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Transforming Perspectives: The Power of One-to-One Conversations For Sign Language Interpreters

Doug Bowen-Bailey presented Transforming Perspectives: The Power of One-to-One Conversations For Sign Language Interpreters at StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin. His talk suggested that one-one-one conversations with stakeholders in the Deaf and sign language interpreting communities can create powerful relationships that may transform our perspectives and lead to positive social change for both.

You can find the PPT deck for his presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English version of Doug’s talk from StreetLeverage – Live 2014.  We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Doug’s talk directly.]

Redefining leverage

I am leverage.

That phrase may mean something different to all of us. I want to share with you what it means to me and how I see it’s relevance to our profession and community.

For many people, leverage may be seen as power or influence, much like tossing a stone into a pond and watching the ripples spread out in ever-widening circles. But for me, it is more than that. It is about capturing the energy so that it doesn’t spread out in all directions. Instead, leverage means we concentrate our power so that we are able to accomplish what, at first, may seem impossible. For those of us who are part of the Street Leverage experience (both at the live conference and taking part in the online blog), my perspective is that a passion for using our leverage for positive social change is a common thread.

Monkeys and Mavens

Thinking about leverage brings to mind a book I read in high school entitled, The Hundredth Monkey by Ken Keyes, Jr. In it, Keyes argued that human consciousness needed to reach a critical mass to prevent nuclear war and used the example of change among monkeys living on Japanese islands as an example of how that can happen.

The books’ premise is based on the observation of a group of Japanese monkeys who learned to wash sweet potatoes before eating them. Slowly, more and more monkeys on one specific island tried the new approach of washing the food before eating it. When the number of monkeys engaging in this activity reached a critical mass, termed the hundredth monkey phenomenon, all of the monkeys on the island starting doing it. But not only that, all of the others of the same species on different islands began washing the potatoes as well. In the writing of his book, Keyes believed that there was no contact between the groups – something that has later been debunked.

Yet this idea of critical mass led me to the work of Malcolm Gladwell and his book, “The Tipping Point,” which analyzes how ideas are spread. He shares multiple factors in the process, but for the purpose of this article, I want to focus in on what Gladwell terms “The Law of the Few.” He suggests there are three types of people within human social networks who play a special role in accelerating the spread of ideas. These roles he names as:

  • Connectors
  • Mavens
  • Salespeople

Connectors are people who have relationships with an above average number of people and who seek to bring other people together if they seem to have a common purpose. For example, if you say that you are going to a city you have never visited before, a connector would be able to share the name of a person to visit in that city.

Mavens are people with in-depth knowledge of a certain topic. They are often the ones who generate ideas worth spreading, either by coming up with a new idea or uniquely blending together the ideas of others. They are people who have worked thoroughly through an idea or topic and are the person who comes to mind if you want some input on that topic. You will find the work of mavens of the interpreting field and the Deaf community in the pages of this blog.

Salespeople are the people in community who may not necessarily come up with their own idea, but are able to convey a message in such a way that makes sense to other people so they more readily adopt it.

Doug Bowen-Bailey
Doug Bowen-Bailey

It is important to note here, people are not exclusively one or another of these roles. We all may have some degree of connector, maven, and salesperson within us – and that may change depending on the context.

In order to make this idea more concrete, I think it is helpful to give an example related to the interpreting profession and I can’t think of a better one than Street Leverage, and its founder, Brandon Arthur. He has used the relationships he has with people (and his skill with technology and social media) to build a community of people who share thoughts. (This is the connector role.) He has brought together people with ideas worth sharing to write posts and present at Street Leverage ~ Live. (This is the maven role.) And Brandon uses his persuasive powers (both in his words and example) to inspire people to take part. At the most recent Street Leverage ~ Live, there were over 400 registrants and a tremendous team of Street Leverage staff (who are all volunteer.) To make this happen, you have to be a good salesperson.

