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Lynnette Taylor | Modern Questor: Connecting the Past to the Future of the Field

Modern Questor for Sign Language Interpreters

Lynnette presented, Modern Questor: Connecting the Past to the Future of the Field, at StreetLeverage – Live. Her talk examined how the shift from a Deaf/centric to a market/centric locus of power has left both the Deaf community and sign language interpreters feeling powerless.

The Modern Questor

The modern questor now takes up the search, His quest the same; his methods only changed. He studies records; carefully he weighs Each point, for light upon his inquiry: Whence came his people? Whither are they going? What struggles have they known? What victories? Out of his notes he weaves an epic story.
– Ella Cara Deloria

In Ben Zeitlin’s, Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film about Hurricane Katrina, the pint sized sage Hushpuppy, declares, “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted.

Lately, in our universe, there has been a lot of discussion about the ‘busted piece’ of interpreter referral agencies. Economic, ideological and political storms have washed away most of the Deaf centric service agencies, those that traditionally provided interpreter referral services to the local community. Interpreting services have relocated to market centric agencies that often have no connection to their local communities, their service providers or even the services they provide.

The shift from local agencies that were responsive to the community’s needs to market centric agencies that have no historical understanding of the struggle for linguistic rights, has had a dire effect on the well being of our communities, one that has led to the loss of our individual and collective agency. Not only has this ‘busted piece’ led to the unraveling of comprehensive services and community ties it has also led to the unraveling of our collective political narrative. Like a strand pulled from the weave, we find ourselves vulnerable as stray threads thrown to the wind.

As we think about how to fix this “broken piece,” whether through certification of agenciesexploring an interpreter’s duality, or their inner warning system we should revisit the role these Deafcentric agencies, and by extension interpreters, played in our local communities to help us identify what to import for our future.


RID was entering puberty when I came of age as an interpreter. At that time interpreting services were housed in Deaf service agencies and it was there, that stories like dewdrops at dawn, collected on leaves. In Native Speakers, Linda Tuhiwai Smith explains, “ The story and the storyteller both serve to connect the past with the future, one generation with another, the land with the people and the people with the story…storytelling is a way of representing the “diversities of truth”… (133) These agencies served as the ‘land’ where people and story, past and future generations met to write their epic tale, of which we were a vital part.

They were also a way for agencies to monitor the health and well being of our community. Interpreters were an integral part of story collecting, becoming in Deloria’s words, ‘modern questors’. As we went on assignments, we brought back not only reports, but questions and concerns. If we saw a family in need, we knew there was help. If we faced obstacles or discrimination we had advocates or legal services to help, if an elderly person was getting evicted, we could guide them to assistance. Because it was intra-agency communication confidentiality was kept intact. We didn’t shoulder the burden alone and didn’t have to choose between being a disengaged witness or a zealous savior, because we functioned within an engaged community where there was support.

Whence Came Our PeopleTrail Marker for Sign Language Interpreters

Ella Cara Deloria, in a letter to John D. Rockefeller Jr.  wrote, “I represent a middle era in the development of my tribe… I lived in the days when it was a really Indian background, I stand on middle ground, and know both sides…no matter how far a younger student should go, he could not know both sides, because that other, the Indian side is gone.” (41)

It is from this “middle era” I will talk about the place of agencies in our narrative. As a coda I grew up steeped in the traditions of a collective Deaf culture, when stories told in the ‘I’ often signified the ‘We’ of collective culture.  These stories birthed around any gathering place, the kitchen table, Deaf clubs, Deaf schools, under lamp posts in the parking lot and they coalesced in those Deafcentric service agencies.

Story swapping was a means of connectivity to our collectivity; each singular episode weaving part of an epic tale, tracing the footsteps of our people and animating the path of our future. If stories of struggle were a recurring theme they became a call for action. If stories of victories were shared, they passed on strategies for success to others. Discord was also part of the narrative for there wasn’t always agreement on interventions or strategies. But in spite of disagreements these gatherings offered a place of comfort, a place where the I, reflected in the WE, was a reassurance that “I” am not alone.  In the world of minority language users, this is very important.

In turn, these stories provided a snapshot of our community life, giving the agency a way to monitor the wellbeing of our community. From stories collected they could decide where to administer medicines and when they saw that aggressive action was needed to heal, call the warriors together.

