StreetLeverage is excited to announce that it will be hosting StreetLeverage – Live 2015 in Boston/Newton, MA.
April 17 – 19, 2015 will be a 3 day convergence of thought leaders from around the sign language interpreting industry to foster idea sharing, dialogue, and proactive thinking in order to rethink the way we understand, practice, and tell the story of the sign language interpreter.
To book online, click here. If you have trouble, call Marriott at 800.865.0546.
A room block has been reserved at a rate of $149.00 for event attendees. This rate, subject to availability, will be extended to attendees through March 25, 2015. Please note that in-room Internet and onsite parking are complimentary.
The StreetLeverage – Live 2015 program of events is still being finalized. To view the event schedule, click here.
2015 Registration Fees
Thank you for your interest in attending StreetLeverage – Live. The registration fee only covers conference admittance and does not include hotel accommodation, travel, transportation or any other charges.
Click here to find the schedule of 2015 registration fees.
The official language of StreetLeverage – Live is American Sign Language (ASL). To that end, all program sessions and activities at StreetLeverage – Live will be delivered in ASL. No English interpretation will be provided.
Attendees need to be aware that there will be photographers and videographers present during StreetLeverage – Live. By attending the event, attendees consent to be photographed and recorded. StreetLeverage will do its best to honor attendee requests to not be included in the photo and video coverage. Requests to be excluded, where possible, from the photo and video coverage must be made in writing. Requests must be received not less than 10 business days prior to the event and include a current photo. All requests should be sent to Brandon Arthur.
Please email Brandon Arthur to inquire about special accommodation policies.
Gina Oliva presented at StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin. Her talk draws attention to the philosophy of Servant Leadership and how it can be adopted by sign language interpreters interested in changing the world for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students.
You can find the PPT deck for her presentation here.
[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English translation of Gina’s presentation from StreetLeverage – Live 2014. We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Gina’s talk directly.]
Important Men in My Life
Today I am going to introduce you to two important men in my life.
Robert M. Oliva
Here’s my Dad – All of us have fathers who inspired us in some way – I often like to tell stories about how my Dad influenced me.
First, let me tell you that I was born on November 4, 1950. Now why would I tell you the exact date of my birth? On that day, my father was about 30 years old. Then, many years later, on November 4, 1996, my Dad died – on my 46th birthday – and that was such a special and touching thing. On that day, I was so struck by this “coincidence” — Such an awesome thing.
Now for quite some time, my Dad and I had struggled over the issue of “how to be deaf.” But on that day it just hit me so hard that I must tell his story and my story – how different these stories were and how the two stories had such meaning for children today. So that’s my reason for sharing with you about him.
Really, my Dad was the epitome of internalized audism, before we even had that terminology. And he was my only model for how a deaf person should behave. How to fool others, how to pretend, how to pass, how to passively accept with that sense of “Ok, I guess that’s how life is. I can’t change it but I have to live with it. I just have to put up with it even though it may be hard or cause suffering.”
As it happened, when I was 20, I learned about Gallaudet University and the Deaf Community. I entered that community and shared information about it with Dad – I tried to introduce him to the community, in a manner of speaking. But he took a stance — “No thanks, that’s not for me –not me.” That began another maybe 10 years of struggle between us, for me a losing battle – eventually I gave up.
But what was so interesting was that my father worked most of his adult life at the New York Daily News. He commuted from our home in Connecticut, using the train to commute every day. Some years later – I can’t remember if it was after he died or around that same time, I was having lunch with a friend and mentioned that Dad had worked for the Daily News. I was shocked when she told me her father also worked at the Daily News. Then she told me that many Deaf men worked there and I was even more shocked.
I was so shocked that Dad had never told me this.
But then, as I thought about it, I realized how significant this was. It had so much meaning for me that he never told me about those “other deaf people.” Clearly, he did not identify with them – he did not think of himself as “deaf.”
Later in Dad’s life, when he retired, he was very isolated – socially isolated. His retirement lasted 17 years and what did he do during those years? Paint. Paint and draw and build things. Really, he was very smart, he was well read, could write and speak, used a hearing aid. But, he spent most of his time alone.
