaf community members. The bridge between the sign language interpreting community and the Deaf community fell apart long ago. We are aware of this disconnect. We feel its impact and we deal with its consequences while we are on the job. How can we correct this disconnect and start rebuilding this bridge to reconnect with the Deaf community?  Some may say the answer is to have a “Deaf heart.” However, it alone is not enough. Interpreters need to know what behaviors to showcase while we work. A social justice lens offers such specific social justice behaviors that we can implement while we work; interpreters finally can be more involved.

As interpreters we often navigate two truths: hearing perspectives and Deaf perspectives within situations. Social Justice is defined based on groups’ experiences regarding more burdens or fewer privileges than another groups.  Interpreters are indeed working within these unjust situations (e.g., educational systems, legal systems, healthcare). Systematic oppression exists and can further marginalize people. Oppression through ignorance occurs and unfortunately interpreters too have been known to add to oppression and marginalization experienced by Deaf individuals as well. So what do we do? Do we remove ourselves and remain uninvolved in such situations? Not any more, not with knowledge of a tool like leadership to achieve a social justice lens.

Social Justice Theory

Many conceptions related to social justice have been formulated over the years, e.g., criminal justice, retributive justice, and others. David Miller created a theory of social justice that is pluralistic in nature, allowing for multiple truths (i.e., perspectives) within situations – allowing for unique views to co-exist, i.e., multiple worldviews within situations. Sign language interpreters typically work with two worldviews: auditory understandings of the world and visual understandings of the world. Both being right, both very unique, but how are interpreters navigating these world-views? We find ourselves in the middle of situations, navigating – juggling – these overlapping ideologies.

Relationships

A social justice lens is correlated with relationships. It actually is dependent upon relationships. This fact parallels with interpreting, because the art of interpreting is very much dependent upon relationships. Interpreters’ relationships with hearing participants are navigated in addition to relationships with Deaf participants. Interpreters’ relationships with team interpreters are involved; though it should not take priority. Relationships with Deaf individuals should take precedence. These examples parallel the same level of importance as a social justice lens has between majority and minority members’ relationships.

Social justice theory recognized that people do have experiences that include more burdens and that groups do have more privileges than other groups.  Finally we have something that recognizes these differences. We can begin discussions that offer vocabulary for behaviors, as well as our observations.

Exchanges between individuals need not be monetary with a social justice lens but recognizes people’s values and beliefs; their experiences are valued. These intangible things (values and beliefs) all have a home within a social justice model. Also, cultural capital: As interpreters we navigate two sets of cultural capitals that don’t always hold mutual respect for one another. Do we fully respect these non-monetary items? To answer, we must further investigate ourselves and apply our findings to our role.

Locations of Social Justice

Social justice can be found within three locations. Do you remember the Green Book series? Let’s revisit the three avenues to membership of the Deaf community. Not the fourth avenue to Deaf community membership, and not meaning membership to the core of the Deaf community. I am discussing general membership.  The fourth avenue is living as a Deaf individual or the actual experience of being Deaf in our world. As hearing interpreters we don’t have that fourth avenue, so we can keep focus on the first three. You can see that the first three align well within the three locations of social justice theory.  And it is within these locations where interpreters can begin dialogue about our work, and learn what behaviors are deemed important. Preferred social-related [solidaristic] behaviors can be attained and can mirror what behaviors Deaf people actually want from interpreters. Behaviors at work [instrumental] are those that occur at work, or in places such that lead to our employment, such as our ITP and events such as workshops. Again, the first location is where you find social behaviors, the second is related to our education, and the third is political behaviors [citizenship]. We are quick to think “what are those?” and they are indeed something we need to listen more to and learn how we as interpreters can be involved with political activities like being on a board, what voting can lead to, and what political power we have. As interpreters, we have a kind of privilege that we bring to the table and Deaf individuals want to see interpreters use privilege, i.e., hearing privilege, to benefit their forward movement [towards achieving equality], not to hinder it: this can be done by working together more closely, more so now then ever before.

Social Justice Learning

Dave Coyne
Dave Coyne

A social justice model is not inherently known but is rather learned based on other’s experiences. Interpreters do so by listening/learning during those discussions with those we work with. These conversations can occur one-on-one by simply asking stakeholders questions, or perhaps establishing a meeting at your agency and inviting Deaf community members to come in and share their opinions and experiences. Note these experiences and allow them to guide your role as an interpreter. This can also be done on a national level. A community forum offers those who are invited into conversations, a type of empowerment. Often people are misled, believing leadership cannot be learned and it is for others to do. It is thought that leaders are aiming to change the world today, but this is simply not true. Unfortunately this type of change doesn’t happen the day of. Change is a long process that we contribute to, adding towards a goal. Leaders sleep knowing they contributed to a process in a good way, no longer worried they caused negative effects on others. This is because leaders take a close look at who they are, at their own specific behaviors (within specific areas that we are talking about: social, employment, and political behaviors).

Leadership

There are various forms of leadership out there. Social justice theory goes with one of them and on the other end of the continuum (far from supporting social justice) there is a type that is seen plenty of within our field.

Transactional leadership in the interpreting field has been borrowed directly from business models. This type of leadership has immediate consequences and impacts those involved.  An example of transactional leadership would be if two partners enter into mutually agreed upon transactions; they seek to simply finish their task and that is the end of their collaboration. Past the completion of the test, there is not any further investment of one’s time; it is not needed because the task coming to an end was what they wanted.

I want to discuss what leads to a social justice lens, how one achieves a social justice lens, and how it serves as an end by means of transformational leadership. The key to this type of leadership is having true collaboration as the main priority, where much empowerment occurs, and everything achieved is done so through discussions. The transformational leader listens to others. Those involved must support the leader’s behavior and if they do not, this type of leadership fails.

Transactional Leadership

First, I would like to further discuss transactional leadership. A significant amount of interpreting situations has this type of leadership. This type holds many positive attributes with business transactions. However, when working with people who have a significant amount of daily struggles, this type of leadership hinders forward movement and furthers misunderstandings. People who go into situations with their own set agendas are found in this model, e.g., interpreters who work simply to get paid and no further thought about others happens after the encounter.

For the individuals who are under a transactional leadership model, perhaps even unaware that their behaviors are more transactional in nature, they don’t necessarily have to share any organizational goals nor do they need to for exchanges to occur under a transactional leadership model. For example, if we look at two similar businesses, perhaps they are a chain within a franchise, each have different owners but may have different priorities within their business and different goals than their sister stores. They have the same type of exchanges, based on money, selling the same products; however, they may serve people very differently. This parallels with the business of providing interpreting services. Interpreters are not obligated to follow organizational goals/values to guide their work; in lieu of, you may find self-interest that guides them.

People working within a transactional leadership model operate by holding control. They provide praises, rewards, and punishments to those working with them (traits of transactional leadership).

There are some transactional leadership traits considered positive. These include having fast results and immediate closure with tasks.  As long as set goals by those involved are achieved within situations, they can consider the task completed. There are people out there who want that set up.

Transactional leaders encourage others involved through controlling methods; setting clear steps for people to follow, deeming an assignment successful if they merely follow A, B, and C (not leaving set parameters). This set up lends for transactional leaders to be very strict. If you do not follow their set protocol, they may retaliate, e.g., may not hire you again, they may withhold pay, they may challenge to the point of furthering any type of resolve regarding concerns you have with them. The transactional model also fosters the mindset of ‘I merely work for compensation.’ Those involved in this model are told to accept set circumstances created by transactional leaders and this process contributes to colonialism (in general) and specifically toward the colonization of those involved.

Transformational Leadership

Now I will be shifting gears to the other end of the spectrum: transformational leadership. Much research has been conducted over the years and has noted that transformational leaders typically display four types of characteristics; known as the four Is of transformational leadership. The first today, [individual considerations], interpreters do quite frequently. Interpreters have been known to already incorporate these components of transformational leadership within their work but are yet to use the vocabulary to employ these concepts to their work.

Trait One – Analysis

First, lets talk about individual considerations. As interpreters we analyze various language modes, attempt to identify educational levels, and match others where they are at regarding language use (both hearing and Deaf participants). Interpreters navigate situations mainly within this trait, and we do it well.

Trait Two – Intellectual Stimulation

The second transformational leadership trait is intellectual stimulation. If we believe that everyone in the world brings value, then we can be open to others to problem solve. Let’s not think that we, as interpreters, have better ideas to problem solve than Deaf community members. What interpreters can do is to collaborate with Deaf members regarding what they think are better approaches to problems and ask Deaf people what they feel should be done in situations. And listen to them; listen more than taking action independently. Deaf people have ideas and answers that interpreters need to value.

Trait three: Inspirational Motivation

The third transformational leadership trait is inspirational motivation. Interpreters must be able to share field goals and visions with others to the point where it draws others in and they incorporate them too. Negative behaviors, e.g. gossip, pessimism, blame, complaining, do not warrant other’s investment in our work. Those negative behaviors do not shine well on the field’s goals and visions. Interpreters must manipulate those negative behaviors to work more optimistically.

Trait four: Idealized Influence

The fourth, and last transformational trait is idealized influence. This is the ability to influence as well as shape our vision and to lead us to actually achieving our vision, our shared vision. Currently, as a field, we do not have the four transformational traits and, to note, they are usually ordered and discussed in a different order. I flipped their usual ordering in todays discuss because the fourth, idealized influence, i.e., shared vision, isn’t something established in our field yet. We have been more focused on individuals, and have mastered skill-sets within the first trait, individualized considerations; however, we haven’t come to attaining a shared idealized influence.

Empower

Transformational leadership can promote participants’ goals and wants. It can be a humbling experience. It’s humbling because we have our degrees, we hold the knowledge, and we attained certification. We ‘know what is best in situations’, but now I am to inquire about wants such as where you want the interpreter to sit?  With transformational leadership, we aim to empower and remove control. Lets think of the word control, I really hate that word.  People can control cars; we do so by first turning it on. We control its features. We control all the functions of the car. Now, we cannot control the city though.  But we do navigate through the city.  Interpreters navigate through job assignments; we navigate through the interpreting process. We don’t control anything.  We must surrender any control we think we have. We must surrender control; we never had it anyways nor will we ever have it.

