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Trends Report: Aligning Interpreter Education & Tomorrow’s Challenges

Dennis Cokely and Cathy Cogen

StreetLeverage had a great time providing coverage of the 2015 RID Conference in New Orleans, LA August 8-12, 2015. If you attended or watched the conference live-stream feed, you’ll remember that on Saturday, August 8, 2015, Dennis Cokely and Cathy Cogen presented, “Preparing Interpreters for Tomorrow: Report on a Study of Emerging Trends in Interpreting and Implications for Interpreter Education.” It was one of the standout presentations at the conference to be sure.

Greater Insight on the State of Interpreting

To our good fortune, both Dennis and Cathy were willing to sit down with Brandon Arthur, StreetLeverage founder and curator, to discuss their findings and their visions for the future of sign language interpreting and sign language interpreter education.

* To view the conversation with Dennis Cokely or read the English transcript, click here.

* To view the conversation with Cathy Cogen or read the English transcript, click here.

RID Trends Presentation Summary

If you missed the presentation, you can find the PPT deck used by Dennis and Cathy here.  

Their presentation focused on three main areas:

  1. Trends impacting current and future interpreting services
  2. Current Issues in Interpreter Education and the dynamics at play within the field which may impede or facilitate efforts to address interpreter education and professional development needs
  3. Recommendations for aligning Interpreter Education with the challenges of tomorrow, including some significant departures from the status quo in interpreter education.

Finally, they issued a call to action for conference participants to commit to partnerships, practices and policies which will support the creation of a better future.

 

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Missing Narratives in Interpreting and Interpreter Education

Erica West Oyedele presented Missing Narratives in Interpreting and Interpreter Education at StreetLeverage – X | RID Conference 2015.  Her presentation explores the lack of diversity within the predominantly White, female field of sign language interpreting and provides a call to action for potential allies.

You can find the PPT deck for her presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English rendition of Erica’s talk from StreetLeverage – X | RID Conference 2015.  We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Erica’s talk directly.]

Missing Narratives in Interpreting and Interpreter Education

Thank you, StreetLeverage, for giving me the opportunity to be here with all of you. This presentation is based on the research I conducted during graduate school that looked into the experiences of African American/Black interpreters, and took into consideration African American/Black Deaf consumers and their experiences with interpreting services. However, my comments today are not just for them. Rather, they are for all of you. Additionally, it is important for me to thank all of the interpreters of color and all of the Deaf people of color who participated in my research study.

Today I want to talk with you about the narratives that I believe are missing from the field of interpreting and interpreter education. Initially, I planned to show a slide that included the demographics of the field of interpreting. Two days ago, I changed that slide because every day this week there has been a presentation that has shown us the demographics of the RID membership. Hopefully, you’ve paid attention as those numbers have been presented. If you were paying attention to the statistics, then you know that approximately 88% of the RID membership is made up of White interpreters. Therefore, the remaining 12% of RID’s membership are interpreters of color. This slide is a representation of our 12%.

ITOC forum 2015
Photo by Bill Millios

If you attended the ITOC (Interpreters and Transliterators of Color) Member Section forum, then you also would have seen as a part of the presentation a slideshow of various interpreters of color. We make up a diverse population. We are from a wide range of backgrounds. We are hearing, Deaf, straight, gay, lesbian, Codas, and so much more. For interpreters of color in our organization there is a wealth of diversity beyond race.

As I mentioned, we’ve already seen the numbers presented to us throughout the conference so that will not be the focus of this presentation. To be quite honest, for those of you who have seen those numbers presented (88% White interpreters and 12% interpreters of color) and responded with surprise, I ask, why? I can tell you that these numbers are of no surprise to the 12% of interpreters of color within RID. The numbers have been the same for many years! Of course there is some small fluctuation in these numbers from year to year, but the percentages have been consistent. So instead of talking again about the numbers, let’s talk about the impact of these numbers. The impact to interpreters of color, consumers of color, and the impact to all of you, our White allies. You notice that it is my hope that you will become our allies.

True Story

I want to begin with a story. This story comes from one interpreter who participated in my research study. I have to warn you that this story contains language that will be uncomfortable for you and that’s okay! When you start to notice your own discomfort, breathe in, and then analyze the source of your discomfort. Then we’ll discuss some more.

 

True Story - Erica West Oyedele Presentation at StreetLeverage - XOne of the reasons we are challenged to engage in these types of discussions is because of the fear we hold around this type of topic. I want to let you know that the fear I am referring to extends to me too. Again, that is normal. Right now, my fear has to do with how I will be perceived by my colleagues as a hearing interpreter of color, who has just been sworn in to the RID board. All of those thoughts I recognize right now are a part of who I am. Furthermore, this topic is not easy, yet it is easy for me to become a target when bringing forward this type of discussion. I’ve made the decision that the discussion is important enough that it needs to be addressed.

When you read this story, I want you to recognize that this is the experience of interpreters of color. Although this particular story took place after the interpreter had completed their work, we have to acknowledge that interpreters of color confront systems of oppression before, after, and during their work. What is most unfortunate is that while they are working they often face this discrimination from consumers and colleagues alike. That is the impact of the numbers we have seen but that we have failed to discuss. Perhaps if we have these candid discussions we might come to a place where we would see the number of interpreters of color rise.

When I look at this story, I also recognize the interpreter’s emotional response. Again, it is a normal emotional response, yet I am personally often aware of not wanting to be labeled as the angry (fill in the blank) person: the angry Black person, Deaf person…the angry something! But if we look at what happened, you notice that the interpreter experienced a range of emotions that included confusion and fear, in addition to anger. This is because having to confront systems of oppression becomes an additional demand for interpreters of color. When I speak of demands I am referring to the Demand-Control Schema as presented by Dean and Pollard. Taking into consideration their theory, I think it’s fair to say that interpreters of color have additional demands they have to confront when they go to work. Why isn’t this discussion taking place in interpreter education programs and in workshops in our field? If we truly want to see an increase in the number (or percentage)  of interpreters of color, we need to consider what doable actions we might take to acknowledge this reality in our field.

Erica West Oyedele
Erica West Oyedele

Why Should You Care?

My aim is not for you to read this story and then leave here today feeling sorry for interpreters of color. We don’t want your pity. We want action. Because these stories are not shared in workshops, and because these stories are not shared in interpreter education programs, interpreters of color are not being prepared for the field of interpreting that they will actually face. It also means that the 88% of White interpreters are not learning how to become allies.

Impacts of Power and Privilege

Colleagues

Are interpreters of color really being prepared for the field of interpreting? Are White interpreters prepared to work with us as allies? I don’t know. I think we would be more prepared if we figured out ways to work together. We have to acknowledge the impacts of power, privilege and oppression within this field. The number of African American/Black study participants in my research was 116. 72% shared that they experienced overt acts of discrimination and oppression while they were working. I am no longer talking about before or after work. The majority of Black interpreters experienced oppression from consumers and colleagues at some point while they were working.

Consumers

Participants in the Black Deaf focus group that I conducted also shared their concerns regarding the field of interpreting. We have long discussed in this field the relationship between language and culture. We have acknowledged that for a complete understanding of language to be present, we must first understand the underlying influences of culture. This is not a new discussion for us. Yet, most of the Black Deaf participants in my focus group felt that interpreters did not have an understanding of their culture. Let’s consider what that means for consumers of color. It means they are working overtime to assimilate to the needs of interpreters, instead of interpreters working to accommodate their needs. Interestingly, for the Black Deaf focus group in particular, they overwhelmingly shared that they felt a sense of relief when they had access to interpreters of color. They felt understood.  They perceived interpreters of color to be both linguistically and culturally competent. I of course followed up by asking how often they had access to interpreters of color. Every Black Deaf focus group participant said that it was rare for them to have access to interpreters of color.

Mentors/Educators

For those of you who are mentors or educators in this field, the majority of interpreters in my study (around 63%) felt that their mentors and educators were ineffective when it came to discussing multicultural issues or addressing issues of cultural competency. 86 of the participants who were in my study completed a formal interpreter education program. So again, 63% to 64% felt that their instructors were ineffective at addressing issues of multiculturalism or cultural competency. An additional 14% stated that they could not respond to my question because there was no discussion of multiculturalism or cultural competency in their programs at all. Frequently, research participants shared that when discussions of multiculturalism or cultural competency took place, those discussions were limited to Deaf and hearing cultures only. They addressed a Deaf-hearing binary that oversimplifies the two cultural groups, because we know that Deaf and hearing individuals come from a multitude of diverse backgrounds. People of color can be trilingual interpreters, they can be Codas, etc. They have a whole host of identities beyond being hearing or Deaf that impact who they are. That is intersectionality. So when we are not discussing culture beyond the Deaf and hearing binary, we are marginalizing the communities that we serve, we are dismissing who they are, and we are not doing good work.

What Can You Do?

So, perhaps we can’t stop situations like the one I shared with you at the beginning of this talk with the interpreter of color who was innocently walking to her car and confronted discrimination. There is no expectation that we will change the system overnight. But we can start with ourselves. We can start at home!

