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4 Obsessions of a Qualified Sign Language Interpreter

Sign Language Interpreter Considering Their Obsessions About the WorkSign language interpreters come to the profession from a variety of avenues; each possessing a range of life experience that makes their daily work distinct. Though the work from interpreter to interpreter is unique, it occurs to me that there are 4 primary preoccupations shared by qualified practitioners.

Some might consider them obsessions, the non-clinical type of course.

Whether obsessions or preoccupations, qualified sign language interpreters are driven to excellence in their work by 4 dominating thoughts:

1)   Cohesion: It is the role of a sign language interpreter to unite the parties participating in the communication by proactively considering and responding to the specific needs of their consumers, team interpreters, and meeting/event participants and organizers.

The qualified practitioner has fervor for cohesion because they fundamentally understand that a stellar individual performance does not necessarily equate to a job well done. Further, that it is the success of all parties to the communication that ultimately determines if an interpreter has been effective.

2)   Professionalism: It is the duty of a sign language interpreter to ensure they are familiar with both current developments and best practices within the field.

The qualified interpreter is passionate about professionalism because they understand that it is more than a state of mind or verbal declaration. They understand that it is the active pursuit of excellence; one that requires an interpreter to be informed and engaged within the profession and to uphold the social agreements that allow them to do their best work.

3)   Accountability:  It is the ethical obligation of a sign language interpreter to own, in real-time where possible, the inaccuracies found in their work.

The qualified practitioner is resolute in their view that the fear of being viewed to possess an inferior skill-set or to not be invited back to an assignment is insufficient reason to compromise the trust needed to do their work. They summarily avoid this temptation and accept that their best work is not error free and compensate accordingly.

4)    Connectedness: It is the responsibility of a sign language interpreter to recognize that they are part of a larger system of stakeholders.

The qualified interpreter is highly conscious that their actions have an impact on the interpreter that was there both before and after them, and that their actions do have an impact on the broader system of industry stakeholders. Further, they utilize this connectedness to better position themselves to partner with stakeholders to achieve excellence in their work.

A Framework

These obsessions create a framework for an approach to the work that allows a sign language interpreter to cope with the anxiety of confronting new environments, circumstances, and information day in and day out.

Further, it increases the capacity of an interpreter to earn the social currency needed to make adjustments in work environments and achieve consensus among consumers and meeting participants. This is key to their delivering truly remarkable work.

Achieving Excellence

Over the years I have heard interpreters share that a healthy dose of narcissism is necessary to be successful in the field. While I would agree to a point, I do think that a heightened awareness of the dynamics of their working relationships, the level of accountability taken/accepted for their work, and how they connect to the whole of our profession creates an approach to the work that makes certain sign language interpreters more likely to achieve excellence.

After all, and I believe you would agree, people who have achieved something impressive or have made a significant contribution to anything have done so because of a certain level of obsessiveness. I don’t believe achieving success in the sign language interpreting profession to be any different.

What obsessions makeup your framework for success?

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StreetLeverage-Live: A Water Cooler Upgrade for Sign Language Interpreters

Water Cooler in the Sign Language Interpreting ProfessionAs most sign language interpreters will readily admit, much of the meaningful dialogue they have on the developments within the field occur at the water coolers of the profession—“small talk” sessions with a colleague.

If you are reading this post, you are likely aware, that it is the plight of StreetLeverage to offer interpreters a platform to elevate these conversations into the broader consciousness of the industry.

Underneath the Imperfection

This isn’t news to anyone, but the work occurring with StreetLeverage to amplify these conversations isn’t a perfect work. If you look, not particularly hard, you will find typos, incorrectly sized images, grammatical mistakes, questionable video quality and the like.

Having said that, if you look beyond the platform and it’s imperfection you will find something special; the authentic desire sign language interpreters have to share and genuinely dialogue to the betterment of their field.

This desire leads people to give freely of their time to write articles and initiate and enrich discussions by adding perspective and experience.

These contributions are remarkable.

StreetLeverage – Live

In an effort to honor this authentic desire and extend the platform available to interpreters to dialogue on topics and ideas relevant to the field, I am please to announce the second phase of StreetLeverage, StreetLeverage – Live.