Through discussions, through listening to others – to other’s valuable stories – we can begin to identify defects in the status quo. We do this by truly listening to others. We cannot assume we know. My privilege may not allow me to see much. Many experiences continue to be overlooked. This ignorance may continue until we are truly able to live in other’s shoes. But I know I can’t. I am not Deaf. So what I am able to do is to take time to listen to their experiences, as many as you can.

The Pros

Transformational leadership has positive attributes. A pro for this leadership style is that if an organization needs change, transformational leadership has actions that can offer change. It does this by its grassroots approach and allows the people involved taking back control and it requires us interpreters to step back and empower others. Secondly, transformational leadership is focused on satisfying the needs and wants of stakeholders, this continuous collaborating and navigating ensures their needs and wants are being met. It is about interpreters thinking less about themselves.

The Cons

A con: transformational leadership does not offer fast results. It requires time. Change requires time. I may not see it in my lifetime, but I do hope that my vision will happen. I believe that my vision of equality will happen. It may take a long time; I realize it will not any time soon. Additionally, transformational leadership does not have a roadmap to follow. If the end is for true equality, we will not know how to specifically achieve that goal, but – we move towards our goals by working together, have creative solutions, and work toward true collaboration. I do not know how it will all unfold. Not having a roadmap is unsettling for many; they must have an A, B and C to follow. People like to be told how to get the things that they want.  But I can’t ask for such a thing within this model, we simple can’t ask.

Conclusion

We work within unjust situations that are simply unfair at times. We are within situations that a social justice lens, via transformational leadership, would do well in. The goal of transformational leadership is to empower others. If the goal of like-minded groups of people is working together then it is possible to overcome barriers, such as political agendas. Just as gay and lesbian individuals are together fighting a larger battle with other people, e.g., straight allies, their parents, their children, come together and have the power to change political agendas. This is the same with the Deaf community.  We shouldn’t think the Deaf community should fight battles alone. Where are interpreters in all this? We need to continually listen, to learn how we can be involved, e.g., support.

With this, the bridge between the Deaf community and the interpreting community can begin to be mended. We can re-connect once again, but to do so sign language interpreters must empower others. First, it must begin with conversations. We must inquire from outside of our field.  It can begin now when you all leave today and arrive home. Ask your Deaf friends and ask those you work with (hearing and Deaf). Ask them “what do you think our job should look like?” and “what would you want from an interpreter?.” We are not seeking to please every request of interpreters but the inquiry is a start; start these discussions and brainstorm ideas with stakeholders.

“Transformational leaders don’t start by denying the world around them.  Instead, they describe a future they’d like to create instead.” –Seth Godin

Transformational leaders do not deny what is around them. They take the world as is, and evaluate it, acknowledging, and assessing one’s own involvement. Interpreters must be able to describe what kind of future they want. Can you describe to your neighbors, friends, and Deaf community members your vision? Can you think how behaviors, specific behaviors, may get you to that vision?

Today’s presentation was regarding social justice lens via leadership, this afternoon’s workshop will be more about leadership and specific behaviors based on the 4 Is of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership traits, some that interpreters already show within their work, can surface vocabulary to be applied to our professional role. Again, it starts with having discussions with Deaf individuals. This can be done locally, in your own area, but this involvement also can be done on a national level. RID’s Deaf Caucus will have a national forum this year. We can sit in and learn from the experiences that will be shared and then begin forward momentum, together.

 

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Sign Language Interpreters and the Future of Ethical Practice

Sign Language Interpreter EthicsThe dawn of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) 2013-2016 Strategic Plan and heightened attention on the RID Ethical Practices System (EPS) has brought the perfect time to examine the ethical landscape of our industry.  As we look back and look ahead, we cannot plot any course without remembering the value system that guides our profession – ethics.  RID founders saw the need to codify a set of ethics that would shape generations of sign language interpreters to come.  The minutes of the June 16, 1964 organizational meeting reveal that developing a code of ethics was the second priority listed, with the first aiming to define the purpose of the organization.

Plotting a Course

As the organization embarks on the next 50 years, there is no better time for the consumer and interpreter communities to reflect on the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct (CPC).  A code of ethics, or Code of Professional Conduct in our case, becomes the stated values that shape our practice and communicate to the public what they can expect of practitioners in the sign language interpreting profession.  As we consider the future of the NAD-RID CPC, we must ask ourselves, where have we been? What roadmap(s) did we use to get where we are?  Where are we headed?  What is our “true north?”

The 2013-2016 Strategic Plan commits our association to the goal of “Strengthen the Ethical Practices System efficiency and consistency in its enforcement of the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct.”   Furthermore, RID members voted at the 2013 Business Meeting to commission a group of NAD and RID members to strengthen the CPC. How do we accomplish these organization-wide goals and measure our success in achieving them?

Tools For Our Journey

When discussing the CPC, we must agree that a sign language interpreter’s ethical code is the cornerstone of our industry’s standards.  Certification means meeting a peer-reviewed measure of one’s knowledge, skills and abilities at the time of examination.  Those certified must agree to follow a set of ethical standards.  These standards are, in turn, the individuals, and the certification body’s promise to the public.  NAD and RID have jointly adopted an ethical code whereby consumers of sign language interpreting services can expect professional conduct consistent with values shared by each organization.

The task for each of us – hearing and Deaf – is to consider the values, and principles that must guide interpreters moving forward.  The sun is a critical component in order to calibrate a compass.  Perhaps the “sun” for our industry is the values, principles, rules and aspirations articulated in a practitioner’s “compass” which is the CPC.

The Program

In evaluating the EPS program, RID has pulled together statistics on the program since the adoption of the current CPC in 2005.  We hope that this data will create a dialogue. Adherence to the CPC is a community-wide priority.

Matthew O'Hara
Matthew O'Hara

We can analyze the philosophies behind confidentiality, professionalism, respect, and other guiding values.  We can talk about how to apply the CPC in various settings and situations.  However, let us not forget Aristotle’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.  The individual tenets of the CPC are woven together and applied as a whole set of values.  Application of one tenet does not occur in isolation. The authors of the current CPC reminded us that the tenets of the CPC “are to be viewed holistically and as a guide to professional behavior.”

As we consider anew the CPC, and what it might look like in the coming years, we need to ask which parts of the CPC are enforceable and which are not.  Are some concepts of the CPC more aspirational in nature, and if so, what does that mean in practice?  For instance, how does one measure or evaluate “Respect”? We know respect, trust and attitude are highly valued attributes of a sign language interpreter.  That said, do we have a shared meaning of professional respect? Does that behavior look the same to everyone? And finally, how is it properly enforced?  Interpreters ought to have internalized the core values that drive their work. 

Looking Back

Beyond analyzing the ethical landscape of our industry, it is time to take a hard look at the ethics enforcement system, too.  It is not solely about what the EPS can do, but what can each of us do.  How should each of us respond to clear or perceived breaches of the CPC?  We all know that NAD and RID have responsibilities to the public, but we need to challenge ourselves to consider what our personal responsibilities are as individuals – abiding by the intent of the CPC, setting an example, challenging those who stray from the code, and contributing feedback to the CPC review process.

Another area ripe for dialogue is the appropriate consequences for violations. In her article, Sign Language Interpreters: Team Interpreting and its Ethical Consequences, Kelly Decker asked a very important practical question about when we should we avoid teaming with a sign language interpreter who has exhibited unethical behavior?  When do we need to go one step farther and report the ethical misconduct?  At what point should RID remove an interpreter’s certification?  And finally, when does an interpreter deserve to be expelled from the industry?

What Does the Data Show?

Starting in 2013, RID has dedicated more resources to the Ethical Practices System (EPS).   Benefits of this renewed commitment to upholding the ethical standards include more timely case management, enhanced customer service, increased public awareness and education, strengthened policies, and program analysis and statistics, with more to come.

Ethical Practice System complaints about sign language interpretersAs part of the commitment to the EPS program, the EPS staff has begun compiling data to help facilitate informed dialogue. The data compiled here reflects the years following the adoption of the CPC in 2005.

From 2006 to 2012, there were 161 complaints filed with roughly 80% filed by concerned consumers who are Deaf.  With over 16,000 members, should we expect more or fewer complaints filed in over a 6-year period? Why or why not? RID recognizes that countless potential complaints may not have been filed because the complainant may not have been aware of the RID EPS, because they knew that their interpreter was not a member or certified and thus the complaint would not have been processed, the consumer may not have known that video complaints can be filed, or other technical barriers. RID is committed to learning more about these barriers and will distribute a survey on this topic.

It is important to note that the average time it took from filing a complaint to resolution was about 7-8 months.  This time frame is something that needs careful review moving forward.   The integrity of the program must be paramount, including how long cases take to process from start to finish and the resources required.

All complaints are taken seriously and efforts are made to elicit the appropriate information to initiate a formal due process.  The RID staff is taking measures to increase access and awareness and is taking the EPS on the road by presenting to stakeholders wherever resources allow.  Most importantly, RID is listening and is open to constructive feedback for how the EPS can be more accessible.

The Grievance Process

Ethical Practice System - Mediator TeamsRID utilizes a grievance system that includes a punitive component and also encourages communication, mediation, the resolution of conflict with a rebuilding of trust and confidence. This process is designed to be both corrective and educational in nature.

The jewel of the EPS is its mediation program and sincere desire to offer the community legitimate formalized process to come together and discuss allegations of misconduct. If nothing else, the mediators, who are NAD and RID members, assist parties with analyzing the problem themselves. Any agreement must be acceptable to both parties or the complaint is submitted to a panel of adjudicators.