Allyship Skills

This message is for all of you, the 88%. Develop your allyship skills. Often we use the word ally as a badge, as though it is who we are. I mentioned briefly during the community forum a few nights back a range of different skillsets for allies. On one side, we have avoidance. That’s a skill. You can see oppression happening around you and choose to do nothing. On the other side, we have allyship, which means actively doing anti-oppression work.

Build Cultural Competence

Develop your cultural competence. I realize many people don’t know what that means. I’ve seen many different frameworks that help to describe cultural competency. I have not included that information in this presentation for the sake of time but if you contact me, I am happy to share resources with you. The point is, if you are working with interpreters of color, think about how you are going to connect those interpreters with communities of color. If you are an educator and you are working with interpreters of color, what types of resources are you utilizing in your interpreting program? There are resources out there for you. Are you utilizing the NMIP (National Multicultural Interpreter Project) curriculum to supplement your instruction and as a part of your mentoring resources?  

The NCIEC (National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers) recently released their social justice module for infusion within interpreter preparation programs. Are you incorporating those messages into your curriculum? When you require students to read articles or books, who are the authors? When you invite people of color to come to your classes and workshops to present, do you invite them to discuss race only or do you invite them to talk about the whole of their experiences and who they are? When you extend invitations to people of color, and you only ask them to talk about race, that looks like tokenism to me.

Invest in Social Capital

My closing comment is this.  Invest in social capital for interpreters of color. In short, social capital is a term used to describe the quality of relationships people have within a particular group. If you have good, strong, relationships, and you have a large network within your community to interact with, then your social capital is strong. However, if your relationship ties are weak or your network is small, then your social capital is weak. So in your interpreting programs and in the workshops you teach, when you name RID or NAD, make sure you also name NAOBI, name Mano a Mano, name NBDA, name the Asian Deaf Congress, and the many other organizations of color that are out there. Connect interpreters of color with organizations and communities of color, and while you’re at it, check these organizations out for yourself, too. That is a way for you, the 88%, to partner with us.

Thank you.

 

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Taking Ownership: Defining Our Work As Sign Language Interpreters

As sign language interpreters, we understand the importance of accurately communicating concepts in our choice of words and signs. It’s time to start applying that knowledge to the way we talk about our own work.

Taking Ownership: Defining Our Work As Sign Language Interpreters

Semantics Matter: Using Precise Language

In the field of sign language interpreting, there recently has been a shift toward doing what Napier, McGee, and Goswell (2010) have suggested – naming the actual languages involved in the interpretation. This means that the term “voicing” should not be used as it does not appropriately state what we do when we render a signed utterance into a spoken one. We interpret from ASL into English. Kelly (2004) stated that the term “voicing” is “merely a vocalization of the signs used, not a true interpretation” (p. 1). I have thought about this shift of terminology and it is befitting to better describe what we do as sign language interpreters. That trend can be seen in Interpreting Programs where classes that were once called “Sign to Voice” or “Voice to Sign” have now been renamed “ASL to English” or “English to ASL”.

[Click to view post in ASL]

If you think about it, sign language interpreters are not avatars; we do not have a script that we read off of like voice actors, we do not say exactly what the Deaf consumers with whom we work sign, we interpret. This means that we take into account the pragmatic information about the assignment, the background knowledge, culture, educational level, body language, facial expressions and what is being signed. From all of that, we then interpret what is being said, selecting words that reflect the Deaf consumer’s purpose and are idiomatic to the situation. The goal of a good ASL to English interpretation is to make it sound as natural as possible and to ensure our word choices flow with the communication context taking place.

Culturally Accurate Language Use

Somewhere along the way, sign language interpreters started to use the term “voicing” and this morphed into more than just meaning to interpret from ASL to English; now it is being used to as a synonym for talking (using audible speech) in the interpreting community. This is not how the majority of hearing culture speaks. How often have you heard someone who is not associated with the field of interpreting say, “Is it okay if we voice?” Normally, in hearing culture one may ask, “Is it okay if we talk?” It seems we forget how to speak like those outside of our field.

Sign language interpreters should be considering the hearing consumer as much as they consider the Deaf consumer. The interpretation should be such that neither of the consumers have to re-interpret what was said to make sense. Sign language interpreters should speak in idiomatic terms that sound natural to English speakers. In the hearing world the term “voice” is not typically used as a verb. It is not used to mean “speaking.” As professionals who are supposed to be bilingual and bicultural, we need to know how to make the message sound idiomatic for all parties involved. Kelly (2012) noted that the message needs to “sound or look as normal as possible to the consumers involved in the interaction” (p. 7).

At a Video Relay Service Interpreter Institute (VRSII) Interpreter Educator Symposium, Sharon Neumann Solow made a good point about the term “voicing,” explaining that to many outside of the sign language interpreting field, that term means to have an opinion included. We hear people say, “I want to voice my opinion about. . . . ” As sign language interpreters, we learn that we are not to interject our opinions into our work. When we state “I will be interpreting all communication from ASL to English and from English to ASL,” this clearly defines what we do as interpreters.

At a presentation I attended at Gallaudet, Dirksen Bauman said that he did not know he was “hearing” until he was close to twenty years old (I cannot recall the exact age he gave). For those of us who were not born into the Deaf community, we did not know the term “hearing” before we entered this field . Members of American majority culture do not use that term in their vocabulary. Carla Mathers has noted in her legal trainings that the word “hearing” should not be used when interpreting into English as it holds a completely different meaning in the courts. Again, it is important we are using terms that are used in the communities in which we work. By doing so, we are ensuring the Deaf person sounds natural and the hearing consumers do not have to reinterpret what was just said because they are not familiar with the terms used by the interpreting community.

Differences or Disservices?

If we are not using terms that are used by the hearing majority when we interpret into English, are we truly matching the speaker in a way that can be clearly understood by all? Are we doing a disservice to the Deaf consumers by making them sound “different”? If we are, are we truly bilingual? Are we truly interacting and collaborating with others in words and phrases that clearly explain the work we do?  I know that I personally can think of a few times when I used a term such as “voicing” or “hearing” and the hearing consumer asked me about it. Those terms are not native sounding in English to those outside of our field. This does a disservice to the participants. Terms are used that are unfamiliar to the hearing clients which often reflect negatively on the Deaf consumers.

Jessica Bentley Sassaman
Jessica Bentley-Sassaman

We are active participants in the interpretation.  As Robert Lee stated in his StreetLeverage article, “Interpret + Person: Presentation of Self and Sign Language Interpreters”, “by not utilizing the cultural and linguistic identities we have to communicate between the Deaf and Hearing parties more naturally, we end up creating more problems.”

Over the past few years, the trend of accurately naming our work – interpreting from ASL to English – has been increasing as we work to elevate our profession. It seems that, at times, we ignore the needs of the hearing consumers and focus solely on the needs of Deaf consumers. Both are equally important and deserve messages that are delivered in ways  that are readily understood. All parties deserve an interpretation that is conveyed in a natural way.

Application

To raise the status of our profession, we should challenge each other to speak in terms that precisely state what we do. Change does not come quickly or, at times, easily. The challenge is for all of us to start owning our work and stating what we do: we interpret into English. This can be accomplished in many simple ways. When you see the sign “VOICE”, interpret it as “speaking in English” or “spoken English” or “interpreting into English” (depending on the context). When you see the sign “VOICE-OFF”, interpret it as “there will be no speaking English” or “there will be no talking” or “do not use spoken English”. The same can be said with the sign HEARING: this can be interpreted as “people who can hear”. Teachers who work in interpreting programs should encourage students to start speaking in terms that are readily understood by the hearing populations with whom they will work. Talking to other colleagues in the profession about the work and looking at it from a more objective point of view will help all of us improve our skills. The change starts with you. We interpret from ASL into English.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What resistance may there be to stating what we do?
  2. Are you willing to change how you speak?
  3. What positive impacts can you see happening based on this slight shift in how we own our work?
  4. What other terms do we (interpreters and the Deaf community) use that could be stated more clearly?

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Related Posts

Sign Language Interpreters’ Attire Leaves a First Lasting Impression by Jackie Emmart, Matt Etemad-Gilbertson, Kristy Moroney,  Lena Dumont, SooJin Chu, Laura O’Callahan, and Will English.

Do Sign Langauge Interpreter Accents Compromise Comprehension? by Carol Padden

Sign Language Interpreters and the Quest for Cultural Competence by Marlene Elliott

References:

Kelly, J. E. (2004). ASL-to-English interpretation: Say it like they mean it. Alexandria, VA: RID Press.

Kelly, J. E. (2012), Interactive Interpreting: Let’s Talk. Alexandria, VA: RID Press.

Napier J., McKee, R., & Goswell, D. (2010). Sign language interpreting: Theory & practice in Australia & New Zealand. Sydney: Federation Press.

Bienvenu, MJ (2014). Bilingualism are sign language interpreters bilinguals? http://www.streetleverage.com/2015/05/bilingualism-are-sign-language-interpreters-bilinguals/

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Deaf Interpreter Conference Finish: Do Do Now?

Ray Kenney presented Deaf Interpreter Conference Finish: Do Do Now? at StreetLeverage – X | RID Conference 2015His presentation provides an insider’s view from the historic Deaf Interpreter Conference held in June 2015.