Interpreter services were a lucrative part of an array of support services that were vital to the well being of both the Deaf and interpreting community. Revenue from the Interpreting Department helped offset deficits in other high cost/ low revenue service programs such as mental health services, advocacy, housing etc. this in turn enabled agencies to employ people from the local Deaf community. Staff interpreters were a resource not only to the agency, but also to the community covering those occasional unpaid interpreting needs such as funerals, last minute hospital requests, and even political demonstrations.

The Price of a TTY Call

The road to here began because I had to make a TTY call to my mother.

The year was 1976. I had just left home, Danville Kentucky, to go to college in San Francisco. To say I was ‘green’ would be an understatement. When I got off the plane at midnight,(with everything I owned: one green suitcase and $100 dollars in my pocket,) I thought I would walk right out the door and into my college classroom.

I needed to let my mother know I had arrived. After a few days, I finally found a Deaf Services Agency, for the use of their TTY I had to give them my phone number. Giving them my phone number was the act that changed my life. In April of 1977, I got a call asking if I could come down to the Health Education and Welfare building to interpret for the 504 demonstration.

They needed volunteers and explained if the demonstration was successful, we would make history by putting  legislation in place that granted civil rights for all disabled people. How could I say no?

I remembered all the times my mother didn’t have access because there were no interpreters. I thought about the many experiences we could have shared but weren’t able to: the theatre, parent teacher night, the movies, the doctor, television, art classes (I wouldn’t have to interpret). That one day turned into 26 days as we occupied the Health Education and Welfare building in San Francisco, in what became known as the 504 sit in. NPR reported, “for people with disabilities, it’s a moment as important as Selma or Stonewall.

The success of the sit in, and the rights we won, could not have happened without the involvement and support of local agencies. The leaders in the Deaf community had a national network from which they could organize, strategize, network and muster support from local community members.

Interpreting was a 24/7 activity, with bomb threats, arrest threats and strategy meetings lasting ‘til the wee hours of the morning. Agencies helped by providing us with staff and free- lance interpreters during the day, and organized visits from the local Deaf doctor for our care.

Strangers in a Strange Land

It was because of agency involvement that I met my first “professional” interpreter, (At the time I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to become one). At first meeting we were ‘strangers in a strange land’ and definitely did not ‘grok’ each other, me with feathers in my hair, a pierced nose, bracelets up my arm and in overalls, he in a smock, from Boston, with a college degree. Our hesitations melted the minute we started working together. It was from him that I began to learn how to navigate strategies of discourse that I had not grown up with, and in turn helped him navigate the discourse of Deaf elders, both of us helping each other recognize nuances and subtleties that take years to identify.

We were all foreigners in this ‘interpreting space’ and together we were learning how to cross the distances of language and culture to understand each other.

The agency helped us navigate these new waters by teaming newer interpreters with more seasoned ones, using discernment to match interpreter to assignment. The Deaf community had power to choose their representation, if they were not happy with an interpreter the agency knew it. And the interpreter had a community of ‘critical friends’ to help refine their skills. The interpreter had revenue, had support, had relationships within a community and had someone to turn to when help was needed in the field. And so did the Deaf community.

It Takes Many Voices to Make Change

Lynnette Taylor
Lynnette Taylor

As we observed how the community came together to respond to issues of conflict, oppression or discrimination we learned our respective places in the matrix of the community and came to understand it takes many voices to make change.  The agency responded to the community’s needs by addressing social injustice, celebrating victories, strengthening bonds with the greater community and by providing economic well being to the local community, all of these building long lasting relationships

There existed a synergistic and dynamic relationship between the interpreters, the agency and the community in which we all took part in monitoring and maintaining the health and well being of our community.

Diversities of Truth/Telephone Wednesdays

Community stories flourished in the local agencies, especially on ‘telephone Wednesdays’ when Deaf people would line up to make interpreted phone calls. As we cradled ringing telephones, we engaged in conversations, forged new relationships, negotiated interpreting, and for many, deaf, coda and particularly those who had arrived on these shores of our community through routes other than family, this provided a natural entrée, an organic way to enter the community.

Having a site to gather gave interpreters a place to try on different ‘roles’ as interpreters. We were becoming adept shape-shifters as we explored what Robert Lee and Peter Llewellyn Jones, describe as the interpreter’s ‘role space’. (If we were to diagram it, it would look like a morphing Kandinsky painting.) We found we often needed to alter our ‘role’ to fit the situation, sometimes taking in the seams, sometimes letting them out, and sometimes donning a whole new costume.