StreetLeverage – Live is a thought leadership event designed to bring together industry visionaries, leaders, educators, entrepreneurs and practitioners to share ideas that foster proactive thinking and dialogue in order to propel the field of sign language interpreting forward.

How Does it Work?

Main Session

The StreetLeverage – Live main session is modeled after the TED speaker series. Meaning, attendees will be engaged by a series of speakers, topics, and live dialogue in a single primary session.

Concurrent Sessions

Following the main session, speakers will present concurrent sessions. These sessions will be a deeper dive of a speaker’s main session talk.

Inaugural Event

I am excited to share that the inaugural StreetLeverage – Live event is scheduled to occur November 10, 2012.  The event has been embedded within the PCRID annual conference being held November 9 – 11, 2012.  Click here for details.

I would like to offer my appreciation for Josh Hughes and Jennifer Bell, PCRID Conference Chairs, and their vision for the conference. You guys are doing yourselves and PCRID proud!

Progressive Thinkers

Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon 

 

 

 

In addition to the PCRID conference leadership, it’s the progressive perspective of people like (left to right above) Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon on giving back to the sign language interpreting profession that enables game changers like StreetLeverage—Live to get started.  As owners of Access Interpreting, and as interpreters, they see true value in open dialogue on issues facing the field.

A hearty thanks to each of them for their leadership, generosity and support of the PCRID conference to enable StreetLeverage—Live to become a reality.

In the End

I have no delusion that StreetLeverage – Live will be perfect work either. With that said, it is my hope that it can play a role in redefining and expanding the platform available to sign language interpreters to engage in meaningful dialogue on the issues we face as a field.

If you have suggestions on how to improve StreetLeverage – Live, or streetleverage.com for that matter, I welcome your feedback.

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Do Sign Language Interpreters Have a Right to a Consumer’s Attention?

Woman questioning whether sign language interpreters have the right to the attention of their consumersAt times it can be very difficult to be a sign language interpreter. We put our reputations on the line each and every day we raise our hands to work. We navigate new environments and new subject matter on a regular basis. We suffer vicariously as a result of inhumane acts. Worse, we do all of this with extremely limited amounts of information.

The resulting—often intense—occupational self-interest, leaves us vulnerable to the notion that people understand why what we do is important, the reason certain practices are critical to our work, and the effort it takes to be a good interpreter.

The Danger

The challenge with this assumption is that it may lead us to the perception that we have the right to the attention of our consumers and the purchaser of our services. Simply, we have the right—or responsibility as the case may be—to prevail upon those we encounter on the job that challenge our practices or take an opposing view of a particular situation in an effort to help them, “get it.”

While we are often victorious in these moments of tactical “education,” the damage found in the aftermath can be significant. These moments can result in the disenfranchisement of our consumers, marginalization of the interests of those who purchase our services, and our succumbing to one or more of The Three Temptations of a Sign Language Interpreter. None of which is good for us individually or collectively as a profession.

An Alternative

If we were to step back and consider the notion that the purchasers of our service are indifferent, though they provide it, to the importance of the work we do as sign language interpreters, does it change our perspective to the right we have to their attention? Or, how we go about earning that attention?

If we consider that the consumers of our service may have little to no interest in the effort it takes to become a professional, qualified, credentialed sign language interpreter, does that change our perspective about right we have to their attention or how we go about earning it?

If as a sign language interpreter, we are faced with indifference, a lack of interest, or a worldview that doesn’t resonate with ours, what do we do to earn the social currency necessary to perform our work?

Tell the Right Story

The answer to this question can be found in an example that exists in every sign language interpreting community around the globe.

In each local interpreting community there is an interpreter who isn’t particularly amazing, they might even be considered below average. Interestingly though they seem to always have work and consumers and purchasers of our service love them. Additionally, these communities also have an interpreter who is incredibly talented and clearly above average when compared to their peers. Yet, they struggle to piece opportunities together.

The difference?

Brandon Arthur
Brandon Arthur

The first likely brings generosity and humility to their work. They understand that the consumers and purchasers of their service don’t owe them attention. In response, this interpreter chooses to tell a story through their approach to and interactions about the work. They tell a story that resonates with those they come in contact with and is considerate of their point of view.