You can find the PPT deck for his presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English rendition of Ray’s talk from StreetLeverage – X | RID Conference 2015.  We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Ray’s talk directly.]

StreetLeverage – X

I would like to thank Sandra Maloney, Betty M. Colonomos, and Erica West Oyedele, the presenters before me here at StreetLeverage-X. They said many of the things I had planned to say, so I do not need to repeat it.

How many of you here today went to the Deaf Interpreter Conference (DIC)?  I see quite a few. Forgive me for doing this on stage but I am proud to show this off…this is my tee shirt from the conference. It helps me feel connected. (To see the StreetLeverage coverage of the conference, please click here.)

Big thanks to all the committee members, Jimmy Beldon and Janis Cole for taking the lead to make the Deaf Interpreter Conference a reality. The committee communicated only with Glide using ASL – no emails or texting. The committee would get anywhere from few messages a day to hundreds a day as the Conference drew nearer. They accomplished this huge task in less than 6 months.

Deaf Interpreter Conference

This historic conference, the first of its kind, took place June 20-24, 2015 at St. Catherine University, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Everyone involved was Deaf, the only hearing people I saw were probably the cafeteria staff.

The Conference drew 208 attendees: some CDIs, DIs with experience, and others with no experience. Many of the attendees without experience wanted to become DIs but were not sure how to do it. The DIC had three workshop tracks: Advanced, Beginner and Mixed, so there was something for everyone who attended. Topics presented there are similar what you would find at the RID Conference: Legal, Medical, the mechanics of interpreting, where to go for training; detailed, specialized topics as well as more global topics were covered.

On opening day, the conference held a reframing workshop where we came up with CELT. This concept became our theme for the rest of the conference. I will explain that in a moment, but first understand that when we first arrived, there was a bit of awkwardness as we met, discovered who was there, why they were there, etc. CELT is Compassion, Empathy, Listening and Transparency, and it became our motto for the week. Though the conference only lasted 5 days, it felt like a week!

Another consistent theme that ran throughout the week was the need to educate- educate Hearing interpreters, consumers, everyone.

Characteristics of Deaf Interpreters (DIs) and Hearing Interpreters (HIs)

I have two slides I will be showing you comparing Deaf interpreters (DIs) to Hearing interpreters (HIs).

Themes: DI

What are some characteristics of DIs? DIs are Lifelong Interpreters: we have been interpreters most of our lives. I remember when I was about seven years old, I was in class with several Deaf classmates. The teacher was trying to teach us some lesson. As soon as the teacher turned her back, someone would ask me what she had just said. We would discuss/collaborate/interpret the lesson. We found that was a common experience shared by many of us at DIC: we all relied on each other to understand what was said. These experiences ingrained that role in us and led most of us to continue the practice in the form of the role of DI.

Deaf norms:

I am sure many of you are familiar with Deaf Norms, but one example is the need to have collaborative discussions to understand what is said. This is not true for Hearing people. This dialogical approach is utilized by most experienced DIs as we work with consumers.

Although a Deaf person commonly engages in conversation with the DI, this is not typical for many HIs. While the DI is engaged with the Deaf person, the DI takes in more messages and questions via the HI. We simply keep the dialogue going and incorporate the new information in our conversation. The concept of an interpreter as the conveyor of messages between consumers, without dialogue, is not the norm with DIs. Nor is the idea that if the Deaf person doesn’t understand something – too bad!  This shift to a dialogic approach to interpreting was validated for me at the conference.

In our conversations through the week, we noted a major difference when a DI interprets the Deaf person’s message to the HI. With a DI present, the Deaf person can see the DI’s interpretation and, if needed, correct the information/message. If a DI is not present, the Deaf person never knows if they were understood or if their message was properly interpreted to the Hearing person. This is one critical piece that is missing in more typical interpreting situations. This lack of access has lead to much abuse of power and privilege.

In discussions about our expectations of the HI, particularly in terms of language, there was no consensus among DIC attendees. When considering DIs’ preferences in terms of the language used by HI, styles of interpreting vary from job to job. Some assignments may be at a much higher register than others. The message is the same regardless of how it is conveyed.

Conference attendees also explored ways DIs/HIs might collaborate as a team. One point of consensus was that team members must make agreements prior to the job.

Themes: HI

Ray Kenney
Ray Kenney

Of course, much discussion took place about Hearing interpreters throughout the week. Complaints were raised, for sure, but I want to focus on the qualities of HIs that enhance our work as DIs. We are all learning to be collaborators in the interpreting process.

One practice DIs appreciate is when the HI trusts the DI to handle the on-site introductions. This approach alleviates the awkwardness that occurs when the HI tries to explain “who we are,” etc., while signing simultaneously. The DI can introduce the team and explain the process while the HI interprets providing simultaneous explanation to both the Hearing and Deaf person. Developing a rapport between the HI and DI is key for this kind of confidence to develop.

I want to acknowledge Amy Williamson for sharing the concept of “Brokering” at the 2015 Street Leverage Live event I attended in Boston. She provided a term for what we do: this process of working together to communicate the information/message to both Deaf and Hearing parties.

Another characteristic DIs appreciate is the willingness to “Pre-Brief” before a job.  I don’t think “pre-brief” is a word in English, but I am using it to describe the meeting that should take place before we begin to interpret. Typically, DIs also like to debrief after the job is completed.

How much time do I have left? (Presenter asks timekeeper at the session.)

StreetLeverage – X Reflection

I want to reflect on the previous presenters and how their presentations connect to what took place at DIC.

Sandra Maloney talked about the “Extraction Mindset” – thinking outside of the box and being open to new ideas. This relates to a wish many DIs expressed at DIC: DIs wish to be welcomed by HIs. We want to work with you. Yes, DIs have our preferences but we recognize the need to be more flexible and learn to work with all HIs.

Betty Colonomos’ concept of gatekeeper is also relevant. At DIC, we discussed this very topic and believe it should be the responsibility of the DIs to manage gatekeeping. Invite DIs to be part of the team and we will take care of the gatekeeping. The key word Betty uses is respect. Respect the fact that DIs are here. Mutual respect for each other and our work will go a long way instead of being treated like extra, unnecessary baggage.

Erica West Oyedele’s topic, People of Color, brought to mind many similarities between POC and Deaf people. Like the Black community, Deaf people, including myself, are angry. We are finding power in talking with each other. I have had HIs describe the sigh of relief they hear from the Deaf person when they realize a DI is there. I’ve experienced this sigh of relief before going into court when the Deaf consumer realized that I was deaf and would be there for him. That should tell you something.

In Closing

The need to educate is not new. Universities, even in the present day, have resisted including Deaf people in their interpreter education programs. This needs to stop. Deaf interpreting must be included in interpreter preparation programs, both in training Deaf people to become interpreters and in teaching the hearing students what DIs do and how to work with us. If you open the door to DIs, we will help all interpreters improve by learning how we can team and work together. As it is today, I personally do not know how to team with some of you HIs.

I guarantee you will be seeing more of us, both out there in the community and at our conferences. It is unfortunate that the 2015 RID conference fell right after DIC as many DIs were not able to attend both conferences.

Thank you.

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Performance Testing Suspended: What Else Happened at the 2015 RID Conference?

A look back at the 2015 RID National Conference reveals that recent moves by leadership and by membership have made the workings of the organization more inclusive – and more controversial.

Community Forum 2015As the noise of Bourbon Street fades to allow a framing of the developments at the 2015 RID conference held August 8-12th in New Orleans, LA, questions linger regarding the suspension of performance testing. With some time and the visibility sought from the results of the risk assessment expected in November, we hope for greater clarity for the path forward. For more coverage on the credentialing moratorium click here.

The Future Redefined

Though the suspension decision made by the RID leadership is in question, the membership in attendance recharted the future of the organization through a number of historic endorsements. For details on these and other motions during the business meeting, click here.

ASL Adopted as Official Conference Language

American Sign Language (ASL) was formally adopted as the official language of RID regional and national conferences. This is set to begin at the 2016 RID Regional Conferences. Note, ASL interpretation will be provided in workshops and presentations focused on spoken language.

This motion, Motion A, passed with a count of 249 of 368 in favor. Upon the reading of the results there was an audible expression of relief from proponents.

Continuing Education Gets an Injection of Power, Privilege, and Oppression

Continuing Education within the RID Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) will be adjusted to include a 1.0 Power, Privilege, and Oppression CEU requirement. Of the 6.0 required Professional Studies CEUs [RID requires 8.0 total CEUs per development cycle], 1.0 will now be required to be on topics of Power, Privilege and Oppression.

The discussions were lengthy and spirited. The motion required 186 votes in support. It narrowly passed with 188 in favor, 89 opposed and 15 abstentions.

A More Inclusive Approach to Publishing the JOI and RID Views

In light of the recent announcement of the RID Views going strictly digital, the membership in attendance endorsed publication of the JOI and the RID Views in both ASL and English. The dual format approach to publication is set to begin with the first digital copy of the RID Views and the next volume of the JOI.

A call for the vote left a number of waiting members unable to comment. The motion, Motion L, carried with 188 votes in support and 56 in opposition.

Leadership Commitments

Despite an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among many members, the RID leadership affirmed their commitment to the future governance of RID from the stage at the conference and in interviews with StreetLeverage.