When my first book was published, I wanted to have some of his artwork in my book. The publisher told me I would have to pick one painting– really I wanted to have ten! But they said, “No, pick one.” So I said, reluctantly, “ok.” I looked around my house – many of Dad’s artworks are on my walls – somehow none of them seemed right for my book. I happened to go into one room that I don’t go into often – my “stuff room” – you know, you probably have one too. I noticed on the floor one painting, just propped up on the floor. I looked at it and thought wow, perfect!!! Here it is again (on the PowerPoint slide):
That painting – a rose – standing out by itself – beautiful and in bloom…with some softly blurry/vague or hinted at flowers behind it – it seemed just perfect for my book. So I call it “A Solitary Rose.”
Now, let me introduce you to the other man I referred to earlier: That young man was born almost 100 years after my father. Actually, closer to 90 years – last night I did the math – still that’s almost 100 years. Anyway, this man, like my Dad, was born into an immigrant family. His mom and dad moved from another country; they were learning English and struggling. He had hearing aids, he “can speak” and was attending a public school. But obviously his frustration, his sense of “that’s how life is can’t change it have to live with it just have to put up with it” was too much for him, beyond what he could bear. So last November he decided to end his own life. He jumped in front of a train in San Francisco. How heartbreaking is that. Very sad. This hit me — and others who have had similar experiences — as so very sad.
And so, I introduce you to Fausto Delgado. I hope our work will keep his memory alive.
Incidental Learning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children
Now that I have shared those stories, I want to move on to the substance of my presentation – my recommendations or new ideas. Actually, these are not really “new” ideas, but are ones that I would like to emphasize. I have two concepts I want to present to you — two “juxtaposed” concepts. “Juxtapose” is one of my favorite words, by the way. I will share these concepts that seem unrelated but I will explain how they are related.
The first idea is regarding what is missing in public schools. It was mentioned yesterday that 90%, or at least 80%, of deaf students are now mainstreamed. More and more frequently, they are in schools with no other deaf students, and more and more have cochlear implants. I know we are all aware of this. But what is missing in these public schools [for deaf and hard of hearing children] and what is the key factor to the feelings of isolation? I have discussed this with many of my friends who also grew up in public schools. It is a topic that comes up so often in conversation that if I had a dollar for every time it was mentioned, I would have twenty or thirty thousand dollars. What is really absent in public schools is this thing – we have a sign for it – you all know this sign — it looks like the “pac-man” of early video games – two hands held in front of your eyes/face facing each other and going “chomp chomp chomp” then move them all around your field of vision – this represents “people talking all over the place.”.
We asked ourselves and I ask you, what do you call this phenomenon represented by this sign? Does it have a name? My friends and I would call it the “pac-man phenomenon.” The sign represents what we lived with day in and day out – the ever-present conversations going on around us. This phenomenon is experienced everywhere – it is something mainstreamed deaf children (and adults) live with, not only in the USA, but everywhere.
When my colleague and I decided to do research and write about this topic, we realized we needed a more academic term to fit this concept. After much consideration, we picked another word that I like, “ubiquitous.” Conversations between and among people happen everywhere, everyday – any place where there are people. People talk, people chat, everywhere and everyday. There isn’t even a specific English word for the ubiquity of conversations that go on all around you; to a hearing person, it’s just “life”.
This part of life is not limited to location but happens everywhere you can imagine – the cafeteria, the coffee shop, the food store, and here at the conference, everywhere! These ubiquitous conversations are what the kids are missing in public schools and they are aware that they are missing stuff – they can see the conversations going on around them – they wonder, “What are they talking about?” This is a daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute thing.
Now, there is some new research, which I was thrilled to hear about, by a woman from Rochester named Mindy Hopper. Her dissertation (I drove from D.C. to Rochester to read because she could not send it to me) is on the topic “Incidental Learning”. Her research is really fascinating. The design of the study was so amazing, it seemed like it must have been conceived by a deaf person who has lived without access to ubiquitous conversations. Luckily, I now have permission to share Dr. Hopper’s dissertation with anyone. I want you to think about what you can do in your locality or position to help promote incidental learning. I know that sign language interpreters struggle to decide which conversations to interpret and I would like to see us spending more time and thinking more deeply about this.