The latter likely brings a perspective that they are owed attention as a result of the investment they have made in their skillset and career. Their story is a story of entitlement. One where the slant goes unchecked, as suggested in Do You Resemble the Sign Language Interpreter in Your Head?

Determine What’s Important

As sign language interpreters, we are good at deciphering meaning. We need to use this skill to determine what’s important to those we serve and those that engage our services. We can do this by evaluating our answers to the following questions:

1.  How is my work and occupational self-interest perceived by those I serve and those who engage my services?

2.  How can my work today best assist consumers and purchasers in accomplishing their ends? How can I demonstrate my understanding of that?

3.  From the consumer and purchaser’s point of view, what adds the most value by my being present today? How can I amplify that?

4.  Whose agenda is the most important in the room? Why? How can I support that agenda?

5.  How can I approach my work to extend ample generosity, demonstrate an appropriate level of humility, and show clarity about my role?

By considering the answer to these questions, we place ourselves in the position of the consumer and purchaser. It offers us a perspective that helps us tell a story through our work that resonates with those we come in contact with while on the job.

At the End of the Day

In the end, let’s remember that as sign language interpreters we are not owed the attention necessary to do our work—we need to earn it. Further, that the consumers and purchasers of our service are engaging us for the story we tell. Let’s be sufficiently generous about how we tell it.

How do you know if you are telling the right story?

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Do You Resemble the Sign Language Interpreter in Your Head?

Its part of the human experience to tell ourselves a story about the kind of person we are and why we choose to do what we do. This innate storytelling Do You Resemble the Sign Language Interpreter in Your Head?tendency extends to the professional personas we build as sign language interpreters. Have you ever paused to question if you actually resemble the sign language interpreter that you narrate you are in your head?

The Slant

While it’s not a stretch to believe that most of the stories washing over us are being told in support of a particular point of view, it is far more challenging to consider the presence of a slant in the very story we tell ourselves. Particularly, when it may result in a mental throwdown over what we believe the caliber and impact of our work is and what it may actually be. Aaron Brace’s article, The Duality of the Sign Language Interpreter, explores this epic internal struggle.

With that said, I think most would acknowledge that a slant, likely more than one, exists in the story we narrate to ourselves as sign language interpreters. I’m not suggesting that we deliberately weave untrue stories about our work to our consumers and ourselves. Rather, that presence of the slant drives us to only narrate the highlights, even the flattering, and leave the rest in the “not news worthy” pile.

Clearly, with the discretion and autonomy, as highlighted by Anna Witter-Merithew in her article, Sign Language Interpreters: Stepping Out of the Shadow of Invisibility, we have as sign language interpreters, to believe we are the sum our highlight reel is problematic.

Impaired Self-Awareness

In my mind, the most problematic aspect of the presence of a slant in our professional narrative is its ability to impair self-awareness. As any seasoned interpreter can attest, an appropriate level of self-awareness is critical to finding success in the sign language interpreting profession. If we operate while suffering from an impaired awareness of self, we risk exposing our consumers and colleagues to deficits in our ability to:

1)    Appropriately acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations.

You’ve seen it. Damage done. Enough said.

2)    Remain conscious of our biases.

It is easy, when lacking an appropriate level of self-awareness, to allow our preconceptions to infiltrate our interpretation and skew the meaning and intent of an intended communication.

3)    Earn social currency.

Operating without an appropriate level of self-awareness challenges even the best of us to authentically connect with consumers and meeting participants. This prevents us from efficiently navigating unfamiliar environments in order to effectively to our work.

If as sign language interpreters we are operating with these deficits, we position ourselves to make mistakes in our work and ultimately erode the trust needed to successfully deliver an experience worthy of our consumer’s confidence.

Embrace the Slant to Succeed

It occurs to me that in order for us to successfully overcome the slant, we need to embrace it. By embracing it, I am suggesting that we use what we know about it to our advantage.

What do we know? We know the slant enjoys opining on accomplishment. We know if mistakes must be mentioned, it likes them minimized. We know the slant views vulnerability as a public relation nightmare. How do we harness its incessant narcissism to our advantage?

Reframe. Reframe. Reframe.

We need to reframe our failures, shortcomings, and moments of vulnerability so they are “news worthy.” We can do this by viewing:

1)    Daily failures as learning opportunities.