Ritchie Bryant

Increasing The Number of Deaf People and People of Color within RID

Ritchie BryantRitchie Bryant, new Deaf Member-at-Large, sits down with Brandon Arthur and shares his perspective on increasing the number of Deaf people and People of Color within RID.


LaVona Andrew

The Importance of Representing the Perspective of the Membership to the RID Board

LaVona AndrewLaVona Andrew sits down with Brandon Arthur and shares her perspective on representing the interest of the membership to the RID Board of Directors.



Lewis Merkin

When Will RID get a New Executive Director?

Lewis Merkin

Lewis Merkin sits down with Brandon Arthur and shares where RID is with hiring a new Executive Director.




Dawn Witcher

Dawn Witcher Reflects on her Term as RID President 

Dawn Witcher

Dawn Witcher sits down with Brandon Arthur and reflects on her term as RID President and shares what she hopes to accomplish over the next 2 years.

Wing Butler

How is RID’s Financial Health?

Wing Butler

Wing Butler sits down with Brandon Arthur and shared insight on the financial health of RID.



A Discourse Framework

The format of the conference offered daily sessions promoting social and political awareness, broader inclusion, and an exploration of the challenges facing the field of sign language interpreting. These provocative, introspective forums served as the platform to elevate the level of discourse at the conference and extend a blueprint to attendees for use in their local communities.

Please find an overview of the dialogue that assisted in framing the discourse during the conference.

Community Forum

This session addressed a range of issues including generational differences, the implications of the Deafhood movement for interpreters, the power of our words and exploring the difference between having access and having to ask for access, our interface with the emerging field of CDI’s and future trends in the Deaf and interpreting communities. For comprehensive microblog coverage, click here.

Social Justice Roundtable

The Social Justice Roundtable encouraged participants to engage in meaningful exchanges around anti-oppression and social justice issues. For comprehensive microblog coverage, click here.

StreetLeverage – X

This fast moving, interactive session was designed to spark reflection, critical thinking and personal accountability among sign language interpreters on issues of possessing an extraction mindset, impacts of power and privilege, dedicating space for Deaf Interpreters, and the importance of industry gatekeepers.  For comprehensive microblog coverage, click here.

The Big Think

The Big ThinkThis session engaged panelists and audience members in a collective analysis of a few of the challenges troubling the field of sign language interpreting and how they might be addressed. For comprehensive microblog coverage, click here.

Session Perspective

The various conference sessions reflected a broad range of perspectives within the field as well as  a diversity of thought and practice that exists among practitioners and educators. In addition to the standard glass of social media served up by the StreetLeverage social ninjas, they also did a deeper dive on a number of conference sessions.

To view these session summaries, click here.

Active Reinvestment

The StreetLeverage endeavor to extend the 2015 RID Conference to the many dedicated interpreters unable to attend would not have been possible without those possessing ample helpings of generosity, reciprocity, and humility.

Special thanks to the following organizations and individuals for their vision to actively reinvest in their communities.

Sponsors

 

ASL Services

Deaf Access Solutions

PSLI







Social Ninjas

Jean Miller, Lance Pickett, Amy Williamson, Deborah Perry, Kate O’Regan, Dan Cook, Sean Benson, Liz Hollingsworth, and Amanda Moyer

RID

We are grateful for the vision of Dawn Witcher, Anna Witter-Merithew, and Tina Maggio who endorsed the StreetLeverage endeavor to extend the important dialogue from the 2015 RID Conference to those seeking indicators of change and progress within the field.

In the End

Although the discourse of the conference may be overshadowed by the bombshell announcement of the suspension of performance testing, a level of momentum has been generated by the events at the 2015 RID Conference in New Orleans.

Attendees appeared to leave with a greater sense of purpose, an awareness of the gravity of the work ahead, and a new found courage to engage in the reflection required to redefine the field, organization, and what it means to be a sign language interpreter.

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Implicit & Explicit Meaning: Implications for Sign Language Interpreters

Patrick Graybill presented Implicit & Explicit Meaning: Implications for Sign Language Interpreters at StreetLeverage – Live 2015 | Boston. His talk examines how authentic meanings can be implicit or explicit and explores some of the guiding principles for uncovering meaning.

You can find the PPT deck for his presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English translation of Patrick’s talk from StreetLeverage – Live 2015 | Boston.  We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Patrick’s talk directly.]

National Treasure

Good morning, everyone! It’s difficult for me to start after having watched that tribute. I’m truly stunned. To call me a national treasure, however, could be a dubious honor. I have to ask myself whether this means that I’m now a fossil or if I’m still going strong. But, after watching the video [Aaron Brace video tribute to Patrick Graybill], I must say that every time I saw Aaron Brace, I was inspired. I simply planted the seed. That’s all! What happened from then on was not my doing alone.

Freedom to be Authentic

This weekend I’ve come to the StreetLeverage conference, but I’m not an interpreter. I’m just a Deaf person, so at first I didn’t know why I would come to such an event. However, yesterday and this morning helped me understand that I can cry. I don’t tend to cry, but I did, because here at StreetLeverage, ASL is allowed to come first. It’s placed above English, and that makes me feel free, inspired, like I can simply be! I feel like I did years and years ago when I was at the National Symposium on Sign Language Research and Teaching (NSSLRT) here in Boston. Prior to that I had been performing a one-man show for the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD), and on tour a voice actor would stand behind me and interpret my lines. While I was on stage, I would worry the whole time that I might jump a line. What would the voice actor do? Would he follow me? I was utterly thrown off by this worry during my performances. I couldn’t concentrate at all. Now, Dennis Cokely was at the NSSLRT. Like me, Dennis also planted a seed that grew. He had a Lexus; he had a condo. I didn’t have these things, so I watched him and learned. At the NSSLRT I was slated to do my one-man show, and I asked Dennis who would voice interpret for me. He said, “No one. It’s not necessary.” I said, “Wait a minute! It’s important that interpreters in the audience understand me! There has to be a voice actor behind me on stage!” He said, “No, there doesn’t.” That evening, after the day’s events, I performed my show, and I felt unbelievably free. I was emotionally free. I had no worries about the interpreter behind me. That experience had an enormous impact on me, and it convinced me of something that I’ll share with you now.

As I said, that evening on stage I had no worries, no internal distractions or discomforts to impede my performance. I want interpreters to have that same experience. I want you to feel honest inside, to feel free, to feel that if you make a mistake, you can carry on. I want you to feel in your work that you’re not merely donning a mask and pretending to be something, but that you are being authentic as a person.

Implicit and Explicit Meaning

Language has multiple meanings. Sometimes it carries explicit meaning, which is easily grasped and easily understood. Sometimes language conveys implicit meaning, which is murky, abstract, and difficult to encode. Perhaps a good word for this type of meaning is “invisible”. This hidden meaning wants to be made clear to the world. “Here I am! Under here! Bring me out!” Interpreters study these meanings, and they often spend more time looking at explicit meaning than implicit meaning. However, when they understand the implicit meanings, their interpretations are far more honest, clear, and confident. If they stay at the surface without plumbing the depths of meaning, the message is not made clear, and we as consumers have to work very hard to uncover the meaning ourselves. That’s what I want to address with you today.

Yesterday, Marvin Miller presented on Deafhood and the importance of having an internal sense of identity. Interpreters must have their own internal sense of identity, too – their “interpreterhood”, if you will. My journey as a teacher, as an actor, and as a member of the church began with this internal sense of identity. It must start from an authentic place within.

Gulliver’s Travels

I grew up in a residential school, which taught me one particular way of thinking. I had to adopt my teachers’ perspectives and follow their lead. Then at Gallaudet, when I was about 20 or 21 years old, I began to grapple with my identity. I knew I wanted to be an actor, but Gallaudet didn’t offer a major in theater. Acting was considered extracurricular there, which was fine, but I had to choose a major. I thought perhaps I could pursue teaching, but Gallaudet didn’t offer a major in education either. I had to wait until graduate school to study education. So, as I was weighing my options, I spoke with Dr. Robert F. Panara who was a late-deafened professor. He said, “You love acting. You love reading. You should major in English. You can read and study plays.” And being the good boy that I was, I followed his advice. I took classes in English, and in one, we read Gulliver’s Travels. I understood it superficially, thinking that the story of the giants and the miniature people was merely cute. But as we discussed the book in class, and different perspectives were raised, I became confused. These characters were symbols representing the struggle between the British and the Irish. This concept really threw me. From then on, I grew to understood that a text contains multiple perspectives.

Much later, I learned how to translate the Bible, and fortunately, I didn’t have to struggle alone in that task. I counted on MJ Bienvenu, Marie Phillip, Freda Norman, linguist Charlotte Baker-Shenk, consultant Kevin Kreutzer, as well as a hearing biblical scholar who had expertise in Hebrew and Greek. We all worked together, examining and uncovering the layers of meaning in the Bible and bringing them to the surface. I was at once intellectually and emotionally stimulated. I loved the Bible! Not because of its piety, but because people from biblical times experienced the same struggles, the same emotions, and the same depth of thinking that we do today. Literature contains these same themes. Gulliver’s Travels contains these same themes. From that point on, this work has been fun! Uncovering implicit meaning is fun, and I want you interpreters to experience that, too. It’s fun! Life is good. Why waste it arguing? Dig into the deeper meanings, and do it together, not alone.