The Rule of 150 and the Power of Weak Ties

In the spreading of ideas, Malcolm Gladwell offers another important insight from psychology. A number of studies have supported the conclusion that the human brain is wired to only be able to effective manage approximately 150 significant relationships – what Gladwell terms “The Rule of 150.” Gladwell suggests that organizations do well to keep these limits in mind as they structure themselves. If you move beyond that number, people don’t know each other well enough to feel a sense of loyalty and responsibility.

Gladwell suggests that a role connectors play is utilizing “the power of weak ties.” Connectors do not develop strong relationships with the numbers of people they know – rather they develop relationships for specific purposes and in certain contexts. These “weak ties” do have power in helping to spread ideas and strengthen community.

Social Media and Transforming Ideas

Social media, such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, can be powerful tools in supporting the work of connectors, mavens, and salespeople. Technology has empowered us to break the bonds of geography in that we can share our ideas around the globe to others who share our interest.

Yet the networks that we, as interpreters and the Deaf community, create are a drop in the cyber-bucket. As I write this, StreetLeverage has 2,129 followers on Twitter. LeBron James, a star athlete of the National Basketball Association, has over 12.9 million followers. And while social media can convey a variety of really meaningful ideas, it also has just as many or more distractions, such as quizzes to find out what Disney character you are most like? (For the record, it was my partner who took the quiz, not me.)

So, as people interested in change, how do we ensure that our messages remain a clear signal rather than becoming part of the noise of social media environments? It is here that I think our field can learn from the work of community organizers.

 The Power of One-on-One Conversations

In the midst of all the distractions of the information superhighway, it is our relationships with people and causes that help us to focus our attention. Community organizers use the technique of intentional one-on-one conversations to develop relationships with specific people to increase their own influence – and to learn from others.

These intentional conversations can be used in a variety ways. Some are focused on specifically building relationships and learning about the interests and motivations of the individual you are having the conversation with. Other conversations may focus on gaining wisdom and insight, while a third type might focus on persuading a person to join action.

This past year, I undertook a project of my own to do a combination of the first two types of conversations. Inspired by the idea of “The Hundredth Monkey,” I called it “The Hundred Conversations Project” and invited interpreters, educators, and members of the Deaf community to have an hour long conversation with me related to our field. I used the framework of a SWOT analysis asking people to share their insights with me about what the Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats for our profession are. I was clear in my invitation that my goal was not research, but to build relationship and to see if this could lead to a change in how interpreters relate to each other and the Deaf community.

While I am nowhere near the number of 100 conversations, I have learned much from the people who have accepted my offer. A number of themes emerged in conversations and as I move forward with the project, I hope to be able to offer a clearer picture of what I have learned. Some of the themes are very similar to those that are discussed through StreetLeverage such as:

  • Nurturing new interpreters
  • Transition from Service to Business Model
  • Accountability to Deaf community
  • Understanding Power & Privilege
  • Making interpreting choices transparent

The point is not so much what I have learned, but that having intentional conversations such as these are powerful ways that we all can use to transform our own perspectives and build our relationships with others in the field.

Because, in the end, for people attending the StreetLeverage – Live events, or those who participate in this online forum, we all are interested in being part of the change and addressing the challenges that face our profession and communities.

Poets and the People

In thinking about this, I was reminded of the words of James Baldwin, a writer who because of how the United States treated the reality that he was African-American and gay, chose to live for a significant portion of his life in France. He shared these thoughts about change:

The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen … Perhaps it can’t be done without the poet, but it certainly can’t be done without the people. The poet and the people get on generally very badly, and yet they need each other. The poet knows it sooner than the people do. The people usually know it after the poet is dead; but that’s all right. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.

In the framework of Gladwell, perhaps Baldwin’s poet is a “maven” and our work is to figure out how we can be connectors and salespeople to have the ideas spread to the people.

In the end, I think there needs to be a foundation of hope that the message will spread. Another poet, Clayton Valli, shared this message in his poem, The Dandelion, in which the great efforts of a gardener who sought to eradicate this “weed” only served to help spread its seeds.

Together, using the power of conversation and connection, we can come together to determine what ideas are worth spreading, and work together to transform ourselves and the world we live in. In the end, we will find that together, we are leverage.

What’s the first conversation you want to have on this journey to transformation?