The role of the interpreter was shaping itself in response to the changing needs of the community. All of us, interpreters, D/deaf people, and even non signers, were engaging in conversations about how to work together, sharing world views, problem solving ethical conflicts, and it was through these conversations and interactions that we began to learn our place in the story.

But perhaps more important, these interpreted interactions and witnessing of stories helped us understand the complexities of our community. Families that don’t communicate with each other, the struggle for access, the lively humor of survival tales, the outsider view of majority culture, the scars of racism, audism and other isms, that people experience when one is, as Andrew Solomon describes, “far from the tree” in both family and mainstream society.

All the different faces of class, privilege and power made its imprint on the daily stories reminding us of the “diversities of truth.” These agencies were the ‘land’ where people and story, past and future generations met to write their epic tale, of which we were a part. What happens to these ‘diversities of truth’ as we lose our land? When the ‘I’ separates from the ‘We,’ we become vulnerable as stray threads thrown to the wind. Rather than being creators of our story, the danger is we will become the story that others inscribe on us.

Fixing What We Can…

“When the director Ben Zeitlin asked the then, six year old actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, ‘ If all these things were your fault… what would you do? The wizened sage answered, “I would just try to fix it.  I would do whatever I can to fix what I broke.”

These are a few of the many who are fixing things.

StreetLeverage, our ‘modern questor’ is gathering our stories. From them we can monitor the wellbeing of our community and find ways to take action.

National Interpreter Digest Group, NIDG ( is an online discussion group started by Stephanie Feyne in an effort to initiate  thoughtful discussions about pertinent issues in the field of interpreting.

Washington RID and Northern California RID have been actively addressing the problem of outsourcing of sign language interpreters.

WRID successfully removed sign language interpreters from some of the state contracts awarded to language services and are now working with state agencies to ensure credible interpreting agencies get awarded the contracts.

NORCRID held a community forum to discuss the implications of interpreter referrals being outsourced to language service agencies. Recently held a follow up  forum which included the  language service agencies as participants in a panel. Starting dialogues with the community and service providers.

Over the past two years, PCRID, Hawaii RID has hosted community forums inviting our communities to reflect on the trends in the field and its impact on our relationships.

These are just a few of the ways our community is trying to “fix what we can”.

What are your thoughts?


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Cotera, M. (2008) Native Speakers and the Poetics of Culture Austin: University of Texas Press Smith,L. (2006) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples

Llewellyn-Jones P/ and Lee R.G. (in prep) Interpreting in Three Dimensions: Defining the Role Space of Community Interpreters

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A Salute to Big Thinking Sign Language Interpreters

StreetLeverage-Live - Thought Leadership EventWhat do projectile vomiting, cancelled and delayed flights, and an unrelenting Nor’easter have in common? StreetLeverage—Live. As anyone who has organized a live event will tell you, there are always unforeseen challenges that arise and StreetLeverage—Live had its fair share. Despite these challenges, the event was a success.

Talent Salute

I salute Nigel Howard, Trudy Suggs, Lynette Taylor, and Wing Butler, the inaugural speakers of StreetLeverage—Live, for their commitment to the field and its next evolution, the courage to openly share their big ideas, and the considerable effort made to effectively pack these ideas into a concise 20-ish minute talk. No small task to be sure. These independent thinkers are people who require more of themselves, those around them, and of the status quo.

Nigel, Trudy, Lynnette and Wing, you guys killed it! Nicely done.

A Recap

Nigel HowardNigel Howard

Nigel presented, Deaf Interpreters: The State of Inclusion. His talk explored some of the perceptions that challenge better integration of deaf interpreters into the field and into daily practice. Most notably, the perception that ASL-English interpreters have that requesting to work with a deaf interpreter is an indication of an inferior skill-set.

Additionally, he highlighted that the definitions ASL-English and deaf interpreters hold of each other, correct or not, is the basis of their effectiveness working together and that both have equal responsibility for the processing of information and outcome of the communication.

Finally, Nigel offered that there is a need to broaden the view of how and why deaf interpreters are used in order to improve their inclusion and contribution to the field.

Trudy SuggsTrudy Suggs

Trudy presented, Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter. Her talk examined how the choices sign language interpreters make while delivering communication access can, and often do, contribute to the economic and situational disempowerment of deaf people.

Trudy offered that interpreters can avoid stripping power from those they work with, and the broader Deaf community, by remembering who are the owners of the communication. Further, that it is essential to defer to these owners and Deaf community representatives rather than speak on their behalf. Additionally, that true empowerment begins when a consciousness is achieved that results in the referring of opportunity to back to the Deaf community.