Since the mediation program began in 2000, the mediators have worked mostly in pairs all across the country.  Mediators are assigned to cases much like interpreters are matched with consumers – considering the language, culture, backgrounds, and experience of the mediators and matching such with the parties.

Adjudication

The majority of cases are resolved at mediation. Further study is needed about the types of issues brought forth and resolved during mediation to better inform the effectiveness of the CPC.

With the majority of cases addressed at the mediation level, only a fraction of cases escalate to adjudication.  Since 2006, adjudicators reviewed 18 cases.

Ethical Practices System - Adjudication Panel CompositionTo date, there has been no formal study on the correlation between failed mediations and violations at adjudication.  This may be a necessary step to assess the effectiveness of the program, examining whether the adjudication phase lacks rigor. Another possibility is that those cases that do not end in mutual agreement at mediation might be where the parties remain at odds and the interpreter is confident that his/her actions were in compliance with the CPC.People have asked why so few violations are published in VIEWS.  Most cases do not go beyond mediation because both parties voluntarily agree to and embrace their resolution to the situation.  While some might prefer to see more sign language interpreters brought before a jury of peers, the philosophy behind the RID mediation program has always been that the parties should be actively engaged in the EPS process, which often starts with mediation.

All adjudication decisions are made solely on the basis of the panels’ judgment.  The panelists are experts in ethical decision-making.  All adjudicators, hearing and Deaf, are seasoned certified members of RID.  The average number of certified years of adjudicators is almost 27 years.

What’s Next?

What’s next is dialogue! How can we ensure the CPC is relevant and reflects the principles and values interpreters and Deaf people consider essential?  How can we effectively and responsibly ensure fidelity to the CPC?  As leaders in our profession, we must look for strategic ways to move forward. It’s imperative that dialogue happen in every direction – peer to peer, amongst the Deaf community, within affiliate chapters, during regional and national conferences.  Be part of the conversation locally, regionally and nationally by any format that works for you – read articles, engage in conversation, share your ideas, and join a committee.  The opportunity is here. Please grab your compass and head for the conversations to come!

 

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References

Fant, Lou.  (1990). Silver Threads.  Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.

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What Can Groupies Teach Sign Language Interpreters About Social Networking?

Sign Language Interpreters and Social NetworkingSeveral months ago I watched an edited for TV movie, “Almost Famous”, a story of a young boy on the doorstep of the 70s rock scene, tasked by Rolling Stones magazine to write a gritty behind-the-scenes article of an up and coming fictional band. What ensues is his journey as a “groupie” that captures the essence of the 70’s classic rock movement woven in with a coming of age introduction to the world and the struggle of the young journalist. No doubt history repeats itself, and while our work is a far stretch to musicians in the music industry, I consider many of my sign language interpreter friends “rockstars.”

Before I go on, I have to offer up a confession, I am a StreetLeverage “groupie.” I should also offer up a disclaimer, it was a little over two years ago that Brandon called me with an idea, StreetLeverage.com. If you’re reading this as a result of your interest in the site’s content, then it may seem to you a no brainer to pitch in. Although at the time, in the desert of creativity that nothingness was the unknown. I remember late night discussions about content, strategies, and the regular question—were we the only audience of the site.

With my interpreter toolkit slung over my shoulder and a leap of faith in the vision, I got on the StreetLeverage tour bus and provided a couple articles on my favorite business tool—social media—and a year and a half later presented at the first StreetLeverage – Live event. While this article may seem a selfless plug of something I am passionate about, I believe there are lessons to be learned from my backstage access to the StreetLeverage story.

(Thanks to Brandon for graciously honoring the wager that allowed me to publish this article. Never under-estimate the power of thumb-wrestling.)

Dare to Dream

As you may know, the most recent stop for StreetLeverage was in Indianapolis, IN to provide social media coverage of the 2013 RID national conference. The online access to conference sessions via Facebook, Twitter, video interviews and photo sharing was unprecedented in our field, and better, the offsite and virtual discussions amongst sign language interpreters will echo conference topics long after the conference now ended.

Shortly after the event I was talking with an interpreter friend of mine, a rockstar by the way, unable to attend the national conference. She commented that after watching the StreetLeverage coverage from her social-web streams that she was inspired to be present at the next RID conference and to stand and be counted.

I share this because her comment embodies the entire ambition of StreetLeverage when it dared to dream that a community of reflective practitioners amplified by social media could inspire action within the sign language interpreting industry.

To me, understanding the online path StreetLeverage has taken offers a type and shadow for anyone looking to leverage socially oriented communication to coalesce a group of people around a vision.

Be Intentional

What people may not necessarily be aware of is that StreetLeverage began more intentionally exploring the power of social networking beyond blogging with StreetLeverage-Live 2012 | Baltimore, which offered a new format for professional dialogue and professional development within the sign language interpreting field. StreetLeverage – Live introduced a TED-like presentation format with social media coverage on Facebook and Twitter to complement. The event was followed with the posting of the recorded presentations online for free viewing and sharing.

StreetLeverage expanded its exploration of social networking with StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta and the 2013 RID national conference in Indiana by creating a content delivery team to better capture and share intelligent, insightful, and germane content with the broader sign language interpreting industry. StreetLeverage will perpetuate further live and digital dialogue on strengthening and building the industry with StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin May 1 – 4 and other projects underway.

Aside from the obvious benefits of immediate access to sharing information and connecting with people on a larger scale, StreetLeverage has intentionally and strategically explored how to use social networking to introduce and connect its vision of change to sign language interpreters.

What I have learned watching all this connecting, amplification, and vision casting is that if people will dare to make a difference and take that challenging first step to share it, others will follow. It is bringing people together to reflect on the field that has made the StreetLeverage story so special.

The positive engagement that StreetLeverage has generated over the last couple of years is proof that using social generosity, connection, and amplification to create a shared vision is applicable to our industry too.

What Has Come into View

Why has StreetLeverage been so successful in bringing people together? To me, it is because there is an understanding four basic principles of social media.

Online Transparency Builds Relationships

The quick one-liner interactions in bits and bytes online may not seem like much, but they can go far in developing trust and engagement. Interacting offers a sense of empathy and understanding, and its only when people feel understood that they will begin to listen to your message.

Strength in Numbers

There are more sign language interpreters “out there” using social media than there are “in here” attending events designed to create change, which should give pause to any organization to prioritize their communication planning. And therein lies one of the greatest benefits, the more an organization communicates “out there” the more likely individuals will join you “in here.”

No Hostages

Crowd sourcing online comments on a particular topic offers a wider cross-section of sign language interpreter disposition, preventing the “one” public comment or the “loudest” to stand as representation of the interpreter masses. Social media provides an outlet to engage those less willing to take the stage or find themselves supporting a more unpopular opinion.

Accountability

The awareness that anyone anywhere could be tweeting, posting and recording your actions or words increases the level of accountability. While it may sound, “big brother-ish,” it incentivizes industry stakeholders, leaders, and practitioners to say what they mean, mean what they say. And yes, opinions will be formed. With everyone only a mobile app away from broadcasting, our virtual community compels action and professional restraint.

The sign language interpreting profession needs people willing to consider that they are accountable for the future of the field. With all the good that social media can do, it behooves every member of the sign language interpreting profession to sharpen the tools in their social media toolkits and strategically add their perspective.

Where can this knowledge and accountability take you?

Wing Butler
Wing Butler

The Secret Sauce

Not all individuals and organizations are equipped with the social media structures to pull off fantastic social media campaigns like StreetLeverage did with its coverage of the 2013 RID conference. While there is no “one size fits all” solution, with some strategic thinking you and potentially your organization could be broadcasting with transparency and efficiency. Both individuals and organizations within the field are at a distinct advantage because content grows organically from within, and sign language interpreter niche content isn’t crowded, at least for now.

Assuming that one identifies with the benefits of communicating through social media; greater inclusion, accountability and stronger personal and organizational branding, the question is how? At the risk of giving away the StreetLeverage secret sauce here’s how you and your organization can create an online presence to promote greater communication, thus greater engagement to drive real tangible change.

Create a Platform

Start Small

Create your online presence and focus on communicating within one domain. Once you’ve got it down, expand to another social medium.

Set a schedule

Take a few minutes to consider how much time you can spend focused on social media, sketch out a schedule, and stick to it.

Create a Social Media Statement

Create a statement to help you guide your thinking, both as an individual and as an organization, to proactively think through how you would like to make use of social media. How to respond to social media interactions? How to respond to conflict or negative interactions? What should be posted? Finally, what do we want to accomplish with our social networking?

Content, content, content.

Produce quality content quickly, economically and often.

In a world big on ideas and short on implementation, I hope that you are able to take full advantage of social media communication. How do you know its working? Engagement, measured in the amount of shares, likes, re-tweets and comments are a few of the indicators that gauge effectiveness.

United Strong

Like the bands of the 1970s and as StreetLeverage has demonstrated as of late, our community has always been greater than the sum of our parts. But, it’s the consistent functions of individual components that keep us moving forward.

As Stephanie Feyne so eloquently put it in her recent article, Authenticity: The Impact of a Sign Language Interpreter’s Choices, “This means we interpreters have a great deal of power. And we have a tremendous responsibility. The hearing parties are relying upon our language to help form their impressions of whether the Deaf party is genuine and credible (and vice versa).”

While this speaks specifically to the sign language interpreting process (our language choices), the same could be said about our communication choices online. What kind of impression does your social media activity leave? Are you contributing to the betterment of the field?

<Cue John Lennon’s “Imagine”> Grab your online toolkits and I’ll see you at the next sign language interpreter event.

Do you have any online or social networking tips? Share them with us.

 

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Stephanie Feyne | Authenticity: The Impact of a Sign Language Interpreter’s Choices

Stephanie presented, Authenticity: The Impact of a Sign Language Interpreter’s Choices, at StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta, GA. Her talk explored how the choices made by sign language interpreters affects the perception of Deaf people and how interpreters can present a more “authentic” representation of someone’s message.

You can find the PPT deck for her presentation here.