The Semantics of Boston Strong

Let’s look at this symbol in terms of its explicit and implicit meanings. On Friday, Patrick Costello exclaimed, “Boston Strong!” Firstly, that statement had a certain prosody. We know some of its explicit meaning, but we can explore it more deeply. What does Boston mean? What does Strong mean?

I don’t have a PhD in semantics. I am not a linguist. But I have consulted on the interpretations of plays with Aaron Brace among others, and we focus on examining meaning at the implicit level. We work to uncover deeper meanings, and people have often said to me, “You should teach a course in semantics!” I’ve always demurred, but over the years, despite the fact that I have no degree, I have gained a lot of experience with interpretation and translation. I’ve come to realize that teaching is not what’s important. Gaining experience is. The work of deep analysis, digging for and unearthing implicit meaning, is perhaps where the new national treasure lies. Making explicit those implicit meanings allows us to present a clearer message. From there, we can doff our masks, dispense with ambiguity, and be free to render an authentic message. Whether you’re an interpreter, an actor, or a teacher, the key is communication, and clearer is better. Don’t you agree?

Levels of Meaning

There are fours levels of meaning, and I imagine you’ve studied them and know what they are. I find them fascinating. Take Street Leverage, for example. We have the word, street. Taken alone, what does this word mean? I’m here at this conference and I see no street. What about the word, leverage? Maybe this is a common word for hearing people, but as a Deaf person, I see the words “street” and “leverage”, and I don’t get it. Now, at the phrasal level, what is Street Leverage? What does this phrase mean? I still don’t know. At the sentential level, I can look at the words that make up the mission of StreetLeverage and begin to see that it has to do with interpreters improving their skills, developing a sense of identity, and advancing the profession. But it’s not until I look at the level of the text as a whole that I can understand what StreetLeverage is all about, both intellectually and emotionally.

We can do the same exercise with the expression, Boston Strong. What is Boston? What is Strong?

Mayor Menino’s Speech: Semantic Levels

This is an excerpt from the mayor’s speech made on the day after the marathon bombings in Boston. We see the word Boston in the text. What was in the mayor’s mind when he said that word? What did he mean by Boston? Let’s look further.

Patrick Graybill
Patrick Graybill

We may think of a city when we see the word, Boston. But can a city be strong? “We are one Boston.” Interesting. We are a city? Are we buildings? No, we are people. Okay, so Boston cannot exist without us as people. Boston needs us. “One”. Hmmm. The paragraph begins, “Good morning. And it is a good morning…” Do these two iterations of “good morning” mean the same thing? No, they don’t. We know this intuitively. Obviously, the mayor meant the first as a greeting. The second is a statement on the greatness of the morning due to the fact that we are together, united. Boston is us. We are one. And the people of this city are not breaking down. We are resilient. Intrusions will not budge us. Challenges cannot disrupt us. We are strong. This is what is meant by Boston Strong. To simply interpret this concept into ASL with the signs for “Boston” and “strong” is not enough. It’s also not about how to do it correctly or who decides what the appropriate signs are. As we take time to engage in discussions about its meaning, the right signs will emerge. It’s not as though one person can come up with the correct expression of this in ASL. That would be impossible. It requires that people work together to construct its translation.

Responsibilities for Translators

I’ve been a translator for about 25 years. It is imperative for us to look for and uncover implicit meaning. It is our responsibility! We must sift through ambiguities and render a whole, truthful, completely clear picture of what is there in the source text. Then when I deliver the translated text to a group of Deaf people, its message must be understood as equal to, not lesser than, that of the source text. Equivalence is our ultimate responsibility.

Genuine Confidence

Interpreters have the very same responsibility that translators do. As you acquire more skills in translation work, your confidence will grow. Your interpretations will become strong, and you’ll astound people with the clarity of your work. You won’t leave us looking at each other trying to discern what you mean. No more of that! Here at StreetLeverage, as I experienced yesterday and today, it’s happening. It’s possible. There’s no need for voice interpreters. I’m standing here today, and I’m not wondering what the interpreter is doing. I don’t have to look down to check on an interpreter. All of us, Deaf and hearing alike, are using ASL here. We’re all on equal footing. It’s a strange world for me, but it’s the best. It’s simply the best.

Teamwork

Lastly, interpreters do not have to do this work alone! Together, we can do the analyses, make mistakes, and learn. Together, we can take on this task. Moreover, it isn’t only for the “on” interpreter and the “off” interpreter to tackle a translation. Deaf people and hearing people must work together on this. In my workshop this afternoon, Deaf and hearing people will work together to translate a text. This translation work serves as a tool, since interpreters on the job must do it simultaneously in real time. You can practice using this tool from time to time, in the evenings over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, in front of a nice dessert. You can sit in a circle, look at a text, and work on uncovering its implicit meanings. Discussing it together, the hearing interpreters can analyze the English text while the Deaf interpreters determine how best to express those concepts in ASL. Working together, our world will surely grow brighter! Good luck to you all!

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UpCycling the CPC: Role Space and the Reasonable Interpreter Standard

In search of the “Reasonable Interpreter Standard”… Re-thinking the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct with a fresh look at current best practices, recognition of role-space, advocacy and social media ethics.

UpCycle the CPCHurray! The RID Code of Professional Conduct Review Committee report came out on 6/23/2015! Many of us are eagerly awaiting a revised CPC. After reading through it, I felt inspired to sit down and draft a document which constitutes my approach to the intricacies of ethical practice, both philosophically and pragmatically, in my daily community sign language interpreting work.

[Click to view post in ASL]

This proposed draft is the fruit of fantastic input from a variety of sources (listed below) and also from the sometimes painful juxtaposition of the perceived proper role of a professional interpreter and an outdated CPC. As an interpreter who works for a variety of agencies and entities over a large geographic area, this proposed CPC is more compatible with my collective experiences over the past 26 years as an ASL interpreting practitioner and attempts to address many of the concerns raised in the recent CPC Review Committee report.

Your input and perspectives are invaluable! Share your thoughts on this important topic that has far reaching implications for individual interpreters and the community at large.

Thank you!

Code of Professional Conduct for ASL Interpreters (DRAFT)

Preamble

Interpreting is an art and service profession. Interpreters work to provide access for individuals who do not share a common language or language mode. To demonstrate their commitment to the technical as well as relational components of the work to remove language barriers, respect cultural norms and promote shared communication, RID Certified American Sign Language Interpreters shall adhere to the following professional standards that both guide interpreter conduct and protect the public trust in certified interpreters.

Applicability

All RID Certified Interpreters are bound to comply with this Code of Ethics. Interpreting students and interns are encouraged to adhere to this Code as pre-professionals, in conjunction with supervision by RID Certified interpreters, mentors and instructors.

Tenets

1.  Accurate and Complete Interpretation

Each participant’s source language should be faithfully rendered in a manner that conserves and conveys all meaningful elements of the speaker’s message and intent into the target language. A natural prosody that reflects the tone, style and register of the speaker should be employed. The interpreter shall strive for the highest standards of accuracy to enable the parties to clearly communicate with one another and avoid misunderstandings. The interpreter shall make repairs promptly and discreetly. If at any point an interpreter is unable to fulfill this tenet, the interpreter has a duty to either decline or remove her/himself from the assignment. Sight translation of forms and documents is within the scope of practice. Consecutive, simultaneous, team or relay interpreting with an intermediary interpreter are all valid approaches to this task, and the interpreter shall use professional discernment to request a team interpreter to effectuate communication.

2.  Commitment to Autonomy

The interpreter shall constantly strive to support full autonomy of the participants. While some situations may require the interpreter to make adjustments such as improved positioning, lighting or other logistical considerations, the primary focus will be to facilitate  participant autonomy. The interpreter shall avoid interjecting actively into the conversation or message. Exceptions include utterances which constitute social pleasantries, responding to direct questions, management of the interpreted interaction such as checking in with the parties to ensure the interpretation is clearly conveyed and accessible, clarification of content and professional courtesies.   Interpretation is a group activity creating a shared experience, and the interpreter has a duty to interact in ways that are socially responsive, culturally and linguistically inclusive and also maintain an overarching commitment to participant autonomy.

3.  Confidentiality

Privileged or confidential information acquired in the course of interpreting or preparing for an assignment shall not be disclosed by the interpreter without authorization. Data and records shall be handled using current industry standards including password protected computer files, locked cabinets and shredding of obsolete documents. HIPAA laws or any other federal, state or local laws governing information management shall be adhered to strictly. Interpreters work in a variety of settings for a variety of entities. Case studies, which are representative of repeated occurrences within interpreted interactions over time, can be shared with peers for the purpose of analysis and professional development in the same manner that other professionals conduct continuing education with the goal of improved service outcomes. Interpreters may make public comment on public information.