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What Can Groupies Teach Sign Language Interpreters About Social Networking?

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

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

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

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

Dare to Dream

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

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

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

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

Be Intentional

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

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

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

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

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

What Has Come into View

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

Online Transparency Builds Relationships

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

Strength in Numbers

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

No Hostages

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


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

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

Where can this knowledge and accountability take you?

Wing Butler
Wing Butler

The Secret Sauce

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

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

Create a Platform

Start Small

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

Set a schedule

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

Create a Social Media Statement

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

Content, content, content.

Produce quality content quickly, economically and often.

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

United Strong

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

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

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

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

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


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Will Sign Language Interpreters Recognize Their Own Reflection?

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

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

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

Extending a Reflection

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

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

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

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

Coverage Highlights

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


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

Brenda Walker-Prudhom (13 min.)

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

Dawn Whitcher (9 min.)

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

David Geeslin (13 min.)

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

Attendee Reel (10 min.)

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

Flavia Fleischer (16 min.)

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

Shane Feldman (16 min.)

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

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

Live Updates

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

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

Photo Album2013 RID Conference Closing Ceremonies

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

Educational Sessions

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

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

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

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

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

Workshop | Educational Interpreters: The Missing Piece of the IEP

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

You can find additional session coverage here.

Team StreetLeverage

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

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

Hayley Baccaire

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

Wing Butler

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

Lindsey Kasowski

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

Diane Lynch

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

Jennifer Maloney

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

Lance Pickett

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

Paul Tracy

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

Amy Williamson

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

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


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

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

Gallaudet Interpreting Service (GIS) | Washington, DC

Champion Level Sponsor

The Sign Language Company | Los Angeles, CA

Champion Level Sponsor

Professional Sign Language Interpreting (PSLI) | Denver, CO

Activist Level Sponsor

Purple Communications | Rocklin, CA

Activist Level Sponsor

Sorenson Communications | Salt Lake City, UT

Advocate Level Sponsor

TCS & Associates | Rockville, MD

Advocate Level Sponsor

Partners Interpreting | Boston, MA

Advocate Level Sponsor

Access Interpreting | Washington, DC

Founding Sponsor of StreetLeverage – Live and Supporter Level Sponsor

Sign Language Interpreting Professionals (SLIP) | Pittsburgh, PA

Supporter Level Sponsor

Deaf Access Solutions (DAS) | Bethesda, MD

Supporter Level Sponsor

Visual Communication Interpreting (VCI) | Knoxville, TN

Supporter Level Sponsor

 In the End

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

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

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

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


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Backstage Coverage of the 2013 RID Conference

August 14, 2013


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

Street Team at the 2013 RID Conference









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


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


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


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


August 13, 2013


Closing Ceremonies and Banquet.

2013 RID Conference Closing Ceremonies













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


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


August 12, 2013

Workshop | Team Me Up? CDI

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


Workshop | Self Assessment: Critical for Interpreter Effectiveness

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


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


August 11, 2013


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

RID Past Presidents








Workshop | Emergency Management: Interpreter Self Care and Trauma Mitigation

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




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


August 10, 2013

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

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



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

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

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


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



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



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


August 9, 2013


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

2013 RID Conference Opening Ceremonies











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

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

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


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


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


August 8, 2013


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


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

Interpreters with Deaf Parents - Civility Workshop












August 1, 2013

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

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

What to Look For?

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

Video Interviews

Interviews with industry leaders, conference speakers and attendees.

Live Facebook & Twitter Feeds

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

Blog Posts

Summary coverage of educational sessions.

Attendee Experience

Attendee experience captured via videos and pictures.

When and Where?

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

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

Street Team

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

Hayley Baccaire

Lindsey Kasowski

Amy Williamson

Paul Tracy

Jennifer Maloney

Diane Lynch


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Can Blogging Protect the Interests of Sign Language Interpreters?

Whitney Hill

During these times of economic crisis many states are making decisions and cuts that have a real impact on sign language interpreters. It is times like these when it is even more vital to pay attention to the decisions your state is making. Gathering and disseminating information on the activities impacting sign language interpreters in your state is surprisingly simple and powerfully important.