Authenticity

(The examples in this article are of female interpreters and male Deaf individuals in order to accommodate the gendered demands of English pronouns. This may or may not reflect the actual identities of the people involved.)

In this presentation I will be discussing the concept of “authenticity” during interpretation – what it means and why I use this term.

We interpreters know we are responsible for the transmission of the content of speakers’ messages. An additional responsibility is to express the manner in which one person speaks, which allows the other participant to get a glimpse of who the person is.

Authentic

Last month a Deaf teacher was presenting in front of a group of hearing children. I was interpreting for him. He told them to copy his notes from the board. I interpreted that in the first person, “copy what I wrote…”

A first grade girl spun her head towards me in disbelief. “You didn’t write anything!” she exclaimed. I agreed with her, that I hadn’t, but I then explained that our job as interpreters is to say what the Deaf person said. She thought about this for a second and replied, “Oh, you’re pretending to be him.”
That struck me as a profound statement. And, of course, she was absolutely correct! That’s exactly what we interpreters do – we take on the identity of the Deaf person as we represent their message so that the hearing person knows who they are.

We speak not “FOR” the Deaf party but “AS” the Deaf party. Our utterances are expressed in the first person:  “I don’t understand my homework”, “I want to work for your company”, “My daughter is sick.”

Say What They’re Saying

Many hearing people assume that interpreters are experts and our work product is a verbatim rendition of the utterances of Deaf people.

I interviewed several hearing non-interpreters. I asked them what they thought interpreters did. One response summed it up, “You’re supposed to be just saying what they’re saying. ” I then asked them if they believed that every “um”, “uh”, and “you know” uttered by interpreters was originated by the Deaf person – and they replied affirmatively. This is an interesting belief about how interpreters function.

I am currently studying linguistic anthropology, a field that examines language and interaction, from which I have learned new theories that I now apply to interpretation.

I want to share some theory about authenticity and about identity:

Bucholtz and Hall (and other theorists) are saying that not only do we express our own identity through the way we talk but also the person talking with us uses their entire lifetime of experience communicating to take in what we say and how we express it and construct their own perception of our identity. They explore whether we are similar to or different from others who communicate that way. And throughout the interaction, their construct continuously is reified, refined or altered. Included in this situated identity are social factors, power differential, etc., but also the continuous unfolding of the individual in the place and time of the interaction; thus, the construct of identity is progressively negotiated and refined over time.

The second point from Bucholtz and Hall is what really knocked me out: that even as we talk in ways that represent our personal identity, listeners assess our language to see if we are genuine and credible.

When I first read about this I realized that this, indeed, is the task of sign language interpreters.  We attempt to express the message of the Deaf person in such a manner that the hearing person sees him or her as genuine and credible.

Brad Davidson, a linguistic anthropologist, studied interactions of hearing Spanish/English interpreters in hospitals in California. Davidson claims that interpreters may function as “gatekeepers.” His study delineated how Spanish interpreters in hospitals are gathering information prior to the doctor’s arrival in the consult room. They then answer the doctor’s questions directly. They are decide when or if Spanish speakers can talk or even ask questions. In addition, he found that the interpreters he studied would limit or refuse to interpret responses if they thought the patient’s answer was off point. He claimed that as a result doctors might see these patients as passive. This means the actions of those interpreters may be contributing to doctors’ perceptions of their patients’ identities.

I wondered if sign language interpreters also contribute to the hearing perception of the identity of Deaf people and am conducting research on that topic.

Natural Conversation

To explore interpreted interaction I think it is helpful to first examine direct interaction between two people, A and B. They usually take turns. The flow of conversation often feels natural.  They make eye contact. They may laugh. Their talk may overlap. One of them might interrupt the other, then their conversation continues.

However, when an interpreter is present the conversation is different. The conversation flows from A to the interpreter then to B, and when B replies the comment again goes to the interpreter before getting to A.

They make eye contact, but now there is more of a dance – with all the participants trying to catch the other’s gaze at some point, including the interpreter. Often the hearing party wants to look at the interpreter, because that is the source of the spoken word.

If they laugh, there is a ripple effect, say, first from the Deaf person, then perhaps the interpreter, and finally the hearing party if the interpreter has expressed it in a humorous manner in English. We hope we are interpreting in an “authentic” manner.

They may overlap, but the interpreter tries to control the flow and ask them not to speak at the same time. And they interrupt – at which point decisions have to be made. Who will win the interruption? Who decides?

If the hearing person tries to interrupt it is often fairly simple to stop a Deaf signer. We have eye contact. We know the polite rules for interrupting in sign. What about when a Deaf person interrupts a hearing person? What decisions do we make? What are our norms and beliefs about interrupting hearing speech? How do they affect our interpreting choices?

I happened to be present at a meeting with two Deaf and a dozen or so hearing participants and one certified interpreter. The discussion was heated. Everyone was calling out, interrupting the others, changing topics, etc. I noticed the interpreter signing everything that was spoken, but not voicing any of the comments of the Deaf participants. No matter how many times they tried to interject she steadfastly continued signing the hearing comments.  I wondered what the reason could be for her choice.

(Don’t worry, eventually the Deaf participants got their points in.)

After the meeting wrapped up, I asked the interpreter why she chose not to voice when the Deaf participants tried to interject. This interpreter was open to reflecting on her work. After a moment she replied that she had not called out because “It’s rude to interrupt.”

This is an amazing example of how our tacit norms for communication can control our interpreting choices. When the hearing parties interrupted each other she had no problem interpreting those comments into ASL. But for her to speak out and actually interrupt the hearing participants when the Deaf people wanted to interpose their ideas would have meant SHE was rude, and at that moment her norms for polite conversation overrode her interpreting mandate.

I must clarify that she was a skilled interpreter. She had no deliberate intent to oppress Deaf people or to curtail their communicative rights. She just had not realized her inner norms limited her interpreting choices, even though those choices ended up limiting the ability of those Deaf individuals to participate in their own meeting.

Unexplored Norms

And that is an important reminder – our unexplored norms can override our interpreting judgments. It is incumbent upon us as individuals to recognize our conversational norms in order for us to make conscious decisions about communication that will allow both parties to interact and see each other, and not see only the unintended results of our unconscious decisions.

We know most sign language interpreters don’t deliberately intend to control what Deaf people say, but many of us have not analyzed our own inner rules/norms for conversation. Many of us do not realize we have communicative norms that regulate our language, our understanding of what is polite and what is not. Do we interpreters know our own individual communicative style? Have we explored our tacit norms? Those unexplored norms can and do affect our interpretation choices, which then have an impact on the communication of the people we are there to serve.

I remember an occasion (quite some time ago) when my own unexplored norms impeded my interpretation.  I had learned that interpreters were “cultural mediators.” When a Deaf male supervisor started dressing down a male employee I was so uncomfortable that I softened the tone – thinking that I was culturally mediating. In fact, I “girled” him. I hadn’t witnessed male-male conflict before and I was so uncomfortable I softened his conflict style – in effect, I feminized him. This was not an authentic representation of his message or of his identity. I later realized that even though I had been raised in the hearing world and assumed I knew all the rules, I didn’t truly understand gendered communication and confrontation styles. I hadn’t considered the fact that what I did not know actually inhibited my interpretation and their communication. After some study and self-reflection I now feel better prepared and welcome the opportunity to interpret these kinds of events – bring ’em on.

Gender Notions

Stephanie Feyne
Stephanie Feyne

Let’s consider gender – do men and women speak in the same manner? We know that women are 87 % of RID – so what happens to language and identity when Deaf men have female interpreters? Do interpreters’ gendered ideas of language and unexplored communicative norms affect the hearing perception of Deaf people?

Interpreters are present in various interactions. We interpret for agreement and for conflict. We interpret in settings where Deaf people have positions of power and where they don’t. We interpret for men, women, children, professionals, fluent eloquent speakers, and struggling signers. Do we know how to communicate in all those styles? What about the myriad fields that Deaf professionals inhabit? Do we know what those communicative norms are? Can we create utterances that allow us to seamlessly interpret in these settings and registers?

Curious about the impact of our work, I conducted research on how interpreters contribute to the hearing’ party’s perception of identity of the Deaf interactant. (Identity being both linguistic and professional.)

NOTE – In the signed version of this presentation I tried a joke that didn’t translate well – so instead of recreating it here, I would like to publicly thank Dennis Cokely for suggesting I add a final layer of complexity to my study that also grounds it linguistically, culturally and academically.

My Study

Briefly, my study is comprised of four hearing interpreters voicing from videotapes of four different Deaf educators. Four Deaf professionals rated the Deaf presentations, and four hearing professional raters listened to and evaluated the interpreted lectures.

Let me clearly state the interpreters in my study are all good, professional, intelligent, certified interpreters. They are brave, and generous, and willing to share their work with me. I thank them for allowing me in, which led to the work I can share with you!

Allow me to share a small sample of my findings:

In looking at the presentation of one Deaf lecturer, all four Deaf evaluators deemed this educator highly genuine and credible. But the comments from the hearing evaluator did not support her being rated as credible. All the Deaf evaluators said she was extremely knowledgeable and confident. The ratings of the one hearing evaluator I show in this presentation differed depending on the interpreter – more or less knowledgeable, and definitely not confident, in direct contrast to the ratings of Deaf evaluators. This, plus more data from my study, leads me to believe that the choices interpreters make affect the hearing person’s perception of the identity of the Deaf lecturer.

This means we interpreters have a great deal of power. And we have a tremendous responsibility. The hearing parties are relying upon our language to help form their impression of whether the Deaf party is genuine and credible (and vice versa).

How can we produce utterances that allow hearing people to see the Deaf person as genuine and credible? First, we must know what genuine and credible looks like/sounds like in both communities, in a variety of settings. Second, we must have the linguistic range to be able to produce genuine and credible utterances in both languages that are appropriate for the various settings in which we work. Those skills are prerequisites to authentic interpretation, which offers the parties an opportunity to see and assess each other.