After all, the hero in every story learns important lessons along the way. Let’s recognize the value of these lessons, be honest about needing them, and acknowledge they are to our betterment.

2)    Vulnerability as strength training.

By using moments of vulnerability as an opportunity to genuinely engage our consumers and colleagues to draw on their experience and expertise, we will find sage advice and a connection to something much greater than ourselves—the forward progress of the profession.

3)    Revision as an opportunity.

As the narrator, each of us has the ability and opportunity to rewrite the narrative in our heads—in whole or in part. We should always remind ourselves that we may not have the ability to control the outcome, but we can control how we respond to it.

By choosing to reframe our failures, shortcomings and vulnerabilities we expand the series of “news worthy” events used to define who we are and why we do what we do. In a profession that requires a high level of self-awareness, this is definitely to our advantage.

BTW, the slant finds all of this “news worthy.”

Authenticity Matters

In the end, the type of story we narrate to ourselves as sign language interpreters has a significant impact on the work that we do. While it is not likely that we will ever resemble the sign language interpreter we narrate we are in our heads, we should aspire to resemble an interpreter that is not the measure of their highlight reel, but one who can authentically connect with their consumers and colleagues and deliver an experience worthy of their confidence.

Suggestions on how to keep the slant in check?

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Sign Language Interpreters: A Big StreetLeverage Thank You!

It is surreal to me that this month marks the 12th month that StreetLeverage has been working to amplify the voice of the sign language interpreter. As my mind races in review of the last year, I find myself incredibly grateful for the many people who have encouraged, supported, and contributed to this labor of love.

Readers & SubscribersThank You

To the thousands of you who visit the site each month, thank you. Remaining worthy of your continued attention is the driving force behind the effort to curate and publish quality pieces each week. Your engagement and interest in republishing pieces to your personal networks is amazing. Again, thank you. You are the reason the site exists.

I am keenly interested in your feedback on how to improve the StreetLeverage effort. If you have suggestions on topics, authors, posts and/or how the site can be improved, please send along your feedback. You can do that now by clicking here.

Authors

To you courageous souls who have shared your perspectives and insights, thank you. Your 40+ contributions have created a flashpoint of opportunity for readers to be introspective about the important work that they do and the profession and industry to which they belong. It is in your personal accomplishment and a willingness to share that places StreetLeverage among the most visited blogs on sign language interpreting.

Again, thank you for your remarkable contributions.

For those interested in contributing, I welcome the opportunity to discuss possibilities. If you would consider contributing, please contact me by clicking here.

My Family

To my best friend and life partner, Tara, thank you. Without your encouragement StreetLeverage would still be just a concept rolling around in my head. Your unwavering support makes it all possible. Thank you for sacrificing countless hours over the past year as I have attended to the work of sourcing, editing, publishing, and promoting pieces each week. You are far more than I deserve.

Lessons Learned

In a world where the competition for attention is fierce, I am truly grateful for the many people who have taken an interest in StreetLeverage over the past 12 months. Curating the site has been filled with significant learning, the most important of which is that the attention of subscribers and readers is earned. I have also learned that providence will step in to assist if you take the first step.

I look forward to continuing to curate a discussion worthy of your attention.

Again, to everyone who has contributed to the success of StreetLeverage to date, thank you.

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Failure to Innovate: A Deathblow for Sign Language Interpreting Agencies

Agency/owner considering innovationIs it still an advantage for sign language interpreters to trade a higher hourly rate in exchange for the “benefits” of being represented by an agency? Particularly, given the world is chock-full of affordable DIY (do it yourself) business and connection tools.

While the answer to this question will differ from interpreter to interpreter, the value of this exchange of rate for representation is measured by the currency of convenience. Simply, does working with an agency make it easier for a sign language interpreter to do their work? If yes, good trade. If no, zippy.

Let’s get to the point.

If convenience is the primary factor for a sign language interpreter in determining whether a relationship with an agency is valuable or not, why aren’t agency owners and operators consumed with innovating convenience into their practices and business models? It would make good sense, no? Is it that they don’t care?

The truth? Implementing innovation is yeoman’s work.

There is a Difference

There is an important distinction between the acts of assembling practical, even clever, solutions to a problem and the act of implementing that solution. Assembling—easier. Implementing—harder.