Finally, she offered that anything less than full and mutual respect, regardless of the situation and/or opportunity at stake, is a failure to support true empowerment.

Lynnette TaylorLynnette Taylor

Lynette presented, Modern Questor: Connecting the Past to the Future of the Field. Her talk explored, how the dwindling numbers of deaf-centric service agencies and shared gathering places for the Deaf community and sign language interpreters is impacting the sign language interpreting field.

Lynnette offered that the elimination of these agencies and places of gathering is resulting in the disappearance of the stories and storytellers that serve to connect the two communities—and practitioners to each other—through a common understanding of the struggles and sacrifices known, victories achieved, and destination aimed for.

Finally, she suggested that without this common bond and shared understanding of history, sign language interpreters are left adrift—powerless against the definitions imposed upon them and their work. 

Wing ButlerWing Butler

Wing presented, Onsite Sign Language Interpreters Face Extinction. His talk examined the legislation and technology developments of the 90’s that defined the values of the “Onsite Era” and how these values are now being replaced by the values of a “Virtual Presence Era.”

He offered that some of the key values of the Onsite Era that are being replaced are, a relational approach to the work, interpreters are service professionals, quality means certified, specialty skill-sets and individual representation are valuable, and success is achieved through reciprocity.

Wing suggested that the iterative realignment of these values leaves sign language interpreters vulnerable to a number of dangerous pitfalls. Pitfalls that can be avoided by working to protect the value of certification, collaborating with industry partners, preparing the leaders of the future, and leveraging technology to create a learning culture within the field.

A Giant Thank You 

Access Interpreting

I would like to thank Access Interpreting for being the Thought Leadership Sponsor of the PCRID conference. Their leadership and support was directly responsible for making the inaugural StreetLeverage–Live event possible.Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon


Lyle, Brad, and Ryan, thanks for your vision and generosity in giving back to the field. asdfasdf



I would like to offer my thanks to the PCRID conference co-chairs, Josh Hughes and Jennifer Bell and the PCRID Board for their support of StreetLeverage and live thought leadership at the conference. You all did a great job.


Thanks to the many people who actively participated in the event. It was your engagement and shared insight that multiplied, exponentially, the value of the speakers sharing their ideas and perspectives.

The Takeaway 

What quickly became obvious during the event is that there is an interest in openly discussing the developments and forces at play within the field in a live, real-time environment.

Let us collectively consider how we can personally work to include our deaf interpreter counterparts, avoid disempowering those we serve, find ways to share our collective stories, and avoid the pitfalls before us as our field continues to evolve.

Be on the lookout, as videos for each of the talks will be individually released on in future.

Have a question for Nigel, Trudy, Lynnette, and/or Wing? Ask away!

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A Role for Sign Language Interpreters: Preserving the Linguistic Human Rights of Deaf People

What Role do Sign Language Interpreters Play in the Linguistic Human Rights of Deaf People?As a coda when I left home to go to college, I never dreamed that I was leaving my mother tongue. It never dawned on me that there wouldn’t be deaf people where I was going and that ASL would be nowhere in sight. Never were my eyes so lonely.

Much like an immigrant leaving their homeland, I had to go in search of my motherland. Luckily, I had a map. One given me by my mother that not only taught me the way to ASLand but also how to travel. She taught me that when you meet the community, you come bearing gifts, whatever they may be; in my case it was interpreting. It was through volunteer interpreting that I found my way back home. But I couldn’t have done it without a map.

What Role, if any, Interpreters Have to Play in the Preservation of ASL?

The question itself raises brows among my Deaf friends and colleagues. When I mention language preservation and interpreters in the same sentence I see their discomfort, a concern that this discussion could usher in the next wave of experts, of  well intended “linguistic rescuers” and do even more damage, becoming yet one more blotch on the ‘structural canvas of colonization’.[i]  Given the Deaf community’s history in the struggle for linguistic rights, it’s a valid concern, one I share.

Uphold the Purity of the Language of Signs

RID’s founding elders understood that once sign language became commerce a shift would occur not only between the language and the indigenous holders of the language, but also between the Deaf community and its interpreters. In an attempt to safeguard the linguistic sovereignty of the Deaf community and preserve the language of the community, they included tenet 11 in the original 1965 code of ethics to address our moral and ethical responsibility to the preservation of the language and the well being of the Deaf community.  “The interpreter shall seek to uphold the dignity and purity of the language of signs. He shall also maintain a readiness to learn and accept new signs, if these are necessary to understanding.”[ii]

I propose we create a new code of ethics for RID, one that acknowledges the vision of our elders and supports the efforts of WFD and NAD and the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, (CPRD).   By making the ‘linguistic human rights of deaf people’ the canvas of our field, we have a chance to, in the words of Veditz, “love and protect our beautiful sign language as the noblest gift god gave to deaf people.”