This means that interpreting cannot be “business as usual.” It is important to recognize that an interpretation that works for one situation will not necessarily work for all. It is incumbent upon us to assess the setting, understand what kind of communication is appropriate, and have it at our disposal.

Authenticity Starts With the Authentic “I”

Within our linguistic and social repertoire we need to grasp the nuances of gendered language, conflict style, and emotional affect in ASL so that we are then able to produce an authentic rendition in spoken English.

This means that if we wish to interpret in a manner that is genuine and credible we cannot stay outside the Deaf community. We must actively engage with Deaf people in a variety of settings. We cannot assume we know what is going on. We actually need to be a party to direct communication by Deaf people in ASL without interpretation to the point that we are truly enculturated, and have those linguistic and social signals in our repertoire.

It is equally important for us to interact with a variety of people in the hearing world as well. If we only stay within our same contacts how can we guarantee we have the linguistic skill set to match other groups. A simplistic example is of an interpreter who spends all her time in elementary school settings who is then asked to interpret for a job interview at the professional level. That interpreter would have to assess her own skills: Does she know what interviews at this level sound like? Is she comfortable with the jargon of that field in both languages? Does she have the cadence of a professional? What kinds of utterances are typically produced there – short declaratory sentences or longer, denser utterances? Her goals would be to ensure that if the Deaf person presents himself as a genuine and credible professional, that she then renders his message in an accurate and professional manner, so that the hearing party sees him as genuine and credible without the interpretation getting in the way.

For this to occur, we interpreters, myself included, need to ensure we broaden our range of communication so that it is sufficiently wide to cover all the arenas in which we may find ourselves working. We interpreters must explore our own communicative norms so that when they arise in an interpreted setting we can acknowledge them and elect to disregard them consciously rather than having them control our interpreting decisions.

By preparing ourselves this way, we will be better able to recognize each party as genuine and credible and then go the next step – produce authentic interpretations that allow each to see the other as genuine and credible.

Stephanie wishes to thank Brandon Arthur and StreetLeverage for inviting her to present at StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta and to express appreciation to all the participants at that event.

She also wishes to acknowledge Lynnette Taylor for her invaluable assistance in helping her prepare for this presentation; the constant support and guidance of Dennis Cokely; and all the participants in her research – the Deaf educators, interpreters, museum administrators, museum evaluators and Deaf evaluators, without whom this research would not have been possible. Stephanie is responsible for any misstatements, oversights, or oversimplifications in this article.

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References

Bucholtz, Mary and Hall, Kira.  2005. Identity and interaction: a sociolcultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies 7:585-614.

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Will Sign Language Interpreters Recognize Their Own Reflection?

Brandon Arthur, Ben Hall, Jan Humphrey, Carl Kirchner, and Angela Jones - 2013 RID Conference
Brandon Arthur, Ben Hall, Jan Humphrey, Carl Kirchner, and Angela Jones

As I rub the blur of the 2013 RID conference from my eyes, I am left feeling a sense of appreciation for the conference program that took attendees through a highlight reel of contributions that have shaped both RID and the field as we know it. This stroll through history reminded me, perhaps other conference goers as well, that many meaningful contributions to the field of sign language interpreting have been made by those with a keen awareness of their own inexperience.

As the glimpses of our collective history shared at the conference exemplified, it takes individual and organizational courage to look into the unknown, lean forward and do what’s right for the future of the field—regardless of experience.

Extending a Reflection

It is with this backdrop that I tip my hat to Tina Maggio and Shane Feldman, and the RID Board for leaning forward into in the unknown to embrace the proposal to have a social media sponsor for the 2013 RID conference.

What is exhilarating about social media is why it is threatening—we humans are at the center of it. At StreetLeverage, we believe that social networking is a near immediate reflection of how we humans see and engage the world as we find it.

In the framework of the coverage of the 2013 RID conference, StreetLeverage endeavored to extend a reflection of the conference to sign language interpreters via the social web. It was our aim to encourage engagement and most importantly to add to the depth of the individual and collective reflections of sign language interpreters on important topics and industry developments.

Were we successful? You’ll have to be the judge.

Coverage Highlights

If you missed some or all of the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference, never fear. What comes next is our very own highlight reel.

Interviews

We put our cameras to work capturing conversation with key players and conference goers and asked them to share their experience and views on the future of the field, the challenges we face, and how we might define success moving forward.  You can find a smattering of those conversations below.

Brenda Walker-Prudhom (13 min.)

We sat down with outgoing President of RID, Brenda Walker-Prudhom, to get her feelings about her term as President.

Dawn Whitcher (9 min.)

We met with the incoming President of RID, Dawn Whitcher, to get her view on the future of the organization.

David Geeslin (13 min.)

We met with the Superintendent of the Indiana Deaf School, David Geeslin, to talk about how Deaf Schools can fortify the skills of sign language interpreters.

Attendee Reel (10 min.)

We asked conference attendees about their experience and what they enjoyed most about the conference.

Flavia Fleischer (16 min.)

We met with 2013 RID conference keynote speaker, Flavia Fleischer, to gain insight into her keynote speech and the importance of Deaf Community Cultural Wealth.

Shane Feldman (16 min.)

We sat down with RID Executive Director, Shane Feldman, to get his impressions of his first RID conference and how the experience will guide his work.

You can find additional interviews and video coverage of the conference by clicking here.

Live Updates

We covered the largest amount of the 2013 RID conference via live updates on Facebook and Twitter. You can find the coverage by visiting the StreetLeverage Facebook page and reviewing our Timeline for the sessions you are interested in. Or, you can find the coverage on Twitter by searching #RID2013 or @streetleverage.

* If you are interested in the live streaming so graciously offered by RID, you can find it by clicking here. (Note, you will have to search through a number of events to find RID sessions).

Photo Album2013 RID Conference Closing Ceremonies

We hope you enjoy a collection of pictures from the 2013 RID conference. We had a lot of fun and appreciate everyone at the event being a good sport about our capturing the celebration. You can find them here. 

Educational Sessions

We attended several of the educational sessions during the conference. We hope you’ll find these interesting and informative.

Workshop | Conflicts Between Interpreters and Clients: When You’ve Tried Everything

Pamela Whitney, Matthew O’Hara and David Bowell noted that most ethical complaints stem from some sort of perceived violation of the Code of Professional Conduct via information shared on social media websites like Facebook.

Workshop | Thinking Through Ethics: Development of Ethical Decision-making Among Interpreters

Liz Mendoza uses the results of her online survey as a backdrop to explore if expert and novice sign language interpreters differ in prioritized competing meta-ethical principles when making ethical decisions.

Workshop | Educational Interpreters: The Missing Piece of the IEP

Richard Brumberg and Donna Flanders empower sign language interpreters in educational settings by providing the tools to become an effective member of the IEP team.

You can find additional session coverage here.

Team StreetLeverage

Team StreetLeverage at the 2013 RID Conference
Team StreetLeverage - 2013 RID Conference

I wish this would get easier, but it just doesn’t. I struggle to effectively articulate my gratitude for the work of the team of dedicated friends of the industry that made the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference possible. May karma smile upon each of them. In order expedite, I am sending karma wishes into the universe on their behalf.

Hayley Baccaire

May your contribution bring your family the swim test results it deserves and not less than 2 rooms of air conditioning.

Wing Butler

May your efforts deliver you endless evenings of milk and cookies and the knowledge that giants do come in all shapes and sizes.

Lindsey Kasowski

May your work at the conference bring you a tall and handsome that embraces both your 140-character addiction and your relationship with Starbucks.

Diane Lynch

May your contribution bring your mother a speedy recovery and you a fresh supply of rice cakes and natural peanut butter to share.

Jennifer Maloney

May your efforts bring you a readily available supply of gum and a life that never finds you squinting at an ice cream parlor menu.

Lance Pickett

May your work bring you a home studio that levitates with excitement each time you enter.

Paul Tracy

May your contribution bring you a cameo with Harvey Spector and 5 pink shirts with kicks to complement. Oh, and an office with electricity!

Amy Williamson

May your efforts bring you the academic success you deserve and the quiet satisfaction that your plight to change the world for two little boys is well on its way.

Group, thanks for your willingness to put in the grueling hours necessary to ensure the coverage extended was worthy of the industry receiving it. I am proud to know you and call you my friends. 

Sponsors

As you can imagine, the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference would not be possible except for the generous support of our partners. I would like to thank each of them for their contribution and support of StreetLeverage and our aim to amplify the perspective of sign language interpreters.

Stand with me and raise a glass in honor of the companies that put their resources where there mouth is?

Gallaudet Interpreting Service (GIS) | Washington, DC

Champion Level Sponsor

The Sign Language Company | Los Angeles, CA

Champion Level Sponsor

Professional Sign Language Interpreting (PSLI) | Denver, CO

Activist Level Sponsor

Purple Communications | Rocklin, CA

Activist Level Sponsor

Sorenson Communications | Salt Lake City, UT

Advocate Level Sponsor

TCS & Associates | Rockville, MD

Advocate Level Sponsor

Partners Interpreting | Boston, MA

Advocate Level Sponsor

Access Interpreting | Washington, DC

Founding Sponsor of StreetLeverage – Live and Supporter Level Sponsor

Sign Language Interpreting Professionals (SLIP) | Pittsburgh, PA

Supporter Level Sponsor

Deaf Access Solutions (DAS) | Bethesda, MD

Supporter Level Sponsor

Visual Communication Interpreting (VCI) | Knoxville, TN

Supporter Level Sponsor

 In the End

At the end of the day, I am hopeful that the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference added value to those attending and was found to be informative and insightful for those sign language interpreters and industry stakeholders attending from afar.

I also hope, at some point, that the coverage of the conference can be used as an example of what is possible when new ideas are embraced, courage is taken, and generosity abounds.

The industry reflection we are creating today is what will be used to measure our progress 50 years from now. Lets create one we are proud to recognize.