“Servant Leadership” in the Deaf and Sign Language Interpreting Communities
So, the concept of pac-man/ubiquitous conversation is one side of the juxtaposition I referred to earlier. Now, for the other half of the juxtaposition, I want to share some thoughts about leadership. I picked this specific leadership principle because it is one that I was drawn to when I taught classes on leadership at Gallaudet. If you grew up in the 1960’s, I am sure you remember the name Hermann Hesse. We were radicals, hippies, interested in Eastern religions. One of Hesse’s books was centered on a character named Leo – now, I see many of you shaking your heads in recognition. Leo was seen as a humble servant within a group; people saw him as the person who did insignificant things such as cleaning and preparing food.
One day, Leo suddenly disappeared, and everything broke down – the group fell apart. It turned out that he had been the leader. It was hard for people to realize that he was the leader because he was so humble. That story inspired a man named Robert Greenleaf to develop an approach called “Servant Leadership”. I selected four of the many concepts that make up servant leadership to share this morning. More can be found online. I picked the four skills, qualities, and characteristics of servant leadership that I believe apply to our work. And by “our”, I mean sign language interpreters and the Deaf community. I would give this same challenge to the Deaf community, as well.
The first two skills are closely related: conceptualization and foresight/hindsight. This means that we have to know history, understand how it brought us to where we are today, and visualize a better future. The third skill, which been discussed at length since yesterday, is to focus on the community and the individuals who make up the community.
The fourth quality I want to mention — which I feel may be the most challenging — is persuasive skills. Recall Doug Bailey-Bowen talking about “connectors, mavens, and sales people,” from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point.” The salespeople are those with the ability to absorb information and then explain it to others who know nothing about the topic at hand. To do this, you have to know which words to use, which tone to use, how to sequence or organize the information. [Salespeople ask themselves, “Should I say this first? Or that first?” Being able to persuade is a tremendously important skill.
Sign Language Interpreters Can have an Impact
Now, I want to suggest some ways to combine and apply these skills in our work.
Looking at the first two skills of conceptualization and hindsight/foresight, I want to preface my suggestions by saying that do I recognize we are all busy and that the many technical, interpreting-focused issues take much of your professional attention. But, I want to draw your attention to education – specifically the history of deaf education and what a key role this plays in deaf history, as a whole. Yes, there are other elements in deaf history, such as culture, but at the center of it all is deaf education — particularly the shift from Deaf schools to mainstreaming.
I believe that all of you, as sign language interpreters, need to know this history and keep abreast as things unfold – be aware of who is doing this, who is doing that. You should know what CEASD is doing, what Hands & Voices is doing, and what’s happening in the Early Intervention arena. I believe sign language interpreters need to keep abreast of what allies and opposing forces are doing. If you understand the gestalt — the big picture — you will be in a much better position to think about what interpreters’ roles can be. You can have a vision of how you and interpreters, in general, can plug in and have an impact on the big picture, the system. You can then have an impact on the community and “make life better” for the children as well as the adults they will become.
I want to offer some information that you may very well not be aware of. Let’s consider two age groups of deaf students: 0-5 and K-12. To support children from birth to age 5, there is an annual national conference – EHDI [Early Hearing Detection and Intervention]. This conference provides a regular opportunity for professionals and advocates to come together to network and learn from each other. Deaf people have taken the opportunity to attend these conferences. In fact, the number of deaf individuals attending keeps increasing. In 2013, according to information provided to me by the conference organizers, individuals who requested sign interpreting or CART accounted for almost 10% of those in attendance. And, not all of these deaf people work in the field of early intervention. But they go to show the face of Deaf Adults, to make their presence known, as advocates.
However, for deaf children in K-12, on the other hand, there is no counterpart to the annual EHDI conference – no venue where Deaf professionals and advocates can meet with those working in K-12. This has been a big gap since CAID, which was mostly attended by professionals from deaf schools, weakened. So, I challenge you to think about how the sign language interpreting community might become involved in that situation.