Why is implementing harder? Humans.

3 Inhibitors of Agency Innovation

Unfortunately, it is people that make implementing new solutions to existing challenges difficult. Agency owners and operators—yes, they are people too—unintentionally get in their own way, and the forward progress of their agencies as a result of being trapped by three primary innovation inhibitors. 

Inhibitor One: Perfection is Attainable

All too often agency owners/operators fall victim to perfectionism. They become obsessed with a process or protocol being followed exactly right. In order for convenience innovation to occur and be implemented effectively, it is essential for agency owners and operators to acknowledge innovation is an iterative process.

Unfortunately, perfectionist tendencies frustrate innovation by suggesting that any iterative process of improvement falls short of the ideal and is therefore unworthy of the effort. This results in agency owners and operators stalling in their attempt to innovate.

It is essential that agency leadership get comfortable with the idea that it’s always a little messy in the middle.

Inhibitor Two: Denial of Marketplace Realities

Because the work to implement innovation is difficult, agency owners and operators sometimes deny the existence of changing marketplace realities. Conscious, or not, they do this in order to protect the status quo. A few of the marketplace realities that are currently being denied are:

1)    It is easier and cheaper than ever before to start and operate a small business. The Internet and subscription tools make it easy for sign language interpreters to establish a large virtual presence and compete for customers.

2)    Social networks empower sign language interpreters with access to vast amounts of instructional information and serve as gathering places to exchange knowledge, practices, and ideas—all of which make them formidable competitors.

3)    The weak economy is causing under-employment within the sign language interpreting industry, which makes starting a small, privateer business a strong employment option for sign language interpreters.

The denial of marketplace realities, regardless of what they are, challenges any need to depart from the status quo. Unfortunately, it also perpetuates the poo-pooing of any need to rethink how business is getting done. This is particularly true as it relates to creating additional value for the sign language interpreter.

Owners/operators with their heads in the sand are unable to lead (i.e. implement) from the front. Maybe a lesson from a sidewalk-executive is in order? 

Inhibitor Three: A Biased Perspective

Inhibitor three is the most difficult to overcome. Often it is the inaccurate perception of their own work that prevents agency owners/operators from implementing innovation. This biased perspective preoccupies managers with their historical intent of implementing systems and practices and prevents them from critically evaluating if that system truly delivers value for a sign language interpreter.

To overcome this bias, and implement successfully, agency owners and operators have to find the courage necessary to seek answers to hard questions. Questions like, what do interpreters really care about? Is what we are doing effective? What would it take for us to do [insert practice or process] better?

It takes a secure manager to check their bias and critically evaluate their practices. It takes a leader to do that and then successfully implement. 

Tips for Innovating Value

The good news is implementing innovative solutions successfully can be learned. To that end, agency owners/operators need to remember, there will be no proof that the iterative adjustments made will succeed. Innovating is a strategic choice to deliver a better experience. The following may prove helpful when choosing to innovate and working to implement those innovations.

1)    Create with the sign language interpreter in mind. Owners/operators need to take time to observe the behaviors of the interpreters engaging with their agency. Understanding social, professional, cultural and emotional drivers is key to improving their experience. Recognize that both the sign language interpreter and the business can win.

2)    Recognize limitations. When identifying process improvement opportunities, Owner/operators need to work within their agency’s ability to support the change. There is little worse than when an “innovation” makes a challenging process more cumbersome.

3)    Stop asking sign language interpreters what they want. Owners/operators need ask what concerns or bothers them about the business or its practices. Then watch where the interpreter experience suffers and fix it.

4)    Remember, there are no best practices. Because the competition conducts business in a certain way, doesn’t mean a “me too!” approach is in order. Think outside the box!

A Word of Advice

A suggestion to agency owners and operators, when pitching the rate trade for agency representation to a sign language interpreter, don’t position standards as value adds.

I believe sign language interpreters would agree that, online systems, training for CEUs, direct deposit, and reimbursement for professional dues/fees are operating standards, not differentiators.

In my mind, these are not reasons interpreters ultimately choose to align themselves with an agency.