4.  Professional Demeanor

Interpreters shall conduct themselves in a professional manner that engenders respect for all parties. This applies to standards of dress which are conducive to a visually accessible interpretation. For most interactions business casual is appropriate. Identification such as a badge is recommended to assist the parties in readily identifying the working interpreter.  Examples of professional conduct include prompt confirmation of availability, fulfillment of confirmed assignments and punctuality. The interpreter shall maintain appropriate professional boundaries and separate personal from work interactions out of respect for all parties. Social media shall be used judiciously with consideration for all parties with particular attention to maintenance of standards of confidentiality. Obtain permission from all parties before posting shared experiences on social media or online.

5. Collegiality

Interpreters shall strive to work effectively, professionally and in good faith with all colleagues, mentoring partners, interpreting interns and students. Team interpreters shall caucus as needed before, during and post-assignment to ensure an optimal interpretation. Colleagues shall be approached directly, privately, one-on-one, to address any concerns or breaches of ethical conduct. Filing of grievances shall be made only after all other standard conflict resolution methods have been unsuccessful. Every effort shall be made to maintain open, accountable and positive relationships with peers that support full communication access for all parties.

6.  Preparation

Interpreters shall make all necessary efforts to prepare adequately for assignments. This includes obtaining preparation materials such as speeches, meeting agendas, documents, textbooks, police reports, etc., that will promote the most complete and accurate interpretation.

7.  Conflicts of Interest and Role-Space

Interpreters shall avoid conflicts of interest and dual roles which result in diminished capacity to devote full attention to the task of interpreting. The concept of a conflict of interest is well established, and interpreters shall adhere to norms of conflict of interest avoidance, both perceived and actual. Unanticipated conflicts of interest shall be disclosed to the parties promptly. Complete neutrality, or the absence of vested interest is not achievable.  Interpreters are dedicated to effective communication for all parties. However, interpreters can commit to fully participate in the role-space of interpreter to facilitate communication in order to support the parties in reaching their mutual goals of shared exchange.

8.  Professional Development

Interpreters shall maintain RID certification, completing required CEUs within each cycle, and also engage in supplemental continuing education, mentoring, pro-bono work, etc., to promote the furtherance of knowledge and skills within a framework of social justice. Membership and participation in professional organizations is strongly encouraged.

9.  Advocacy and Resource Referral

Interpreters are in a unique position as functional bi-cultural bilinguals. Interpreters shall provide referrals to available and appropriate community resources to support equal access. Interpreters may engage in advocacy services in settings that are separate from the interpreting function and that fall within standards of acceptable professional conduct and do not constitute a conflict of interest.

10.  Functional Maintenance

Interpreting is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. Interpreters shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that all members of the interpreting team have adequate supports, including breaks, to promote health and longevity in the interpreting field. Interpreters shall decline or discontinue assignments if working conditions are not safe, healthy or conducive to interpreting.

11.  Business Practices

Shelly Hansen
Shelly Hansen

Interpreters shall adhere to the highest standards of ethical business practices which include but are not limited to accurate invoicing, charging reasonable fees for services rendered which constitute a livable wage, payment of taxes, maintenance of licenses and professional liability insurance, etc. Interpreters shall engage in pro-bono interpreting. Interpreters shall refrain from using confidential interpreted information for personal, monetary or professional gain or for the benefit or gain of personal or professional affiliations or entities. Interpreters shall avoid interpreting in settings which involve payment terms that are inconsistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other federal or state law or local statute prohibiting discrimination.

12.  RID ED: K-12

RID Certified ED: K-12 interpreters shall adhere to the most current version of the EIPA Guidelines of Professional Conduct for Educational Interpreters when working in K-12 educational settings.

13.  Court Certified Interpreters

Legal interpreters have an additional level of ethical accountability to the courts and judicial system. Interpreters qualified to work in legal settings by either federal or state regulations or by virtue of RID legal credentialing shall prioritize the applicable court interpreter oath and timely access to due process. Legal interpreters shall strive to comply with current best practices and make statements on the record, requests, disclosures and recommendations that represent current best practices for legal interpreters.

14.  Adherence to Federal, State and Local Law

Interpreters shall abide by all federal, state and local laws which supersede this Code of Professional Conduct.   Interpreters shall fulfill all mandatory reporting duties and respond to subpoenas.

Reasonable Interpreter Standard

No illustrative behaviors are included. All tenets shall be considered using the reasonable professional interpreter standard. If an action, engaged in repeatedly, would promote:

  1. increased autonomy of the parties
  2. effective communication exchanges
  3. encourage public trust in the interpreter’s services

by actions taken in good faith effort adherence to these core tenets, the behavior should characterize that of a reasonable professional interpreter. For further assistance, please contact the RID Ethics Committee.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Forget about dream vacations…What is your dream CPC?
  2. How do you want to see social media addressed collectively?
  3. Why is a succinct CPC preferable to a 5 page test-prep document?

 

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References:

Llewellyn-Jones, P. & R.G. Lee (2014) Redefining the Role of the Community interpreter: The concept of role-space. Carlton-le-Moorland, UK: SLI Press.

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.

EIPA: Guidelines for Professional Conduct

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q (2011). Context-based ethical reasoning in interpreting: A demand control schema perspective. Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 5(1), 155-182.

 

Collegial Assistance:

Thank you to Xenia Woods, along with the Street Leverage staff, for their willingness to review and provide feedback and edits on this submission! Thank you also to Mr. Ed Alletto for his insightful legal trainings and gentle but direct prompting.

Footnotes:

Q:  Why aren’t there any definitions?
A: Unnecessary as this applies to the RID Certified Interpreters.

Q: Why not include the section about “representing qualifications accurately”?
A: Because it is already illegal to misrepresent yourself and this CPC only applies to RID Certified Interpreters

Q:  Why not address VRI/VRS?
A: Unnecessary as this applies to RID Certified interpreters regardless of venue.  Employment requirements are separate from a Code of Professional Conduct, which applies to members of a professional group.

Q:  Why not more illustrative behaviors?
A:  A CPC should be succinct.  This covers the core tenets and should be interpreted using the reasonable interpreter standard, which this version makes more explicit and should strengthen the application of this CPC.   It is not possible to list all applicable illustrative behaviors. It is possible to provide ethical principles with guidelines for making determinations that will result in ethical conduct.  See Model Code of Professional Responsibility for Interpreters in the Judiciary for an example of this format.

Q: Why not discuss the Demand Control Schema?
A: In my opinion, DCS is a is a tool used to manage the interpreting interactions, but is not appropriate in a CPC. Individuals can engage in behaviors that do not match up with the CPC, and then state a need to use certain controls because of demands that are the result of earlier poor choices that could have been avoided. The CPC should stand above the DCS, which then can be used to comply with the CPC. [Edit 8/6/15.]

Q: Why not include a separate tenet for medical interpreters?
A: This may be necessary at a future date if a separate medical certification is added by RID.  At the moment this CPC along with HIPAA laws and contracting terms provide sufficient ethical guidance. (For example: no unsupervised access to clients, and stepping out of exam rooms when patients need additional privacy.)

Q: Why not make this binding for students/interns?
A:  The CPC can only be binding for certified members, who can participate in grievance procedures, be sanctioned and have their professional certifications suspended or revoked. Students may, for example, have a course requirement to adhere to the CPC in order to participate in an internship placement, but do not have a professional duty to adhere to the CPC until achieving certified status.  The number of non-RID certified interpreters working in the field continues to decline, as states adopt requirements for licensure that are predicated upon RID certification. The onus is on the RID Certified interpreter to guide the student/intern to adhere to the CPC.  See the ABA Model Rules for Professional Conduct Rule 5.3 for an example of this supervisory relationship.

 

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Critical Path: A Reboot of Sign Language Interpreter Education

It’s time for a reboot of sign language interpreter education.  Two year interpreting programs should become pre-professional programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree in interpreting.

Critical Path: A Reboot of Sign Language Interpreter EducationAs professional sign language interpreters and sign language interpreter educators, we all understand the difficult work we are tasked with and we recognize when it’s working and when it’s not. Recently, four such professionals met over a three-day period to think about the current state of interpreter education and how sign language interpreter preparation needs to change. Each of us in that group of four brought differing experiences to the table and more professional hats than we care to count. We believe that many in the field have known this conversation is desperately needed, but more than that, it is time to act.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Our group includes interpreter educators, a Deaf professional, an interpreter educator with Deaf parents, a parent of Deaf children, and a leader in a post-secondary interpreter education program. We worry about the skills of the interpreter who arrives to interpret for our Deaf mother and father, about whether our Deaf children will understand the interpreter who comes to basketball practice, and if we will be able to find an interpreter who is adequately prepared for the highly academic and intellectual meeting we attend. We each choose to believe we can make a difference. It was Margaret Mead who stated, to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It is time to radically examine how we prepare sign language interpreters nationwide. For far too long we have recognized that the preparation of an interpreter is nearly impossible to do in a two-year time period – whether those two years are part of a two-year associate degree program or the last two years of a baccalaureate degree program. We believe it is now time for community action. Collectively, we need to rethink how we prepare sign language interpreters and recognize that it takes a village to fully prepare interpreters. We are answering the call to action asked for by Cindy Volk in her Street Leverage article Sign Language Interpreter Education: Time for a National Call to Action.