In summation, I want mention persuasive skills once again. I want us to be working, not as individuals, but as a group, taking collective action. If we are all divided into smaller units with each group advocating for different things, no matter what we may be advocating for, it will not be successful. Congress needs to see that we are working collectively, with a common message – and the message must be carefully structured in order to have an impact. As I mentioned before, in my opinion, being able to persuade others is our biggest challenge. So, that concludes my presentation. Thank you all so much for being here.
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Crackers or crack cocaine? If a potential Deaf witness used a signed reference to crackers during a police interview, would you immediately understand the meaning? Fortunately, in this situation, the hearing interpreter (who was top-notch) knew enough to team up with a Deaf interpreter who immediately figured out that the witness was not talking about the food cracker but about crack cocaine. Because of the presence of the Deaf-Hearing interpreting team, effective communication occurred.
Unfortunately, thousands of Deaf people experience serious settings and situations without the services of an interpreter team made up of a Deaf interpreter and a hearing team interpreter. This exclusion of the Deaf interpreter results in unnecessary life-altering experiences for Deaf individuals. A new ethical and financial paradigm is needed to ensure the presence of Deaf interpreters in those settings and situations.
Excluding Deaf interpreters in these setting/situations is a violation of the CPC.
Why The Resistance?
It Requires Hearing Interpreter Involvement
Hearing interpreters worry that if they ask for a Deaf team interpreter, they will be perceived as incompetent[i] even though the very best interpreters recognize that even they need Deaf interpreters. Carla Mathers, a renowned practicing attorney and interpreter remarked recently in a StreetLeverage presentation, “My best interpretation, however, will never equal the value, skills and contributions of a Deaf interpreter.”[ii]
These hearing interpreters are also concerned about losing the assignment to a less competent or less ethical interpreter who could perhaps do greater damage. They may also be unaware of settings or situations that mandate the use of a CDI. As a result, they just plow ahead and hope for the best.
The National Consortium of Interpreter Education Center stated that “the initial determination is left to the [hearing] interpreter, it is of critical importance that legal interpreters undertake this analysis and to subordinate any feelings of inadequacy in the event that a deaf interpreter would be able to assist, improve or enhance the quality of the interpretation. The decision to recommend a deaf interpreter is an indication of professionalism, not a sign of incompetence.”[iii][iv]
RID Must Revise their Definition of a CDI
The realities highlighted above make it difficult to implement the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct (CPC), which makes it clear that hearing interpreters need to ensure the presence of a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) in specific settings and situations. However, CPC Illustrative Behaviors 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.6, 4.1 and 6.3 are all places where one could make a case that the exclusion of Deaf interpreters is a violation.
First and foremost, the current RID Standard Practice Paper “Use of a Certified Deaf Interpreter” must be updated. This version is antiquated and perpetuates the myth that a CDI is needed only in unusual situations where the “communication mode of a deaf consumer is so unique that it cannot be adequately accessed by interpreters who are hearing.” Historically, Deaf interpreters have been involved in all types of communication situations long before the establishment of RID or interpreter training programs, effectively navigating between languages and providing important cultural perspectives and experiences that make an interpretation more accurate.
Two of the common reasons for the ongoing systematic failure to include Deaf interpreters in those settings and situations are as follows:
1) The payer of the services will seek the lowest bidder, or
2) The hearing interpreter is burdened with decision of whether to bring in a Deaf interpreter and worried about the various possible negative consequences that could result from a request for a Deaf team interpreter.
We recognize that courts, police departments, hospitals and other entities often seek the lowest price structure for interpreters. Bidders of those contracts, whether by interpreting agencies or by free-lance sign language interpreters, are thus incentivized to exclude Deaf interpreters in their proposals in order to win those contracts. [v] As a result, the Deaf consumer frequently suffers and is impacted negatively.
How to Resolve the Problem
Hearing interpreters work in various life-altering situations on a daily basis without the presence of Deaf interpreters. Excluding Deaf interpreters in those settings or situations is a violation of the CPC. The question now is how can we make it easier for ethical interpreters to uphold the CPC in their business practices? A solution is desperately needed here.
We propose a new standard practice paper by the Registry of Interpreters that would require interpreting contracts to automatically establish the presence of Deaf interpreters in specific situations.