What was your favorite part of the conference (live or virtual)?

 

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Me Up!” button (upper right-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Me Up!”

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Improving Healthcare: Specialization for Sign Language Interpreters

Sign Language Interpreters Specialize to Improve HealthcareHealthcare affects us at every stage of life; not only are we consumers of the healthcare system from before birth until the end of our lives, but healthcare has become a large part of our national discourse and consumes more of our financial resources every day.  Another increasingly common piece of healthcare is interpreting—caused in part by, recommendations from The Joint Commission (Wilson-Stronks, 2008), rules in the Affordable Care Act (Tietalbaum, 2012) and an increasing number of lawsuits brought by the Deaf Community (12 in Minnesota alone in the last 10 years).  It seems the right time for sign language interpreters to increase our focus on healthcare and ensure our effectiveness in this important area of practice.

A Growing Need

Nathan Ellis, the director of the Deaf Immigrant Center for Education (DICE) in Minneapolis, shared that one in every three encounters at the massive Hennepin County Medical Center involves a spoken or sign language interpreter.   Another indicator of this growth locally is the recent hiring of multiple staff sign language interpreters at the six largest health systems in Minnesota.  There are reports of similar increases in requests for interpreters and expansion of interpreting pools in other large metropolitan communities.

In 2012, the National Interpreter Education Center (NIEC) surveyed sign language interpreters, who identified medical interpreting as one of the most common settings for freelance/contract interpreting services.   It was also rated as the second most common setting where practitioners most urgently need training.  In my work for the Collaborative for the Advancement of Teaching Interpreting Excellence (CATIE) Center and the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC), we have found nationally that it is common for freelance interpreters to interpret in clinics without any education, training or supervised experience in healthcare interpreting.  A comparison of two earlier studies found a slight, but growing, interest among sign language interpreters wanting to specialize in medical interpreting (Cokely, 2010).  Considering these increases in the demand for interpreters and the interpreting field’s growing interest along with widely admitted unpreparedness and training needs, how are we preparing ourselves, if at all, to do this life-impacting work?

An Important Starting Point

A key aspect of optimal healthcare is the relationship between doctor and patient.  While the importance of communication in doctor-patient interactions has been well documented (Frey, 2010), the complex work of healthcare interpreters has not.  It was only recently that efforts were made to categorize the body of knowledge sign language interpreters should master before interpreting in medical healthcare settings.  The CATIE Center-led investigation for NCIEC identified the following core competencies:

  • Health Care Systems
  • Multiculturalism and Diversity
  • Self-Care
  • Boundaries
  • Preparation
  • Ethical and Professional Decision Making
  • Language and Interpreting
  • Technology
  • Research
  • Leadership
  • Communication Advocacy
  • Professional Development (www.healthcareinterpreting.org, 2008)

This list of domains and competencies is an excellent resource for beginning our development and focus in healthcare interpreting.  In addition to the list above, there are other strategies interpreters may consider for professional development and building competence.

Reflective Practice

The tendency to go into much of our work with “insufficient skills sets” was discussed by Anna Witter-Merithew in her article, Sign Language Interpreters: Breaking Down Silos Through Reflective Practice.  This concept agrees with what the NCIEC identified and interpreters report themselves (NIEC 2013).  Despite having identified a body of knowledge and skills outlined in the Medical Interpreting Domains and Competencies, individuals are largely taking on these specializations without additional preparation or supervision, perpetuating the professional isolation discussed in Witter-Merithew’s article.  We need to consciously move from this condition of isolation into a process of reflective practice, or as Witter-Merithew described, “examining critical incidents that occur within our work to gain a deeper understanding of what they mean for what we do.” She also provided a concrete list for how to actively reflect on interpreting work and decisions.  As I considered this, it struck me that I had seen concrete applications of reflective practice put into action by my colleagues in healthcare interpreting.

Improving Practice with Colleagues

In Minnesota, we take pride in our innovation and excellence in healthcare, and being home to many healthcare industry leaders.  I see this similar pride shared across the Midwest among sign language interpreters working in healthcare.  Three local groups provide excellent examples for reflective practice and use of case conferencing:

  • Medical Interpreters Consortium (MedIC) of the Twin Cities, consisting of staff interpreters working for five local health systems.  They represent a variety of perspectives from primary, secondary and tertiary care.  The focus of their discussions is on the perspectives they bring as interpreters functioning as employees in major health systems, and the various and complex ways their roles differ from those of contract interpreters. They use case scenarios to illustrate issues working within the system as a staff person and how this needs to be different for contractors not directly employed by the system.
  • Minnesota Hospital Consortium (MHC), a group of community interpreters who contract as part of a unified system established for the sole purpose of providing interpreting services 24 hours a day for urgent and emergency care needs at 21 hospitals and 8 urgent care centers across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  MHC represents many of the same health systems as MedIC. The interpreters’ role and subsequent group discussions are uniquely focused on issues leading to improvements in their response to urgent and emergency care needs for the facilities, staff and patients.  They introduce specific scenarios to illustrate issues of concern or situations needing attention.  Through their sharing they have identified systematic problems and gaps in communication access.
  • Case Study Mentors, consisting of members in and outside of Minnesota. This is a pilot project sponsored through the CATIE Center that includes staff and contract interpreters from several midwestern communities.  The group’s focus is on using reflective practices and case studies as learning tools when working with healthcare interpreting colleagues.  The mentors meet monthly (via the Internet) with a facilitator, define a case study and then individually meet with their local group of healthcare interpreters to work through the scenario.

Each of these groups has found it effective to use case studies and conferencing as a means for reflective practice.  Each group has formed around a sole focus and perspective for their discussions.  They use strategies for neutralizing the content and “sorting out the important details and a reason for bringing it into discussion,” as suggested in Kendra Keller’s Street Leverage post, Case Discussion: Sign Language Interpreters Contain Their Inner “What the…!!!?  They have identified how to challenge each other and respectfully examine the decisions they choose. These sign language interpreters choose to further their competence and practice in medical healthcare through reflective discussion.

Richard Laurion - Sign Language Interpreter
Richard Laurion

Engaging Deaf Experts

One doesn’t need a formal group to do this reflective work with colleagues.  In Minnesota, we are also fortunate to have Deaf Community Health Workers (CHW). The certified CHWs, which are also found in other communities such as the Hmong and Somali, are trained to function as cultural bridges to the complex healthcare and government systems patients encounter.  Several Deaf CHWs have made themselves available to interpreters to discuss difficult cases, complex medical treatments and linguistic choices as they pertain to healthcare.

Another ally is the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss (AMPHL).  This past spring the AMPHL conference made a special effort to host a professional development track for sign language interpreters.  I was able to attend and found Deaf medical professionals excited and eager to work with me as an interpreter specializing in healthcare.

Supporting Quality Care

The demand for skilled healthcare interpreters is growing.  Those of us working regularly as healthcare interpreters are keenly aware, despite the lack of in-depth documentation in the field, of the depth of knowledge and skills required to do this work well.

As mentioned, my colleagues are continuing to develop themselves and build their specialization as healthcare interpreters.  As a field, healthcare interpreting should continue along the path toward specialization.  We should even consider further defining specialization in medical healthcare, mental healthcare, and addiction and recovery.

More Work Ahead

Yet, unlike legal and educational interpreting, there is no certification or credential for healthcare interpreting among sign language interpreters. I have introduced a motion for the 2013 RID conference next month requesting that RID investigate the need for a specialty certificate in healthcare interpreting.  This effort will only help to advance the important conversations we need about how we build interpreting practices in healthcare that are reflective and based on the delivery of quality care and practice.

For example, there has been a dramatic increase in healthcare as an area of specialized practice for spoken language interpreting.  In the past few years, two national organizations for the medical certification of spoken language interpreters have emerged.  Texas has developed such an interest in this certification that the state is currently working on a statewide medical certification for all interpreting language pairs—signed and spoken.  Yet, as an organization, RID has not yet made this commitment.  A small step has begun with the creation of the first members section for interpreters in healthcare, but as a field we are still struggling to focus on the work sign language interpreters do in healthcare and on providing the support, research, and training this important work requires.

Specialized Practice

In healthcare settings, we are often the only professionals who have not completed a standardized, accredited program recognized by the healthcare field.  As we continue to develop and to take our place as greater and active members of the healthcare team, we will need to consider what our model of practice might look like.  What behaviors must we demonstrate that indicate to the nurses, technicians and doctors that we are their colleagues, not friends or the patient’s family members? As professional colleagues, what are our obligations to these medical team members? How are we focusing on supporting the best health outcomes for the patient?

Systematically discussing questions like those above are only part of the bigger picture of developing standards of practice and quality care.  I believe the time has come to build a specialized practice of interpreters in healthcare.  We need to advocate that healthcare interpreters, Deaf or hearing, should have the education and supervised work experience to support full access to effective communication in healthcare settings for Deaf and DeafBlind people.  Communication is an important part of the doctor – patient relationship (Frey, 2012), when needed sign language interpreters should be an important part too.

 

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Me Up!” button (upper right-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Me Up!”

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References:

Cokely, D., & Winston, B. (2010). Interpreter practitioner needs assessment, trend analysis final report.

Frey, J., (2010, March). Relationships count for doctors and patients alike. Annals of Family, 8(2), 98–99.

National Interpreter Education Center. (2013). Interpreter practitioner, national needs assessment 2012, final report. 

Teitelbaum, J., Cartwright-Smith, L., & Rosenbaum, S. (2012). Translating rights into access: Language access and the affordable care act.  American Journal of Law & Medicine 348.

Wilson-Stronks, A., Lee, K. K., Cordero, C. L., Kopp, A. L., & Galvez, E. (2008). One size does not fit all: Meeting the health care needs of diverse populations. Oakbrook Terrace, IL: The Joint Commission.


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Backstage Coverage of the 2013 RID Conference

August 14, 2013

11:00p

The Street Team that made the social media magic happen at the 2013 RID conference.