The proposed reformation is a three-legged stool; that is, the seat is a new way of preparing sign language interpreters who are linguistically and culturally empowered to making a lasting difference, and the three legs are what we need to do to support this change, namely empowering educators, enhancing the curriculum and establishing a strong foundation in language and culture.

Empowering Educators

More often than not, we teach how we were taught. This is a widely accepted notion and one that rings true in many fields of study. Consequently, there is a need to provide training on how to effectively teach, assess our students on their progress towards mastering course outcomes and develop the curriculum. If we are to reform how we educate sign language interpreters, we have to first give educators the tools they need to not only rethink interpreter education but to change it. We need to prepare educators of today to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Enhancing the Curriculum

It has often been stated that the challenge of preparing a student to be a sign language interpreter in a two-year program is simply insurmountable. The four of us have heard repeatedly from faculty in associate level programs that they just can’t get it all in the allotted number of courses. We’ve heard from faculty at baccalaureate level programs that all too often they receive students from associate programs who do not possess the necessary language skills to proceed. We all need to be held accountable and take action to correct this.

Four-year programs need to be able to depend on two-year programs to fully prepare students for entry into the major of sign language interpreting. Two-year programs need to depend upon four-year programs to close the circle and complete the preparation so that students leaving are well-prepared for the field. Both two-year and four-year programs need to be involved with preparing interpreters in a complementary way rather than a competing or exclusive manner.

We suggest a reconsideration of the purpose of two-year programs. They should be pre-professional programs, with a focus on the foundations of interpreting. Courses should include ASL, translation, social justice, Deaf culture, pre-interpreting skills, and a stronger emphasis on the English language. In addition, interpreting programs should capitalize on the general education curriculum by creating a two year initial sequence that enhances the outcomes of students who are fully prepared to enter into interpreting programs with all the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to succeed.

 Ensuring Strong Foundations in Language and Culture 

As Lou Fant stated in 1974, “Prime prerequisite for an interpreter of any language is mastery of the languages he wishes to interpret. It seems so obvious that one feels embarrassed, almost, to mention it, yet I fear it is too often not given sufficient attention.”1 We would all agree that one of the most critical aspects of preparing future sign language interpreters is the development of a strong foundation in the languages they will use as interpreters. It is impossible to learn skills in interpreting, while also learning a second language. As a field, it is time we acknowledge this and require a strong foundation in ASL and English before entry into a sign language interpreting program. Rather than use two-year college programs to try and prepare students for the interpreting profession, why not use such programs to give students the linguistic and cultural foundations needed to then enter an interpreter education program?

Recommendations

  • Establish a taskforce to examine a Deaf/hearing co-teaching model to develop foundational fluency in ASL for students entering interpreter training programs.

  • Establish a track at the CIT biennial conference to address the need for reformation.

  • Begin discussions about the possibility of adding specialty areas of preparation (education, legal, medical, etc.) to interpreter education programs.

  • Examine the proliferation of interpreter education programs to determine if the need truly exists for so many programs.

  • Begin a discussion between program directors from both two-year and four-year programs on how to develop a national interpreter education curriculum and outcomes.

  • Research how competency-based education may be a model for our field.

  • Research how theories, models and frameworks of spoken language apply to the preparation of signed language interpreters.

Back: Cindy Volk, Len Roberson. Front: Carolyn Ball, Taralynn Petrites
Back: Cindy Volk, Len Roberson. Front: Carolyn Ball, Taralynn Petrites

An Example

An example of how two groups (e.g., two-year and four-year programs) can work together is the recent efforts of University of Arizona (UA) and Pima Community College (PCC).  Currently, these two institutions are collaborating on the development of a framework that will  address many of the issues raised in this article. The goal is to create a 2+2 program whereby students will begin at PCC with a focus on ASL skills and pre-interpreting skills. Students would then transfer to UA where they will study the interpreting process and further refine their skills as sign language interpreters. The language and culture foundations developed at PCC will be critical to the success of the students at UA. Both PCC and UA encourage other such programs in the United States to engage in similar collaborative efforts and, thus, reform how interpreters are prepared.

Conclusion

This type of reformation needs leadership and direction. We recommend that the three key organizations in sign language interpreter education – the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT), the American Sign Language Teachers’ Association (ASLTA), and the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) come together and move forward in realizing this vision. It is our recommendation that the Presidents of these three organizations meet to examine how they can individually contribute to, collaborate on, and lead this reformation.

Reforming sign language interpreter education to graduate skilled, well-prepared interpreters should not be the concern of only a few people, but rather an urgent priority for all stakeholders, including sign language interpreting agencies, VRS companies, parents of Deaf children, children of Deaf parents, ITPs, and Deaf people. The time is indeed now – we must reform sign language interpreter education.

We want to acknowledge the ideas and contributions of several people who helped frame the ideas we’ve presented here. Thank you to Leslie Greer, Jimmy Beldon, and Amy June Rowley.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. How can your program make significant reformations in interpreter education?
  2. Do you think the time is now for such reformation in sign language interpreter education? Why or why not?
  3. Are the ideas presented in this article feasible/possible in your community, state, and in the nation?  If not, why not?

Dr. Carolyn Ball has been an interpreter educator for over 25 years, teaching at Brigham Young University, Salt Lake Community College, William Woods University and the University of North Florida. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the VRS Interpreting Institute (VRSII) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Taralynn Petrites, M.Ed., is the lead faculty of Sign Language and Interpreter Training as well as Department Chair of Behavioral Sciences at Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Arizona. Taralynn has been teaching American Sign Language and Interpreting courses since 2002. She is currently working on her dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership.

Len Roberson, Ph.D., SC:L, CI, CT, has been involved in the fields of deaf education and interpreting for over 28 years. He is an active researcher, interpreter, and interpreter educator. Dr. Roberson is currently Associate Vice-President of Academic Technology and Innovation at the University of North Florida (UNF) and a tenured professor. His current research interests include the study of interpreting in legal settings, distance learning effectiveness, and service-learning in interpreter education.

 

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References

1Fant, L. (1974) JADARA (Journal of Rehabilitation of the Deaf) Volume 7, Issue 3, 1974 (pp. 47 – 69).

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Deaf Interpreters and Repatriation

This is a cri de coeur that in our headlong rush to commoditization, we not forget our community roots.

Deaf Interpreters and RepatriationFor what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

Not long ago, Sign Language interpreting was snug in the hands of deaf communities. Deaf people exerted great influence over the field, as practitioners and as leaders. There was little question then of where interpreting belonged or to whom the benefits of interpreting should accrue. The events of the past 50 years have changed much of this. The re-emergence of Deaf interpreters is hailed as a lifeline to our original purpose as interpreters.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Remembering the Past

Until October 10, 1973, I lurked in the shadows of Deaf World. On that day some of us were hanging around a television. We were actors in a touring theater company, and Harry Reasoner and ABC News were telling us that Vice President Spiro Agnew Had Just Resigned! At least they were telling those who could hear. Some of us who couldn’t hear, were rather too quick, I thought, to demand that I make known physically what Harry Reasoner and ABC News were going on about.

At this point I was nine weeks into Deaf World. I soon discovered some things from my old world that were no longer available; things like literacy and sense of humor in particular. In Deaf World my main schtick of being verbal was less useful, most of the time, than the ability to be funny, smart and/or skilled in physical ways.

But I was an actor, and I had seen interpreters work. I knew I could play the role of interpreter, if not do the job of interpreting. I remember fondly the encouragement from some of my audience, who assured me that my performance was certain to improve with practice and experience.

This was the way it had ever been. Interpreters were forged in the crucible of Deaf communities. Deaf people actively participated in the selection of who would interpret for them and when, and often, how. Deaf people in positions of authority in interpreting were the norm. The adolescent RID from Maryland, USA still lived in its parents’ basement on Thayer Avenue.

But adolescents grow up and grow away. RID moved into its own place and before you know it, here it is 2015, and CDIs are a welcome and growing presence. Of course, deaf people have been involved in interpreting for deaf people ab ovo. Shared access to information is woven into the culture. The RSCs of yesteryear are today rack focused as CDIs.

From Community to Curriculum

For 40 years, interpreting education has wandered the scholastic wilderness: finding prosperity in some few hospitable locations, but barely subsisting in many others. IEPs are often ‘orphan’ programs in their institutions. Sometimes housed in Language departments, but sometimes in Communicative Disorders. Sometimes yoked to vocational programs like air conditioning repair and auto mechanics. The relatively small number of students enrolled makes it difficult for many programs to secure adequate funding from their schools.

There has long been a desire to move interpreting education back, closer to its community roots. Deaf interpreters are an assurance that deaf people will remain strongly represented in and by our field going forward. Both community and interpreting have moved significantly in the last 50 years. Here is a rare opportunity to bridge that gap. By making deaf interpreters stakeholders in our educational programs and in our practice, we are respecting the past and protecting the future.

But why is it so much easier to champion this cause than to accomplish it?