The revised standard practice paper should clearly state that it is unethical to place hearing interpreters without deaf interpreters in defined settings. The standard practice paper would also clearly define best practices which would automatically include Deaf interpreters from the onset for any contracts with hospitals, courts, and other legal settings.[vi] The standard practice paper would then tie the CPC into the hearing interpreter’s obligation to automatically require a Deaf interpreter team in those specific settings.
With this new standard practice paper in place, agencies bidding for contracts can confidently include the use of Deaf interpreters in their proposals and point out that competitor proposals without the inclusion of Deaf interpreters are unethical, illegitimate and represent a violation of RID standard practices and also violate the CPC.
This structure will relieve the hearing interpreter of the burden of assessing the linguistic need of the Deaf consumer, the burden of trying to suggest that a Deaf interpreter is necessary and avoid the awkwardness of trying to explain that the presence of a Deaf interpreter does not reflect on the interpreting skills of the hearing interpreter. With this structure built into the contracts, agencies can more confidently send Deaf interpreters without worrying about the additional expenses.
Pioneering Radical Change
The California court system’s approach to Deaf interpreters is one place to build on for models elsewhere. The Administrative Office of the Courts in California establishes the presumption that a Deaf interpreter is needed for much broader scenarios including dealing with juveniles or dealing with adults with mental health issues. The Courts also state that CDIs are necessary when dealing with a Deaf person who “relies on uniquely deaf experiences that are unfamiliar to the hearing interpreter.”[vii]
This last line recognizes that CDI is necessary in almost all settings and situations. Accordingly, the California Court states that a Deaf interpreter should be
“provided in all civil and criminal actions in which the service is needed for effective communication and in which the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual is a party or witness in a case. These include traffic or other infractions, small claims court proceedings, juvenile court proceedings, family court proceedings, hearings to determine mental competency, and court-ordered or court-provided alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration.”[viii]
The Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre (DHCC) in Southeast Pennsylvania spells out from the onset that a Deaf/hearing interpreting team is automatically used in “major life-altering situations such as legal and mental health assignments.”[ix] DHCC explains further that
“Police and medical emergencies can have life-altering consequences. Therefore, a Deaf/hearing team of interpreters is usually required to ensure accurate, effective communication. This team approach has proven to be the most effective way to handle police and medical emergencies especially when the communication skills of the Deaf person are unknown.”[x]
Instead of being an exception, DHCC’s model should be the rule across the country. The first step needed to make that happen is the revision of the standard practice paper issued by RID. In the meantime, we urge ethical hearing interpreters and interpreter agencies to take the initiative to comply with the CPC and start requiring the automatic presence of Deaf interpreters in “life-altering” situations.[xi] We also invite readers to participate in dialogue to modify the current interpreter model to mandate the presence of Deaf interpreters in order to ensure Deaf individuals have accurate and effective communications in any setting. We also encourage readers to share this article with local interpreting agencies and institutions (such as the court, hospitals and police) to spark conversations on how they can start routinely ensuring the presence of CDIs along with hearing interpreters in those life-altering settings.
The use of CDIs in specific settings and situations should be the standard and normal practice. Just like a general medical practitioner would bring in specialized doctors (a cardiologist, for example) for some common situations, a hearing interpreter should bring in a specialized (Deaf) interpreter in some common situations. The skilled Deaf interpreter has contextual and cultural competency that far exceeds hearing interpreters’ ability to fully provide cultural and linguistic access to the Deaf user in situations that are typically at high risk for life-altering experiences.
The National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC) has published a document, Deaf Interpreters in Court: An Accommodation that is More than Reasonable, that provides various citations where “deaf interpreters have proven their worth.”[xii] The evidence in this document and other documents cited here regarding the need for Deaf interpreters in specific settings and situations is overwhelming.
NCIEC has already outlined best practices for interpretation in court and legal settings, stating that deaf interpreters should be present in all court and legal settings and situations involving a deaf party, especially if deaf minors are involved.[xiii] This should go without saying:
Deaf interpreters should automatically be called for legal or medical situations.
Who Can Help and What Can They Do?