In the End

Agencies who overcome the tangles of implementing innovations will successfully survive—even thrive. Others will find the blow of failing to innovate to be too much and will wither on the vine. At the end of the day, sign language interpreters vote with their feet. Limited number of interpreters, limited success. Yes, it is that simple.

Sign language interpreters are looking for industry entrepreneurs to introduce the next wave of innovation, even social disruption, within the sign language interpreting industry. Who’s going to be?

Sign language interpreters, what innovations would you like to see most within the agencies you work alongside?

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5 Ways Sign Language Interpreters Can Stay Inspired

How do you sustain the passion for your work as a sign language interpreter? This is a question interpreters’ and those that employ them are asking, particularly during these times of uncertainty and anxiety.

Whether you have found yourself on the receiving end of a salary reduction or are considered an artist in demand by your sign language interpreter peers, each of us experience moments in our career when we need a renewed sense of motivation.

Is the answer simply to reach inside and stir the goo that is responsible for leading us to the field of sign language interpreting? Unfortunately, the issue of reigniting passion is never simple.

How to Keep the Fire Alive

What follows are five considerations when you find yourself in need of an injection of passion for the profession we love and the important work sign language interpreters do.

Frame.  Put your “daily grind” in the right context.

When considering your daily motivation for the work, it is important to consider the context in which you evaluate your contribution. If you were to compare your 45-minute assignment at the local Post Office to working a meeting of international WASLI & WFD collaborators, you might feel as though there isn’t much to be passionate about.

Alternatively, if you put your work into the context of the person you are working with you find a different system of value. To the person at the Post Office, this 45-minute meeting may mean the difference between being able to fund their child’s college education and not. To them, your work may mean the difference. If you lack motivation, one place to find it is in the eyes of those you work with.

How do you endeavor to maintain the proper context for your work?

Create.  Develop meaningful relationships.

The sign language interpreting profession is entirely about relationships. Should you be plagued with low levels of inspiration for the work, ask yourself if you are truly connecting with your interpreter colleagues and the consumers you work in support of.

If you’re failing to consistently making these micro-investments in humanity, make it a point to do so. The time spent building relationships of trust with colleagues and consumers will not only assist you in providing better service in the moment, but will also serve to connect you to like-minded people interested in positive outcomes. Similar to iron sharpening iron, to connect is to inspire.

How do you work to create relationships of trust with your fellow sign language interpreter and the consumers you serve?

Give.  Make the time to give back.

There is tremendous power invoked by the act of giving. As sign language interpreters, the act of giving of our services is unequaled in its ability to reignite the passion we have for the work we do.

By giving, we acknowledge the karma of gratitude in bringing us to this point in our careers. This acknowledgement appropriately puts into context—at least subconsciously—the good fortune and enrichment received daily working as a sign language interpreter. When grateful for our position, we are easily able to overcome the inertia of entitlement and become the inspiration we need.

Why is giving important to you?

Teach.  Find opportunities to pay it forward.

Mentoring relationships, formal or informal, provide developing and seasoned sign language interpreters with a valuable source of support. Regardless of where we are in our professional development, taking the time to act as a mentor is a surefire way to reconnect us with our passion for the profession.

The act of mentoring elicits an awareness of the challenges and temptations we have overcome and the skill building we have invested in to get to this point in our careers. Consciously considering this iterative, transformational process reminds us that the joy is in the journey. By sharing these small victories as mentors, we lend propulsion to individual interpreters and the sign language interpreting profession as a whole. In so doing, we become a body in motion.

In what ways has your mentor, formal or informal, motivated you?

Ponder.  Take time away to gain or regain perspective.

Clearly, life and professional priorities will vary from sign language interpreter to sign language interpreter, but the result of taking time to evaluate and refocus on these priorities will reinvigorate our motivation for the work.

It shouldn’t be a secret that the sign language interpreter who has their priorities calibrated is more effective in their daily work and more adept at surviving a professional shakedown. This clarity helps them identify the symptoms of their waning motivation and quickly act to blunt its progression. The result is that these sign language interpreters maintain higher levels of motivation throughout their careers, which ultimately accounts for greater career satisfaction.

When was the last time you took time away to ponder your priorities? 