Street Team at the 2013 RID Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:30p

StreetLeverage asked people who attended the 2013 RID conference about their experience and what they enjoyed about the conference.

4:30p

StreetLeverage Stunt Double, Wing Butler, interviews RID Executive Director, Shane Feldman about his impressions attending his first RID conference, and how the experience will guide the direction of his work.

12:00p

StreetLeverage asked people attending the 2013 RID conference about their experience and what they are enjoyed.

10:00a

New RID President, Dawn Whitcher, extends her appreciation to 2013 RID conference attendees and encourages them to attend the 2015 conference in New Orleans.

 

August 13, 2013

7:00p

Closing Ceremonies and Banquet.

2013 RID Conference Closing Ceremonies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:00p

StreetLeverage curator, Brandon Arthur, sits down with incoming RID President, Dawn Whitcher, to get her view on the future of the organization.

10:30a

Melvin Walker, newly elected VP of RID, sits down with StreetLeverage Curator, Brandon Arthur, to share his story and what he believes will define success for RID.

 

August 12, 2013

2:00p
Workshop | Team Me Up? CDI

Jimmy Beldon and Patty McCutcheonJimmy Beldon and Patty McCutcheon offer that teamwork is vital to any professional relationship. Deaf and hearing interpreter teams must approach the work as one unit, both bearing equal responsibility for the message. They have to hold each other accountable. Read More.

 

2:00p
Workshop | Self Assessment: Critical for Interpreter Effectiveness

Marty Taylor’s workshop, Self Assessment: Critical for Interpreter Effectiveness, lead participants through specific aspects of ASL and English, and offered skills meant to foster deliberate use of rich language. Read More.

6:20a

StreetLeverage Curator, Brandon Arthur, sits down with CM Hall, newly elected Member-at-Large, to learn more about her background and to get her perspective on the future of RID.

 

August 11, 2013

9:10p

A picture of Ben Hall, Jan Humphrey, Carl Kirchner, and Angela Jones after their group interview with Brandon Arthur.

RID Past Presidents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2:00p
Workshop | Emergency Management: Interpreter Self Care and Trauma Mitigation

Angela Kaufman and Tomina SchwenkeAngela Kaufman and Tomina Schwenke explored how sudden and unwanted or unanticipated upsetting events that we experience can be quite impactful. Consequently, sign language interpreters may hold on to pain for the rest of our lives and not able to work. Read More.

 

 

8:00a

StreetLeverage Curator, Brandon Arthur, sits down with Brenda Walker-Prudhom, President of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to get her feelings as her term as President comes to an end.

 

August 10, 2013

2:00p
Workshop | Educational Interpreters: The Missing Piece of the IEP Team

Sign Language Interpreters - Richard Brumberg and Donna FlandersRichard Brumberg and Donna Flanders empower sign language interpreters in educational settings by providing the tools to become an effective member of the IEP team. Read More.

 

 

2:00p
Workshop | Thinking Through Ethics: The Development of Ethical Decision-making Among Sign Language Interpreters

Liz Mendoza uses the results of her online survey as a backdrop to explore if expert and novice sign language interpreters differ in prioritized competing meta-ethical principles when making ethical decisions. Read More.

* Session coverage made possible with the support of TCS & Associates.

11:55a

StreetLeverage Curator, Brandon Arthur, sits down with the Superintendent of the Indiana Deaf School, David Geeslin, to talk about how Deaf Schools can fortify the skills of sign language interpreters and how together, everyone can succeed.

 

10:30a

On the grounds of the Indiana School for the Deaf, Janis Cole connects with the familiar comforts of home – the pillars of Deaf culture.

 

7:00a

Lynnette Taylor stands on sacred ground as she describes the importance of the courtship sign language interpreters need to honor with the Deaf Community and the future of the field.

 

August 9, 2013

6:00p

In addition to the keynote delivered by Dr. Flavia Fleischer, we enjoyed spending time review the history and legacy of RID at the 2013 RID conference in Indianapolis, IN.

2013 RID Conference Opening Ceremonies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2:00p
Workshop | Conflicts Between Interpreters and Clients: When You’ve Tried Everything

Facebook ImagePamela Whitney, Matthew O’Hara and David Bowell noted that most ethical complaints stem from some sort of perceived violation of the Code of Professional Conduct via information shared on social media websites like Facebook. Read more.

* Session coverage made possible with the support of TCS & Associates.

11:40a

StreetLeverage Curator, Brandon Arthur, sits down with 2013 RID conference keynote speaker, Flavia Fleischer, to gain insight into her evening speech and the importance of Deaf Community Cultural Wealth.

8:00a

Brenda Walker-Prudhom officially welcomes sign language interpreters to the 2013 RID Conference and introduces the theme, Fifty & Forward: Building on the Legacy.

 

August 8, 2013

6:30p

50 years later, RID members celebrate and contemplate the future of Sign Language Interpreting. Get insight to the topics and events of the 2013 RID National Conference in Indiana via StreetLeverage. Let’s come together and make a difference.

10:00a

Interpreters with Deaf Parents Member Section (IDP) presents an RID Conference Pre-Conference Workshop today introducing a discussion on conduct in “civility” as a necessary change agent to expanding credibility within the sign language interpreter industry. With instructors Sharon Neumann Solow, Dr. Carol Patrie, Dr. Marty Taylor. Good dialoge and great food for thought.

Interpreters with Deaf Parents - Civility Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 1, 2013

Perspective is everything for sign language interpretersStreetLeverage is excited to share that it has been named the official Social Media Sponsor of the 2013 RID conference being held August 9th-14th.

This online coverage will bring a cross section of the conference to those unable to attend and will add greater depth to the onsite experience.

What to Look For?

With the generous and progressive support of StreetLeverage sponsors, our conference coverage will include:

Video Interviews

Interviews with industry leaders, conference speakers and attendees.

Live Facebook & Twitter Feeds

Live session and event updates via: Facebook | Twitter | #RID2013

Blog Posts

Summary coverage of educational sessions.

Attendee Experience

Attendee experience captured via videos and pictures.

When and Where?

Conference coverage will begin August 8th and conclude August 15th.

You can participate in the conference coverage right here on StreetLeverage (on this very page in fact) and by connecting with us on FacebookTwitter, and RSS Feed. You can also stay current on information leading up to the event by joining our Facebook event by clicking here.

Street Team

An effort like this is only possible with the support of several amazingly talented people. StreetLeverage would like to extend its sincere appreciation to all the social media ninjas that will be onsite to make the magic happen. Special thanks to:

Hayley Baccaire

Lindsey Kasowski

Amy Williamson

Paul Tracy

Jennifer Maloney

Diane Lynch

 

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Me Up!” button (upper right-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Me Up!”

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Debra Russell | Sign Language Interpreters: Discover & Recover an Enduring Legacy

Deb presented, Sign Language Interpreters: Discover & Recover and Enduring Legacy, at StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta, GA. Her talk encouraged sign language interpreters to consider the opportunity before them to uncover, discover, and recover the gifts from previous leaders in the field.  Further, Deb explored how interpreters can emulate the traits of these leaders in their own actions in order to leave a legacy of meaning.

You can find the PPT deck for her presentation here.

Gratitude

Sign Language Interpreter Deb Russell - StreetLeverage - Live 2013 | Atlanta
Debra Russell

I am from Canada and we have a way of opening a meeting, which is to thank and recognize that we are standing on ground previously owned by the Aboriginal people.  I also want to open this talk by thanking and recognizing the Deaf community, who taught me their language, culture and their experience of seeing the world. So thank you to my local Deaf community and the communities across Canada. I am fortunate, as I have the opportunity to travel widely in Canada and throughout the world, which means many Deaf communities have taught me, while sharing their experiences with me.  Thank you to the CODAs, many of you in this room have taught me about your life experience, and I thank each of you.  We have one CODA here today from Canada, Janice, thank you for sharing your insights and helping me envision what each of us can do.  I never attended or graduated from an interpreter training program – the Deaf community taught me how to interpret, and they still do teach me, helping me understand how to match what they expect, prefer, and want to have happen with interpreters from their point of view. Based on that experience, I share this talk.

Importance of Looking Back

Now, my topic is about understanding our legacies and why it is crucial to look back.  If we don’t understand our histories, we are destined to continue to make errors, and lose our way.  I think it is important to look back and identify those who lead us, taught us, and ask if we need to find ways to embrace their teachings in a healthy way.  Understand that I have been given twenty minutes, which means it is impossible to recognize all of the leaders that have contributed at the local, state or provincial, or national or international levels.  So I have chosen some key people – people who have taught me and key people who have contributed greatly to our profession, and some that are still contributing. You may look at the list today and point out those I have not mentioned – to those people, I thank them for their contributions and hope they will accept my apologies for not including them today.

As I began the research for this presentation, I thought it was important to uncover the stories, the many positive stories that we can continue to learn from. For example, we can learn about our successes, and how we define success.  If we forget those stories then we ultimately block our future success.  It can prevent us from setting goals, and making progress on those goals that can result in improving our profession.  So today is a chance to look back and see what those people contributed to our field and what we must learn from their legacy.

A legacy can be defined as our history, and also how we remember a person, or what we pass on to others.  A legacy can be positive or negative – it is for you to decide.

Lilian Beard

I start with Lilian Beard.  As I look out at the audience, as soon as Lilian’s photo came up, you immediately smiled.  Why?  How do we remember Lilian? Many of you never had the chance to meet her, but we have a collective memory of her many contributions to our field.  How many of you remember her from 2009 at RID in Philadelphia, regaling us with story after story and everyone in the audience being captivated by her.  Her contributions are numerous.  This quote speaks volumes:

“…our friendship (with Deaf people) was never affected because they knew I was always there to support them.”