Interpreter agencies and hearing sign language interpreters need to be insistent in requiring the presence of Deaf interpreters in specific settings and situations. Interpreters (and agencies) need to turn down contracts that would put Hearing interpreters in the role of enabling oppression of Deaf individuals through their failure to ensure effective communications. The signing community also needs to work with institutions such as medical providers, courts and police departments to ensure that they require the presence of Deaf interpreters every time a sign language interpreter is requested. We also need make it clear within the interpreter community that the presence of a hearing interpreter without a Deaf interpreter team is tantamount to exploitation of the Deaf individual for the pecuniary or personal gain of the hearing interpreter. To initiate this conversation with agencies and hiring parties, all interpreters, Deaf and Hearing, and consumers are encouraged to share this article with others.
The interpreting profession has grown exponentially since the enactment of various civil rights laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1974. We should not, however, confuse the growth of the interpreting profession with the assumption that Deaf people are receiving effective communications. As ethical interpreters, each of us has an obligation to “render the message faithfully by conveying the content and spirit of what is being communicated, using language most readily understood by consumers.”[xiv] In many situations and settings, doing so requires the presence of a Deaf interpreter team. We also should require interpreting agencies and hiring parties to ensure the presence of Deaf interpreters as well. We can all do more. It’s the right thing to do.
What steps will you take in your community to initiate this conversation?
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Co-Author, Jimmy Beldon, CDI, M.A., has been a professional involved in the interpreting field on many levels. Jimmy is the co-owner of Keystone Interpreting Solution, a consulting and interpreter referral business. He currently teaches in the Interpreter Training Program at St. Catherine University in St Paul, Minnesota. A renowned interpreter in the court system, Jimmy is a former Vice-President of the National Registry of Interpreters (RID) and the current Vice-President of the National Conference of Interpreter Trainer (CIT).
[i] The resistance to bringing into a Deaf Interpreter has been well documented. For example, Tiffany J. Burns, CI/CT writes in “Who needs a Deaf Interpreter? I do” (Views, November 1999) that I have noticed paranoia among many hearing interpreters, that in asking for a Deaf interpreter, they will appear unqualified or incompetent. I cannot stress enough what a misconception that is.”
[ii] “Perception Conflicts: The Role of Sign Language Interpreters in Court,” Carla Mathers, Esq., CSC, SC:L. StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin.
[iii] “Deaf Interpreters in Court: An accommodation that is more than reasonable,” prepared by Carla Mathers, Esq., CSC, SC:L. The National Consortium of InterpreterEducationCenter, March 2009.
[iv] It is relevant to quote Carla Mather here from her Street Leverage presentation: “A Deaf interpreter possesses the skills and innate understanding of the language and Deaf experience which allows them to use language that is most accessible to the Deaf party, to apply expansion of concepts appropriately in order to ensure the communication is clear and accurately conveys the intended meaning. By ensuring that Deaf interpreters are involved in courtroom interpreting, we reduce the oppressive nature of the environment and we ensure that the support and advocacy needed are available to the Deaf parties involved. In addition to the linguistic expertise a Deaf interpreter brings to the courtroom, they are also often able to navigate the strict conventions and rules of the court. The Deaf interpreter may be able to provide perspectives and explanations regarding the seemingly oppressive court system that will allow the Deaf party to understand the system and its rules more clearly. At the very least, a Deaf interpreter may make navigating the systemic conflicts more palatable.”
[v] Octavian Robinson discusses, for example, that courts sells “contracts to the lowest bidder and sacrificing quality and more important, justice. The lowest bidding agency does not assure certified or competent interpreters. This creates a situation where a deaf person’s legal right, regardless of guilt, to a fair trial is compromised.” Robinson also explains that the penny pinching results in the exclusion of CDIs and thus causes Deaf people to lose out in the justice system. See http://blog.deafpolitics.org/2011/06/failure-to-act-for-change.html
[vi] In those rare cases where it is found that a Deaf interpreter is not needed, the Deaf interpreter can then be excused.
[vii] “Recommended Guidelines for the Use of Deaf Intermediary Interpreters,” Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts. 2010.