How We do it in Washington State

The Washington State Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (WSRID) has a legislative committee with only two committee members (myself and the talented Emily Deleon). When I took over the position of committee chair in December of 2011, my knowledge of how the legislative process worked consisted mostly of a certain School House Rock song. My technical expertise could be described as “basic” at best. Now, we manage a blog that tracks issues around the state and it has been surprisingly successful and easy to do. What’s our secret to keeping interpreters informed?

 A Blog

Before the legislative committee implemented our legislative blog we had no real efficient way to share information. WSRID had some established channels for sharing information with members and interested parties, such as a quarterly newsletter, website, e-mail blasts, Facebook page, and our annual conference. Dawn Piegdon, the Legislative Committee Chair at the time, found repeated frustration in that these channels didn’t work particularly well for disseminating legislative information in a real-time, concise manner.

The best solution appeared to be to start a blog. We have found blogging to be perfect for the dissemination of legislative information. You can view our blog here to get an idea.

Why Blogging Works

There are a couple of key reasons blogging works:

1)   Reader Friendliness: If you are reading this article now, chances are I don’t have to preach to you about the ease of reading things in a blog format. If you are able to click on a link, you can access a blog. Blogs make it easy to post information real-time on the web. It is also very simple to post visual information like charts, graphs and pictures. I get regular and positive feedback about the visual information posted on our blog.

Another great thing about a blog is that it works as an archive for information. In order to ensure information is quickly accessed, we keep our posts short. If I had to explain everything going on in each post it would be difficult for readers to digest and impossible to maintain. Using a blog format allows visitors to look back at older blog posts to get caught up on the issues. 

2)   Technical Friendliness: With a blog you won’t need an IT professional or web designer on hand, which means the cost of setting up a blog and maintaining it are minimal to none. Once its set up and you have a feel for how the controls work you can post information on developments as they happen.

Ease of maintaining and updating our blog was really important to Dawn.  She happened to choose for the WSRID blog, but there are a few free blog sites out there that anyone with a computer can figure out. I find easy to navigate and I would recommend it to anyone thinking of starting a blog.

A Couple of Considerations

As I said before, the blog serves two of the most essential functions of the legislative committee, organizing and disseminating information. If you would like to start a blog here are some things you should consider.

1)   Decide on a Site. Play around with a few different blog sites and see which one is easiest for you to navigate. Most blogs will walk first time users through the basic set-up options. You might want to only use your blog to report on issues in your state, or you may want the blog to act more like a website that houses a collection of different resources for interpreters. Our blog happens to do both and it works well for us.

2)   Decide Your Approach. You have to decide how you want to leverage use of a blog for your legislative committee or watchdog organization. There are two different extremes to the approach your committee or group can take, each one has it’s own pros and cons, we happen to use a mixture of both.

a)   Be Neutral. You can be neutral and just report on the facts, this is the approach watchdog groups such as Amnesty International take, even though all the articles on our blog are written with a bias toward supporting interpreter, I find taking a neutral approach is just easier for writing.

b)   Support a Position. You can also take the activist approach. Activism is how a larger scale group such as Green Peace functions. As the WSRID legislative committee, we do get involved in activism activities at times such as lobbying.

 BloggingHow We Collect Information

There are a plethora of avenues in which your state impacts the profession. If you are starting from scratch in developing contacts or gathering information I would suggest you consider what follows:

1)   Start by first looking at what legislation your state has already passed related to sign language interpreting. Then find out who the representatives are that sponsored those particular bills and contact them by phone or email and try to have them point you to other resources. Also, when talking with these individuals express interest in working with them on bills in the future.

Note, many states at least have bills related to educational interpreter standards and/or interpreter licensure.

2)   Find out who else is out there with similar interests.  Disability activist in your state are usually larger groups with established relationships with state representatives. Of course, if your local chapter of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has a legislative or watchdog committee, reach out to them.