Life Manifests What We Think About

Life has a funny way of manifesting what we think about; so if you are feeling uninspired about the work you do as a sign language interpreter, I would encourage you to embrace the 5 considerations offered above. These considerations are intended to adjust our thinking in regard to the daily contributions we make by placing our work in the appropriate context. Further, they are to remind us of the importance of remaining connected to one’s true motivation for the work.

You can do a lot to stay inspired, but when finding yourself unmotivated don’t be too hard on yourself. Expecting to never feel uninspired is not realistic. When feeling uninspired pick one of the 5 considerations above and focus on it until you are comfortable taking on another one. Over time you will find the passion return for the work you love and the community that makes it possible.

What do you do to reignite your passion for the work?

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RID Increases Dues: An Interview with President Brenda Walker-Prudhom

Brandon ArthurBrandon Arthur interviews the President of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Brenda Walker-Prudhom, on the increase in dues and fees announced on March 30, 2012.

In the interview Brenda reiterates the 4 driving priorities of RID, the reasoning behind the priorities, and how she and the Board plan to develop greater transparency throughout the organization.

RID Priorities

  1. Search for Executive Director
  2. Certification of NIC, CDI, SC:L and Oral
  3. Technology in the delivery of certification tests and communication
  4. Relationships with Stake holders, affiliate chapters and members

Notable Quotes by Brenda

“As we got together we realized we had a strategic plan, but that we needed to examine and determine our priorities..”

“One thing that I want the members to realize is that, yes, the $260,000 deficit is significant but some of that is a result of unexpected things like the fraud that was discovered and the budget necessary in order to investigate and make it right..”

“What makes it appear so significant is the CMP fees and EPS fees which haven’t been increased since their inception. So, we are talking about 15 to 20 years of the same fees for those two programs.”

“..the Board knows and is confident that they [National Office Staff] are working in our best interests to prevent a deficit and restore our finances for the future.”

“..what I saw was the management or mismanagement of funds, it’s really not mismanagement at all. It’s attempting to manage through years of constrained resources to support the membership’s needs, wants, and desires..”

“I would request that members recognize that we are a huge organization of diverse members with diverse needs. As much as we want to please all of them daily, we have to budget and we have to plan…”

[Speaking of outsourcing certification testing] “As of right now, I don’t see that going away or giving it to another organization to run. As President, I don’t see that happening any time soon. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

“I am hoping the members will see that we want each member to have a complete picture of RID.”

 

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Sign Language Interpreting: The Danger of the Idea That Transformed the Profession

Decades have seen the sign language interpreting profession quietly transformed by a single, powerful idea—sign language interpreters are professionals.  This single idea has created the momentum necessary to move the field from a hand written list of volunteers to a vast web of public and private entities, interest groups and regulation—an industry.

Is it possible that the power of this ideal has left us, the sign language interpreter, with a dangerous blind spot when engaging with the broader industry? Meaning, has the dogged determination to qualify as a profession prevented us from seeing what is necessary to effectively govern one?

What follows are a few things that gave me pause as I considered this possibility.

Interconnectivity

It occurs to me that the opportunities and threats faced by our profession is no longer the result of industry stakeholders (consumers, sign language interpreters, associations, businesses, service providers, educational institutions) being divided, but rather as a result of them being connected.  One might consider the sweeping impact FCC VRS reform has had, and will yet have, on the sign language industry as an example.  If this interconnectivity is real, and I believe we have examples to demonstrate that it is, we could logically conclude that the industry has evolved into an integrated system of stakeholders; where each is directly or indirectly impacted by the action of another.

If the industry is in fact integrated, wouldn’t the very basis of our engagement with other stakeholders need to change? Might this suggest that we are attempting to address current issues with an antiquated approach.

If yes, have we, the profession, stumbled over our own feet?

Weak Engagement

In seeking the specialized knowledge and skills to qualify as a profession and as professionals, it occurs to me that we appear to be failing to prioritize an important aspect of our long-term viability—expert knowledge of the broader industry.  One might consider state licensure laws passing in the face of outraged interpreters as an example of why this is gives me pause.

Is late or weak engagement by sign language interpreters on broader industry issues because we are indifferent to what occurs around us or is it that we are simply unaware that the issues even exist?  Or, is it because we don’t have the know-how to obtain the information needed to form an opinion? Worse yet is it our view that, “there is no industry without the interpreter” and it will work itself out?