Deaf Angel/The Other’s Perspective

When your language is the dominant language, or the language of power, it’s everywhere, like the air you breathe, and is easy to take for granted. But when it’s not, you are often reminded just how fragile the thread of language can be.

It was sheer serendipity that the language found my mother. A visiting physician from Chicago happened to pass through the small mining town where my mother lived. He had heard about the meningitis outbreak and came to see how people in the town fared. Someone told him about my mother, that she had gone deaf from spinal meningitis, so he went to visit her. When he met my grandparents he told them about Illinois School for the Deaf. He told them there was even a special college she could go to one day, Gallaudet. For my grandparents, college was never even a dream, both of them had to quit school and go to work by the time they were eight years old. It took everything they had to save enough money for the train ticket to send my mother to school. The year was 1930. 

The Road Not Taken

That same day, the physician also visited another family with a deaf daughter. Unlike my grandparents, they didn’t send their daughter to the school for the Deaf but kept her home, isolated and locked in the upstairs attic for years. Every year when we visited, my mother would drag me to their house so I could interpret her pleas as she tried to convince them that sign language would help their daughter.

When they died fifty years later, the deaf woman came down from the attic. She emerged as a feral woman/child language-less. That memory seared itself in my language. My mother was acutely aware how it easily could have been her who ended up language/ less.  She told the story of the ‘doctor who saved her’ so often that we ended up calling him the “deaf angel”. Even though he didn’t know sign language, he led my mother not only to her language, but to life. That is what language does, gives life, like the air we breathe.

It’s a haunting experience to think that someone else could take away your right to language, to self, to human rights but stories like these still happen.

ASL is at its Zenith

When sign language classes are offered everywhere, You Tube is saturated with signed songs, the internet with Baby and me signing websites, why even Paul McCartney has stars signing in his music video (sizzling controversy fanning the flames)[iii]. The very idea of American Sign language endangerment seems absurd. If anything, ASL is at its zenith. How can it be an endangered language when it’s so prolific and accessible?

It is indeed accessible to hearing people, but ironically, for the deaf child, the way to the language is paved with obstacles that begin shortly after birth. The moment the audiogram hits the fan raging ideologies begin to scribe their path onto the life and body of the deaf child. Parents find themselves being ethically judged, and with no elders to guide them, or maps of their own, they are lost.

Lynnette Taylor
Lynnette Taylor

Maps are political. The cartographers who draw those borders and create nations do so with an ideological and political framework. While we have no “land” to speak of, ASL is our home, wherever it lives and it crosses all borders.

Nettle and Romaine in their book, Vanishing Voices[iv] talk about the main forces that cause languages to die: an enduring social network ceases to be, loss by population, a shift is forced.

We have over the past 15 years seen a dramatic shift in all of these areas. Deaf schools are in danger of closing, Deaf clubs and public gathering places are no longer as prevalent as before, Deaf social service agencies are diminishing, Deafness is considered a low incidence disability add to that current medical trends in cochlear implants, biotechnology and genetic counseling and these numbers decrease even more. Current trends in education cause a forced shift in where a child goes to school and an IEP dictates the child’s language of instruction. No longer can a child find his way to a community of others like himself without a lot of guidance and help.

More than 80 % of the students entering Gallaudet come from mainstream educational settings. Not only are the languaculture transmission power sites in decline, (Deaf schools, Deaf clubs, Deaf agencies) but so are the public gathering places that foster a rich linguistic environment.

As the demand for interpreters in the classroom increases, the less likely it is that those interpreters will have cultural and linguistic fluency.[v] Having little or no contact with the Deaf community they cannot help the Deaf student find their way to the wisdom embedded in the community and the language. They have no map. With the absence of standardized language interpreters create their own esoteric system for communication, which Ted Supalla predicted could lead to the creation of “1,000,001 Anne Sullivans”. (PCRID Community Forum 2011) Where will this map lead? Those deaf children will be bound to their individual interpreter because only they will be able to understand them.

Who are the Language Cartographers?