[x]www.DHCC.org. DHCC explains, “four interpreters (two hearing and two Deaf) are on-call every evening, weekend and holiday. This way, we are prepared for multiple emergencies. A Deaf/hearing team – one interpreter who is Deaf and one interpreter who is hearing – ensures that we are prepared for any level of communication.”
[xi] While a lot of the citations here focus on legal settings, DHCC is correct here in saying that CDIs are necessary in other life-altering situations. This would include, among others, health settings and any settings involving juveniles.
[xii] “Deaf Interpreters in Court: An accommodation that is more than reasonable,” prepared by Carla Mathers, Esq., CSC, SC:L. The National Consortium of InterpreterEducationCenter, March 2009.
[xiii] “Best Practices American Sign Language and English Interpretation within Court and Legal Settings,” by Kellie Stewart, Anna Witter-Merithew and Margaret Cobb, Legal Interpreting Workgroup Members. The National Consortium of InterpreterEducationCenter, March 2009.
Whether you are a community interpreter working 50 hour weeks, a staff interpreter, or a Deaf community member spending hours engaged in local advocacy, little time is left for the pursuit of the academic side of the profession at the end of the day.
There is a level of risk involved in operating with blind spots in best practices, recent regulatory changes, or cutting-edge research on the field of sign language interpreting. The consequences of missing these evolutionary changes in the field cover the full range from minor to potentially life-changing. Utilizing Knowledge Brokers may provide the solution we need in the evolving field of sign language interpreting.
What is a Knowledge Broker?
A Knowledge Broker is someone who moves information from the research arena to various audiences (Meyer, 2010). The role appears to have emerged organically in response to information glut and time shortage in our modern world. There is a plethora of research out there, too much for one individual to stay abreast of even if one focuses solely on a particular discipline. Thus the Broker comes into being as one who not only makes the esoteric understandable but also applicable to the reality of the chosen audience. Where does a Knowledge Broker fit in the field of sign language interpreting?
From a historical perspective, Knowledge Brokering has played a critical role in the establishment of the field of sign language interpreting and the traditions within the profession. This process, based strongly in oral tradition, is the reason the field has progressed in the last 50 years. Without pioneering spirits in the Deaf community and interpreters in our field acting in a Knowledge Brokering capacity, the evolution and advancement of the field might look very different than the current landscape. It is also important to understand that we all can participate in the process on various levels.
In our profession, a Knowledge Broker would be one who moves between the rapidly expanding numbers of colleagues, both Deaf and non-Deaf, pursuing advanced degrees, spending countless hours producing research to better our understandings, and the people on the frontline. The Broker may help to harvest information from the world of academia that specifically responds to the query presented by the day-to-day practitioner. In addition, she or he may assist the practitioner in digesting information in more easily accessed pieces.
What are the characteristics of a Knowledge Broker? I asked several colleagues this question and although I collected several responses, this one in particular sums it up:
“For me, a knowledge broker is someone who has valuable, sought after, and/or in depth knowledge or experience—general or specific—and is willing to share. (Who) does so generously, completely; thoroughly and thoughtfully, (and who) has an attitude of advancing one advances us all.”
Another factor to consider is that not everyone is immediately aware of his or her question. Again one respondent says it best:
“In addition to trust, I value the ability to assist in finding the question, before looking for an answer. I don’t know what I don’t know. When discussing my questions with a valuable ‘knowledge broker,’ he or she helps me figure out my real need and then look for answers with me. I value the honest interest in my work and studies; the relationship of trust, so that I can ask the questions; the guidance and back-channeling to lead me to my real questions; the information sent, or resources suggested; and the follow-up to make sure I received everything I could from our conversation.”
How Does Knowledge Brokering Work?
Knowledge Brokers may not be used to full advantage in the field of interpreting at present. We, as practitioners, don’t always know what to do or where to go. We often know we need support but we can’t define it. Finding individuals who have more experience in the landscape should be part of the answer.
I have been on both sides of the interaction; as one seeking and as one providing.
As a seeker, there are specific things I am looking for:
Providers – students, faculty, friends, family. Colleagues and community members may all be used as a constant resource and sounding board for questions
Access – in person conversations, telephone conversations, as well as electronic interactions, may all be of benefit and can range from lengthy to telegraphically short.