3)   State Contracts. Understand how your state works with interpreters. Here in Washington State we spend a lot of time watching state entities such as the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). They are one of the largest consumers of sign language interpreter services in the state; hence they have a very large contract with sign language interpreters. Often times, that contract is used as basis for the development of other contracts involving sign language interpreters so it is important to watch for changes to these agreements.

4)   Ask for information! Also, this may sound overly obvious, but something that continues to surprise me, is that the state will largely tell you want to know if you just ask. In Washington, we have a public disclosure request law (Chapter 42.56 RCW, The Public Records Act) to enable us to gather information on contracts the state holds with sign language interpreters. Freedom of information legislation entitles you to any data the state holds that does not harm others. These laws are often referred to as open legislation, or sunshine laws.

5)   The Legislature. Don’t be intimidated to talk to your representatives! A good starting place is your own representatives. Figuring out who your representatives are and how to contact them is quick and easy to do with help of the Internet. They make it easy because they want to hear from you.

6)   Collaborate. Here in Washington, we work with groups that seek to protect the interests of people with disabilities to meet our representatives. Also, we try to go to legislative Meet-and-Greets to spread awareness to our representatives about current issues or general awareness of what sign language interpreters do.

The connections you form with your representatives are invaluable. They will remember you later when they are faced with making decisions about the issues that affect our field.

7)   Watch Bills and Budgets. There is no way that one person could pour over every bill and budget looking for potential impacts on sign language interpreters, and I would never have the time or the patience to do that myself. What I have done is develop contacts with the people who are paid to do that, for example state agencies or Deaf centers usually have many eyes on funding and legislative changes. Chances are that if something has come up in a bill or a budget involving sign language interpreters, they can point me in the direction of where to find it.

I also highly recommend developing contacts with organized spoken language interpreter groups. We try to get on email subscriptions lists and list serves to stay current on their information. Also, we try to show up at their meetings to stay abreast of the issues they face around the state.

The reason why it is important to connect with the people who write legislation is that they do not understand the difference between sign language and spoken language interpreters, and often times overlook the distinction when writing a bill or policy. The results can have unintended consequences on us as sign language interpreters. We have also found, here in Washington, in an attempt to save costs entities are trying to combine both sign/spoken language interpreters into shared contracts. Because of the recent unionization of spoken language interpreters in our state, this makes those contracting issues even more complex.

How We Disseminate Information

Now that you have gathered information how do you get people to read it? Our current process has been mostly to rely on WSRID’s already established channels of communication with members and affiliates, but we are always trying to find new ways to get the blog out there.

The WSRID board has been very supportive in using their established forms of communication such as e-mail blasts, the newsletter, their website, and their Facebook page to alert interested parties to updates on the blog. Word of mouth and personal connections are old fashioned techniques but still the most effective way to get interpreters interested in the information we have gathered.

Other Ideas to Consider

Some other ideas that I have been thinking about, but have not yet implemented are:

1)   Working together with local Deaf organizations to share information impacting sign language interpreters with their members. Involving our Deaf allies is always a priority because issues that impact sign language interpreters never really only impact sign language interpreters.

2)   Using a vlog as a supplement to the current blog with a native ASL user is something we would also love to implement. The current technology allows us to add this feature quite easily, finding volunteers for the task has proven to be the bigger challenge.

3)   Lobbying together with local Deaf organizations is another great avenue for collaboration. Unfortunately, we have not yet had the opportunity to do this, but hopefully that will arise in the near future.

4)   Twitter is another social media outlet I have toyed with the idea of using. I use it myself but do not see enough of my peers using it to consider it a viable option to increase visibility for the blog yet.

5)   Using town halls or open forums: this is another old-fashioned technique that works really well when you can pull off all of the logistics. WSRID  organized a town hall recently to address a divisive issue related to our contract with Medicaid that came up.  It was very successful.

You Can Do It!

I hope the idea of starting your own blog to keep sign language interpreters informed sounds a little less frightening to you now. There are no prerequisites for the job except for an interest in the issues impacting our field, a computer, and an Internet connection. Good luck to you all out there. We all are the stewards of our profession and are the ones responsible for eliciting positive change from the people we elect to represent us.

What is being done in your state to share information?