Language transmission isn’t the only hurdle Deaf children face. Linguistic racism is another. Hunter, a three year old deaf pre-schooler finds his name sign, (hunter,) the subject of controversy. He “has been prohibited from signing his own name because school administrators believe the gesture he uses looks too much like a gun”.[vi]

By banning it they sent a message to the public that is reductive and racist, sign language is not only a mime, but a dangerous mime at that. What is not pointed out however, is that the English word Hunter, is just as reflexive as the sign. I guess the message is loud and clear, as long as the hunter is English then it’s safe.

While many say the proliferation and visibility of ASL on the internet and in the media is a good thing there is a price to be paid for language living in a virtual space. Rico Peterson has pointed out some of the dangers in his article on Street Leverage . Once the people are separated from the language, then the “trope of universal ownership implicitly releases the reading public from any empathetic burden of taking the perspective of the other.”[vii] It becomes easy to become disengaged from the responsibilities of the well being of a community if you are cut off from it.

Once sign language became a language for profit it became a resource to be mined (both from within and without). Like all cultural resources, it could be exported, deployed and uprooted from its native soil into the land of commerce, where its value lay in the profit it could make in the market, not in the happiness and soul it could bring to a community.

The amputation of the language from the deaf body has led us down an ethically complicated path. (On the day that I am writing this, Bobby Beth Scoggins plea to ACT NOW TO SAVE DEAF SCHOOLS had a total of 5,207 hits, while the signsong “Womanizer” performed by a hearing person, had 267,520 hits. ASL as entertainment is a burgeoning business, but concern for the Deaf body in which it lives doesn’t seem as popular.)

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 also the life of the community.

What Can We Do? 

If we revisit each of the stories, they are stories about getting lost and finding our way. About having maps.  About making maps. About the price of being lost. To draw a map, you must have travelled the land. Our place in this story of preservation is about providing a map to lead people home. Leading deaf children to their elders, leading hearing parents to a thriving community that welcomes them and leading ourselves to a more compassionate place.  We are all constrained by the conditions of the canvas. And yes, the gesso our colonialist narrative is written on is one of audism, pathology, and linguistic racism but if we repaint the canvas and let the Deaf community be the language cartographers, there will be a new narrative, perhaps a nation without borders.

Language Belongs to the Indigenous

But to achieve that we all must help. We must begin by recognizing that the language belongs to the indigenous people. We must visit those lands so we can help lead others there. We must commit to creating physical gathering spaces so that languaculture can thrive. This is the primary purpose of Community Forums to provide the arena for languaculture transmission and for community to build.

In your local communities make gatherings that include everyone. There are many of you out there already doing amazing things to keep ties to the community. Educational interpreters in Oklahoma have regular potluck dinners with all the deaf students and their families. They invite the Deaf community to join them. They are building micro communities. We can do this everywhere.

Linguistic and Cultural Fluency

Be as linguistically and culturally fluent as you can be. You may be the legend on the map that takes them home.

Set up ASL only classes during your local RID meetings. Invite Deaf people in to teach about sewing, cars, painting, linguistics, computers, whatever they wish to teach about and you all will have the experience of learning not only a new skill set but also a new semantic domain. Swap skills, then you offer to teach something the community wants to learn.

Set up bartering systems where you skill -swap with members of the deaf community and your community of interpreters. You all begin to know each other in a deeper way than a service exchange.

Have salons conducted in ASL. Invite groups of people in for discussions on current topics. Invite hearing parents to join so they begin to find their way to the Deaf community.

We Must be Patient With Each Other, but We Must Also Hurry

Invite elders and community members to your RID meetings. While many of us have grown up in deaf households, we do not know what it means to be Deaf and can’t impart the lessons of navigating the hearing waters that is so vital for the future of the community’s survival. Record the stories. They are leaving us. We need them for our children.

We need to revisit the foundation of RID and place safeguards that ensure our commitment to the linguistic human rights of deaf people. So let’s hand the brush back to the Deaf community and a new world we paint.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 
 – Dylan Thomas


[i] Kroskrity, Paul V. “Facing the Rhetoric of Language Endangerment:Voicing the Consequences of Linguistic Racism.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21.2 (2011): 179-92. Print.

[ii] The original code of ethics can be found in Dennis Cokely’s seminal article, Exploring Ethics, A case for Revising the Code of Ethics (


[iv] Nettle, Daniel, and Suzanne Romaine. Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.


[vii] Kroskrity ibid

Thomas, Dylan. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” – N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2012. <>.