Resources – all kinds of communications can be valuable resources including conversations, articles, research links, opinion-sharing, etc.
As a provider, I work with the seeker to determine the need. Some examples of this type of work include but are not limited to:
working with people to identify literature and/or evidence to allow for the creation of strategies for critical conversations.
Assisting in the design of online coursework and assessment materials
Collaboration with Deaf professionals on a range of topics (Deaf Professional/Designated Interpreter, Deaf/Hearing Interpreter Teams, etc.)
There may be circumstances where an individual acts equally as seeker and provider. These experiences can be very rich and enlightening experience on many levels. One critical note: It is important is to be clear about what can actually be accomplished. Asking the right questions about timelines and clarifying dates, setting boundaries and expectations clearly at the outset allow for a successful interaction. In this way, we preserve our resources and maintain the trust that is so critical in this process.
Considerations for Seeking a Knowledge Broker
It is important to keep in mind that to ask for Knowledge Brokering is not easy. Another who was kind enough to respond to my questions on the topic of Knowledge Brokering shared that there are several hidden factors when people ask for the support of a knowledge broker.
A seeker must:
1. Be willing to be vulnerable before asking for information
2. Be willing to admit they don’t have all the answers.
3. Be willing to be humble and ask for help
4. Seek out role models they seek to emulate
5. Build trust relationships over time
6. Rely on trust relationships to gather additional knowledge
7. Maintain a level of awareness of how privilege may enter into this process.
And so we honor each other; respecting our vulnerability, taking to heart the trust we have been offered, thanking the other for sharing their wisdom.
Paying it Forward
Reciprocity, language brokering, and knowledge sharing are not new concepts to the Deaf community, to the children of that community and to interpreting professionals who have worked to become aware of the values of the community. In her 1983 article, What goes around, comes around: Reciprocity and interpreters, in The Reflector, Dr.Theresa Smith, calls out the importance of reciprocity in our profession, stating,“…within the Deaf community, reciprocity is the norm…. In a reciprocal system, every person has a role…Interpreters, like Deaf people, are expected to contribute knowledge, skill, time, and energy” (Smith, 1983).
In a transcript of Bonnie Kraft‘s recent keynote speech for the 2014 Region I RID conference, she takes time to look back and reflect on experiences, both painful and encouraging, that inspired her to share her knowledge, wisdom and wealth of experience with others:
“sharing was the only way to go…. because not to do so intimately and ultimately hurts the Deaf and Interpreting communities…It was a time of sharing that knowledge as widely as possible, and hoping someone somewhere would learn something useful and pay it forward.”
Incorporating Knowledge Brokers in Professional Practice
In this modern age, we are living in a paradox of not enough time and exponential access to information. Today there is a great need to work together to truly advance us ALL. And as Bonnie said, ”If we don’t have two minutes for each other, then who are we and why are we here?”
Consider the idea that knowledge brokers are all around you, not limited to academia. The Broker you need is influenced by the knowledge you seek.
Aim for a frame of abundance rather than scarcity. In this case, we often feel we don’t have time to seek a Knowledge Broker. However, while I provide for you, another is doing the same for me. A Broker who already knows saves time I would have spent spinning my wheels.
Don’t be afraid to not know – this applies to providers as well as seekers. It may be that we end up seeking together which only creates more learning.
Come to the conversation open, listening deeply and respectfully to each other.
And keep in mind, the opportunities are endless.
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I would like to thank Bonnie Kraft, Pam Whitney, Carrie Humphrey, Jean Miller and Brandon Arthur for working with me to craft this article. And of course, thank you to all of my knowledge brokers and to those who have honored me by seeking me out as a broker for them.
Namaste to you all.
Kraft, B (2014) Keynote speech delivered at Region I RID conference. Transcript quoted with permission from the author
Meyer, M. (2010). The rise of the knowledge broker. Science Communication, 32(1), 118-127.
Smith, T. (1983). What goes around, comes around: Reciprocity and interpreters. The Reflector 5 (Winter) 5-7.