If we are unable to effectively form an opinion and engage on industry related issues ourselves, is it possible to collaborate with industry stakeholders on broader issues?

In my view, for the profession to be effective long-term, ignorance can’t possibly be bliss in this instance.

Sparse Information

In an environment where the stakes are high and the pace of change quick, it seems important that sign language interpreters are able to quickly equip themselves with information.  Do we have the channels necessary to effectively deliver information across the profession and industry?  Can these channels effectively mobilize interpreters if necessary?  If no, does that suggest our infrastructure is insufficient to effectively administer the profession?

If we don’t have an infrastructure of size, does it mean we have information siloes and expensive duplications of effort brewing?

What I do know is that if people don’t have sufficient information to form an opinion regarding the system they are part of, they will feel overwhelmed by it, homogenized by it, and/or unwilling to invest in it.

I don’t believe interpreters are any different.

A Refocus

As a profession, we have made great strides over the past 40+ years.  Again, the early momentum of the sign language interpreting profession was possible because of our dogged determination to be recognized as a profession.

In my view, we need to refocus this determination on a few things.

How to:

-Leverage our interconnectivity to other industry stakeholders

-Remain aware of industry threats and opportunities in real-time

-Effectively distribute information across the profession and industry

-Extend our passion for skill development to the acquisition of broader knowledge

A focus on these items will assist us in effectively navigating the challenges of administering the profession long-term, which I believe is necessary if we are to maintain our position and success within the industry.

Is there other action we should consider?

Posted on 2 Comments

FCC VRS Reform Part II – Sign Language Interpreters File Public Comment

Sign Language Interpreter Inviting others to join in Filing Comment at the FCC

The charge of emotion sign language interpreters received at the hand of VRS Reform, while important in prompting us to action, can be detrimental if not checked when filing comment with the FCC. Though appreciative of the sign language interpreter who overcame the inertia of apathy and filed this comment with the FCC, I believe their filing would be taken more seriously were they to have checked their emotion and considered what follows prior to submitting comment.

When Filing FCC Comment

First Things First

When filing comment with the FCC, remember you are submitting comment in a public forum. To dispense with formalities is poor form and a demonstration of one’s lack of competency related to public proceedings. Consequently, please be sure to address your comment to:

Ms. Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Further, it is important to reference the docket number for which you are filing comment. The FCC and the general public need to be able to quickly reference the matter upon which you are responding. Yes, this should be a given. In this instance the docket number for the Structure and Practices of the Video Relay Service Program is:

CG Docket No. 1051

Be Specific

When crafting your comment, please be cognizant that the readers of your submission will not have the reference points found in your head (crazy I know). Therefore, be specific in your comments and recommendations. Comment without sufficient context and specificity are of no use to FCC when considering the impact and development of their proposed rule-making.

The No-No

It is critical to remember when filing a comment that to villainize the FCC, VRS providers, your employer or any organizations is inappropriate and frankly misguided. While we may feel justified in doing so due to the negative impact a proposed rule may have on sign language interpreters, it is important that we refrain.

Callout the Benefits

It works to the merit of your comment to specifically point out the public and stakeholder benefits—which includes the FCC—in all recommendations offered. Further, it is important to consider that recommendations must work on a broad scale, which means any recommendation will inherently work to the exclusion of some.

How to File Comment

To file a formal comment via letter, you need to use the ECFS Expert Form.

The following is required:

  1. Proceeding Number (already entered if you click on the link above, if not enter 10-51)
  2. Name of Filer (your name if filing personal comments)
  3. Type of filing (‘Comment’ should already be selected)
  4. Address
  5. Upload document
  6. Review & Confirm your submission

FCC tips on how to file can be found by clicking here.

Will You Join Me?

In most grassroots attempts to persuade a public entity to adopt a certain perspective, people talk a tough game, but fail to support the effort with their time and/or resources. Well, here goes less talk and more walk.

I have drafted a both a comment to file with the FCC and talking points (at the end) that you can freely incorporate into your own FCC filing.  You can find them both here.

I am hopeful that you will join with me in filing comment on this important issue.  Remember, we only have approximately 35 days to get our comments in.

Let’s not let our careers be victimized by our own apathy.