From Curriculum to Commodity

The curricular impact of including deaf students into interpreting education programs is enormous. The inclusion of deaf students into IEPs demands the re-examination and revision of the entire curriculum in terms of standards, equity, and outcomes. This inclusion can have many wonderful benefits, but benefits that might come at significant cost.  The plight of plugging deaf students into existing curricular structures designed for hearing students is considerable. The simple solution of offering instruction exclusively in ASL grossly oversimplifies the problem. Students who cannot yet express themselves adequately in their L1 are not advantaged by being forced prematurely into an L2-only mode. It also disregards the needs of those deaf students whose English fluency wants improvement. MJ Bienvenu does well in reminding us of the importance of interpreters being bilingual.

Similar challenges exist in melding deaf interpreters into existing workforces. Fundamental aspects of team interpreting with deaf interpreters are little understood, little explored. Roles, boundaries, responsibilities, and workloads vary widely, as do standards for education, training, and certification. Much work needs be done on creating norms for teams of deaf and hearing interpreters and for the inclusion of deaf interpreters into the practice of interpreting. NCIEC has done some early, brilliant work in this regard.

It is still early days in this most recent episode of the evolution of sign language interpreting and interpreting education. Those in positions of influence ought to explore deaf interpreting and to do whatever possible to support its natural growth and development. This is the best chance we’ve had in a very long time to bring our practice into balance with our original purpose.

Rico Peterson
Rico Peterson

But how do we best support this? Blanket provision of DIs in the absence of demonstrated need simply will not fly in most places. Of all the changes wrought in interpreting over the past half-century, one of the most profound is commoditization. Today Interpreters are both cross-cultural mediators and variables in profit maximization formulae. Interpreting has become a highly competitive billion-dollar industry. Interpretation is a commodity that is readily available at a wide variety of price points.  In this economic climate, it is critical to distinguish need from preference, and cost from value.  Given our recent history, it is not hard to foresee the implementation of Deaf Interpreters being underbid by providers more dedicated to profit than to best practice.

Where Does Interpreting Belong?

Who is to say where interpreting belongs today? Both the defining of interpreters and the definition of interpreting have become quite elastic, allowing for new, remarkable perspectives on the provenance of our craft. Culture and Community have always held strong sway on interpreting. Now, Business clamors about having a proprietary interest as well. Whither interpreting?

The resurgence in Deaf Interpreters could not come at a more auspicious time.

Questions to consider:

  1. Regarding interpreting, how do community standards, academic standards, and professional standards align?
  2. How best to include deaf students in our IEPs and deaf interpreters into our practice
  3. How do we reconcile the new “commodity” value of interpreting with the old “community” value of interpreting?

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Certified Deaf Interpreters: Moving From Celebration to Action

By providing concise definitions, sharing success stories and through consistent advocacy, Hearing interpreters can support and increase the hiring of Certified Deaf Interpreters to ensure effective communication.

Certified Deaf Interpreters - Celebration to ActionLeveraging Celebration

On October 24, 2014, a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) interpreted a live news press conference for the Office of Emergency Management about the Ebola outbreak in NYC. This may have been the first time ever, in the United States, that the use of a Deaf interpreter in this capacity garnered national attention. It was a significant accomplishment for ASL access and for the sign language interpreting profession. In light of this recent breakthrough, there is a buzz of excitement in the air. While there are sign language interpreting agencies, interpreting organizations, and Deaf organizations who have long utilized CDIs in a variety of domains, still many other entities are late to the game. Often the decision to use or, more often, not to use a CDI, lies with the interpreting agency or the entity paying for services and not with the Deaf consumer or the experienced hearing interpreter. This chasm deepens when agencies use hearing interpreters who lack experience or are resistant to working with a CDI, citing competition as their rationale. When to hire a CDI, why to use a CDI, and what a CDI does are questions not always asked and can, unfortunately, be difficult to answer.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Importance of Education and Explanation

Now that the world has been introduced to the concept of a CDI, where do sign language interpreters go from here? Seasoned professionals may know why a Deaf interpreter was used for that particular press conference, but does everyone in the field truly understand? What about the layperson? The best tactic for educating the public at large is to be prepared with a concise definition that clearly explains the benefits of using a CDI, a definition that makes sense not only to those who work in the signing community, but also to the average person who requests sign language interpreting services. These individuals usually have very little knowledge of ASL or the diversity within the Deaf community. Some interpreters may already utilize a definition. Still, there remains the challenge of ensuring that CDIs are hired for all situations that would benefit from them. The NCIEC addresses the role of the Deaf interpreter, stating,

“NCIEC studies indicate that in many situations, use of a Deaf interpreter enables a level of linguistic and cultural bridging that is often not possible when hearing ASL-English interpreters work alone.”1

While this makes sense to those who work in the field, I believe this definition alone, without real-world examples, may still leave a layperson at a loss. Currently, there is little in the way of normative data that could give us meaningful statistics and provide a balance to our narrative, which would help validate our definitions.

Concern for the Community

Increased exposure to ASL is not necessarily the answer. Sadly, the hearing majority still sees ASL interpreters on stage and online as performers, as evidenced by the many comments made on the heels of the aforementioned press conference. This misunderstanding has detrimental effects on those providing and using sign language interpreting services. After re-reading the powerful article, A Role for Sign Language Interpreters: Preserving the Linguistic Human Rights of Deaf People, by Lynette Taylor, I am reminded that as the public gains exposure to ASL, the language is in danger of being monetized as a product, and the fact that it belongs to the Deaf community is forgotten. “With the heart of the language no longer at the center of the community, it puts at risk not only the life of the language but the life of the community.”2

Power of Narrative

Now is the right time for action from both the interpreting and Deaf communities. We can all start by sharing stories of when a CDI made communication access happen. Narrative is an important tool. Sharing our human experiences, feelings and needs serves to connect us. By telling our stories to the general public and to those with decision-making power, we can have a great impact on increasing general awareness and effecting change. The impact of narrative may even surpass that of impersonal, academic knowledge about the Deaf community.

Eliciting Change

One way we can look at making changes in our profession is through the lens of Systems theory, which examines how nations maintain their relationships. Systems theory states that there are two ways to elicit change.3 A delicate or indirect way of eliciting change is used for minor infractions and when saving face is paramount. Extreme action is taken when a country has committed human rights violations. In this case, sanctions are imposed in order to threaten that country’s economy and to draw world attention. If other countries also place sanctions, the offending country has to decide if it can afford to lose business.

How can interpreters and Deaf consumers use these ways to elicit change in our community? In applying the delicate way, start by thanking those interpreting agencies who are providing CDIs. Thank them for hiring only certified interpreters and educating the hiring entity about the value of a CDI. Ask those agencies to share your personal narratives in meaningful ways. Change occurs not only through threat or complaint. A person complimented is a person who is listening, and one who will be more likely to share positive and informed feedback about the benefits of CDIs.

For agencies and entities that are not providing satisfactory services, more extreme action can be taken. First, don’t give up without multiple attempts to contact them. Organize with the community to make clear demands for certified Deaf interpreters, certified hearing interpreters, and interpreters preferred by Deaf consumers. It’s not enough to sit back and hope that bad agencies will fold up or only commit to working for better agencies. Organized action is key in order to send a message to offending agencies.

While everyone is celebrating the use of the CDI for the Ebola press conference in NYC, we should not forget that behind that decision was a hiring agent (OEM), an interpreting agency, and professional interpreters speaking up. This surely did not happen overnight, either. Do these parties realize that having a CDI interpret had a significant impact? Paraphrased from the interview on Deaf Hearing News (DHN), Jon Lamberton, CDI, says, “A few Deaf people thanked me, saying, ‘Wow, I finally know what Ebola means. I never knew what it meant before.’”4  Indeed, everything that happened behind the scenes, from education to action, yielded a positive result for the Deaf community.

Andria Alefhi
Andria Alefhi

Call to Action

By the time this article is printed, the first ever Deaf Interpreter Conference will have taken place in June, 2015 in St. Paul, MN. It’s an exciting time to remind the general public that Deaf people are interpreters, too. Let’s go from celebration to action through education and clear demands stated in a way that non-signers can understand. Share success stories by calling the good guys Friends of the Deaf Community, and be specific about what they are doing right. Push those lagging behind with tact. Assume they need information and insight. Persistence coupled with strong explanations grounded in both data and narrative can go a long way. RID-NAD recently posed the question,

“Can we settle with that fact that there are citizens of our country, our neighbors, friends, family or colleagues, who may be held powerless due to lack of adequate information – information we can clearly provide to them if we just embrace and utilize interpreting services in the way that they are meant to be effective?”5

The CDI profession is relatively new to everyone. Let’s work together to spread a unified message of best practices to ensure effective communication access for the American Deaf community.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. How can the interpreting profession assist Deaf consumers in asserting their right to CDI-CHI teams?
  2. How can hearing and Deaf interpreters best answer the question, “Why do we need a Deaf interpreter?”
  3. How can we conduct more research to analyze the communication experiences of Deaf consumers using CDIs

 

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References

1 NCIEC http://www.interpretereducation.org/specialization/deaf-interpreter/

2 A Role for Sign Language Interpreters: Preserving the Linguistic Human Rights of Deaf People by Lynette Taylor (Street Leverage, 2012)

3 Systems Theory //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory

4 DHN http://www.watchdhn.com/

5 RID-NAD http://www.rid.org/content/index.cfm/AID/352. Editorial from RID-NAD on Interpreting Services and the Media, October 28, 2014.