She was a CODA and this quote speaks to her relationship with the Deaf community, how she was always there to support the Deaf community. My question is this: are we still supporting Deaf people in the same way?  If Lilian were here today, what advice would she offer us?  How would she guide us in solving problems? Remember what she said when she started the Texas chapter – she began by talking with Deaf people, with, not talking to, not talking about, but talking with Deaf people.  She was a wise woman and that sage advice still is true for us today.

As I remember Lilian, I am struck by the following characteristics: humble – she was indeed 100% humble, and she was collaborative, with interpreters, Deaf people and people who were not involved in the Deaf community.  Her big heart was open to everyone.  I think she had a Deaf heart – well before we began talking about what it means to have a Deaf heart – she demonstrated what it meant.  She also knew the value of recognizing and thanking people for their contributions.  She did so much, but one key event was her role in creating the Texas Registry of Interpreters.  She admitted that she didn’t know how to create an organization so she found someone who knew how to do that and engaged their support.

“I did not do it myself, but I found someone who knew how to create the registry…”

“I think my strong suit was giving acknowledgement to people in the right proportions…”

This is similar to what Anna Witter-Merithew mentioned on Friday night at this conference – each of us must find allies, collaborators, and supporters in order to be successful.  As I said, Lilian’s strength was to recognize and thank others for their service and contributions.  I wonder, if we were take a good look at ourselves now, does our profession currently recognize the contributions of others?  Or, are we so busy complaining, that we are forgetting to recognize and thank people?  Lilian was a founding member of RID in 1964, which is well before some of you here were born!  As a founding member, what was her vision for the organization?  Maybe our organization has gone through many changes, however one of the original visions was to build the organization with Deaf people, and that Deaf people would remain integral in the organization.

Lou Fant

Lou Fant – same response as when you looked at Lilian’s photo.  We all remember him with such fondness and affection.  Let’s look at some of Lou’s characteristics, and there are many of note!  For me, Lou was a pioneer.  He forged a way for us, leading us without us knowing he was leading us!  He was also a CODA, and also very humble.  He had a Deaf heart, and for me, he was a teacher, and a builder – a builder of organizations and a people-builder.  He constantly encouraged us to improve as individuals and as organizations.  Those traits are all things that we should value and strive to emulate.  I went back and re-read Lou’s obituary and this line so resonated with me: “Lou Fant heard the Deaf with his heart.”  That line says it all.  Lou listened to the Deaf community with his heart, which says everything to me.  Lou, like Lilian, was a CODA and he loved sign language.  As I recall Lou, he stressed that we must treasure American Sign Language – and not the version of ASL that many of us as interpreters use, but the way Deaf people use their language!  His first book, AMESLAN, is a book I still have on my shelf.  It is also very interesting for me to see that some Deaf leaders and teachers throughout Canada and the US are talking about their community as an Ameslan community, not as a Deaf community, but rather an Ameslan community.  Lou gave generously of his time to create organizations like RID, CIT, the National Theatre of the Deaf, and the list of contributions and successes goes on.  Despite his long legacy, Lou never boasted of his involvement in our field.

1.  RID certification – reasonable alternative to contract with an agency that specialized in devising, administering and scoring examinations…

2.  Two important benefits to us:

–   RID no vested interest, certification on more objective footing 

–   Home office staff and local affiliate personnel would be freed up to attend to what ought to be the main business of RID, fostering the professional growth in all of us…

Sometimes I wonder what Lou would advise us to do about our current challenges with certification.  While his book, Silver Threads, is over 25 years old, I think his comments then about certification are food for thought for us today.  We are still debating certification all these years later, but Lou’s idea was to take certification out of our organization and put it into the hands of an organization that specializes in assessment. Doing so would leave the RID staff with the time to focus on the business of RID:  to promote the development and growth of our profession.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Anna Witter-Merithew

Many people have contributed to the development of our profession, and throughout that process there were others that also recognized the value of creating an organization for interpreter educators.  I know that many were involved in that movement; however, I have chosen Anna Witter-Merithew, who is with us today.  I could use the whole 20 minutes to talk about Anna’s contributions, but the point is this:  she has been actively involved in RID, serving multiple terms as President and Vice-President.  She has served as the President of CIT twice.  She has developed curriculum for teaching interpreters, she has created interpreter education programs, and more recently we note her work in the area of ethics and decision-making.  She is nothing short of an amazing leader and an amazing contributor.

MJ Bienvenu

Let’s look at MJ Bienvenu, who is still so actively involved. As I look back on my 30 years in the field, MJ has been present everywhere – RID, CIT, and more!  MJ is one who deeply understands the Deaf experience, equality and what it means to meaningfully include Deaf people in a movement.  How would we define her? I think as an activist, an activist with the goal of equality.

“It’s about… Love for justice and equality for all. Love for basic human rights. Love for civil rights for all people…”

 Nov 7, 2012  Planet Deaf Queer

Many of you will have studied the “green books,” so you know her face, or remember her involvement in the Deaf President Now movement. She was also the co-founder of the TBC during 1997.  That organization was the first organization to bring interpreters and Deaf people together to have conversations about power, and what was happening between the sign language interpreting and Deaf communities.  She is a phenomenal leader!

Betty Colonomos

As our field developed and we saw the emergence of many interpreting businesses, others questioned whether a business model was what was most effective for our field.  Betty Colonomos was one of those people, and she found a way to create a business that also valued and embedded Deaf culture into every aspect of the business.  Again, we can see that Betty has persisted in contributing to the community, and after 30 plus years, she is continuing to write, present, teach, and encourage us to reflect deeply.  Her interpreting model is one that is taught daily in programs across this country.   Her work with the Etna group is teaching the next generation to be reflective practitioners.  Her contributions are countless.

Ed Bosson

Another example of someone who has contributed hugely to our field is Ed Bosson.  Ed is known as the  “father of VRS,” and there is no doubt that technology has dramatically changed our profession.  We need to thank Ed for his vision of what equal communication access for Deaf people could be.  He has impacted each of us.

Have We Lost Our Way?

But sometimes I wonder, like Shane Feldman said this weekend, if its like driving a car aimlessly – and sometimes we simply are lost.  Have we lost some of those key characteristics that our previous leaders so generously modeled for us?  Now we see more and more interpreters obsessing about the financial aspects of being interpreters, and not thinking about contributing. We also see tensions among our colleagues, and camps that have emerged.  Yesterday, Nancy Blanchard spoke of the tension between the concepts of business and service.  Is business the primary driver, or is service?  Additionally, our relationship with the Deaf community appears to be fading, and our relationship with each other as colleagues is changing.

Recovery

Can we recover some of those traits?  My answer is a resounding yes!  As we have heard yesterday and today, one of the first things we can do to recover as a profession is to regain our relationship with the Deaf community, in meaningful ways, not just to discuss business practices but to connect to the heart of the community.  Another action we can all take is to commit to leadership with integrity, leadership with honesty.  We can also all commit to everyday doing something that will improve our community.  We sometimes speak of wanting to change the world, change our organizations, and change the field.  But let’s shift that attention inward, where maybe we have to start changing ourselves first.  We can take action that will result in positive change, and everyday that requires us to do something with the possibilities in front of us.  You can take actions such as acting as an ally, which requires that you continue to have hope.

Deb Russell StreetLeverage Live - Power GraphicThis next slide comes from some research that my friend and colleague Risa Shaw and I are doing related to power and legal interpreting.  I think the model is relevant to this conversation.  We need to explore what it is we envision when we talk about the task of interpreting.  Do we see interpreting as merely the act of relaying words and signs, and see ourselves as passive? Or, do we see interpreting as something that requires us to be actively involved in the Deaf community, supporting Deaf people, and looking carefully at our decisions and actions that can oppress Deaf people?  The model shows a “sense of agency,” which speaks to the inner control where we have to take responsibility for the work, for our profession, and ultimately for each other.  It’s a huge discussion.  And finally, the model addresses training.  How are we teaching interpreters? I am an interpreter educator and I am nervous about how we teach interpreters now.  All three of the circles on the slide feed into the area of “power” and that’s been our discussion this weekend.  How do we share power?  How do we recognize our power and acknowledge the impact of negative power?  I think if we explore these areas in depth we can recover, as a field.

“I have felt several emotions as I wrote this book: joy, dismay, excitement, anger, and hope… Joy because of how much we have accomplished; anger at our inability to make decisions… and hope for our success.  The one emotion I did not, nor do not feel, is despair…”  P. 89

The above quote is from Lou’s book, where he talks about the many emotions that surfaced during the writing process, and Lou stressed that never once did he feel despair, which represents his ability to maintain hope as an ally.  I think each of us here at StreetLeverage – Live | Atlanta feels that same sense of hope – I know that I very much feel that sense of hope from this event, and feel hope from each of you.

Connect and Collaborate

6 Steps to Becoming an Ally – Heather Bishop  (2002)

1. Understand roots of oppression

2. Understand different oppressions – similarities & differences

3. Consciousness & healing

4. Working for own liberation

5. Becoming an Ally

6. Maintaining Hope

Sometimes our students learn this material from Bishop, from her book entitled “Becoming an Ally.”  I appreciated Anna’s comments yesterday about the stages of “becoming,” and while we may not be there yet, we are “becoming.”  So, we are learning all over again how to connect and collaborate, and thus how to become an ally.  Bishop’s last three steps talk about healing and consciousness raising, and that certainly has been our focus this weekend.  When we look at the step, “becoming an ally,” we need to ask what does that look like from the Deaf community’s point of view, and what does it mean for interpreters, and CODAs?  That will require a great deal of conversation and dialogue. The final step of maintaining hope is our job!

Your Legacy

What lies ahead is an opportunity for us to uncover, discover, and recover the gifts from our previous leaders’ many contributions, and to look at how we can emulate their traits in our actions.  As a graduate of WADS University – remember that is Lou’s phrase, “Watch and Do the Same,” I graduated from that university – I watched our leaders and found ways to copy their actions and that is where we can find hope!  So now I ask each of you to think about what your legacy will be for this field.  You have an opportunity to change yourself and change the field.

What will your contribution be?

Thank you.

 

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