Topics for the 2013 Annual Conference!

25 01 2013

Topic Flyer Final

Visit our newly updated website for full details. http://www.southcarolinarid.org





SC RID would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the presenters for the 2013 Annual Conference!

25 01 2013
For more information and full details on the conference be sure to visit our newly updated site!

For more information and full details on the conference be sure to visit our newly updated site!





SC RID would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the presenters for the 2013 Annual Conference!

22 01 2013

SC RID would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the presenters for the 2013 Annual Conference!





SC RID would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the presenters for the 2013 Annual Conference!

22 01 2013

SC RID would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the presenters for the 2013 Annual Conference!





Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter

19 12 2012

 

Trudy presented, Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter, at StreetLeverage – Live. 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.

Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter

In the spirit of being transparent, the stories I’m about to share might be uncomfortable for some of you. While I would like to speak my truth, I recognize that you have your own truth as well. I trust that you will evaluate the stories I share and recognize the value in them. I actually was, and am, reluctant about presenting today because like many deaf people who speak out, I’ve had to endure a lot of negative feedback for being a “strong personality,” “angry deaf person,” and so on. My goal today is for you, as interpreters, to be open to possibly uncomfortable topics, uncomfortable truths, and uncomfortable analyses—whether they apply to you or not.

I believe that the best way to become bona fide allies is to embrace difficult ideas, opinions and, yes, facts. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

Four weeks ago, my two-year-old son fell and broke his leg. A week later, I took him, along with my one-year-old, to the orthopedic doctor for a check-up. Now, I live in a town where there are 250 to 300 deaf people living among 23,000 people; we have the deaf school, so everyone knows how to sign or how to work with interpreters. After about 45 minutes of waiting in the lobby—very unusual for a town of this size—I asked the receptionist about the severe delay. The receptionist never once looked up from her computer, saying that the doctor was backed up. I asked if we could see the doctor since my children were restless, hungry and my son, in a body cast from chest to toe, needed his medicine—which was at home. She said no. I said, “Could you please speak to the doctor or nurse?” She replied, “Oh, no, I can’t do that,” and I repeated my request. She adamantly refused.

I finally said, “Could you please look at me?” She looked at the interpreter, and I said, “No, at me.” Once she did, I asked, “Could you please offer a resolution? We’ve been here an hour.” At that very moment, my baby began crying, and the receptionist finally realized the extent of my situation. A nurse came out who was far more courteous and apologetic. After we talked about the delay, I asked how I could make a complaint about the receptionist.

A few minutes later, the receptionist called the interpreter over, saying the interpreter had a phone call. The interpreter answered the phone, and realized it was the office manager calling for me. All this time, the receptionist was looking at me with dagger eyes. The office manager began asking questions. I explained that I wasn’t comfortable talking about the situation because the receptionist was listening in. The office manager reassured me she’d be in touch. As I returned to my seat, I realized the interpreter was still by the front desk. I looked back and saw her cover her mouth as she whispered to the receptionist. When she came back to where we were sitting, I asked what she had said to the receptionist.

“Nothing, why?”

“I saw you whisper to her, what did you say?”

“Nothing.”

“No, I saw you whisper. What was it about?”

She relented and said, “Uh, she began apologizing to me for her behavior, and said she didn’t mean to talk to you like that. I told her it was okay.”

“But it isn’t okay how she treated me. Why didn’t you tell her to apologize directly to me?”

I could see the realization of her mistake dawn over her face. Just then, we were called into the examination room and the appointment was over fairly quickly.

Such a simple act of trying to mediate a situation—when she really didn’t have the right to—became situational disempowerment. Had she been in my shoes, would she have told the receptionist it was okay? I don’t know. Mind you, I would absolutely work with this interpreter again. Still, the experience led me to think about disempowerment.

Let’s take a quick look at the word disempowerment. The word has quite a simple definition for such a powerful concept: to take away power.

As interpreters, you have a very delicate line to walk on the job. You have to figure out how to mediate culture, conflicts, personalities, and a million other things all at the same time as interpreting. I won’t go into theoretical mumbo-jumbo about that because you already know this. I will, however, share my experiences as a person who comes from a family of at least 600 combined years of experience in the deaf community, as a mother to four deaf children, and as someone who is supposedly at the center of the deaf community. I also work as a certified deaf interpreter, and have grown up always believing that the deaf community and the hearing community are really not all that much different—even if there are worlds of differences in so many ways.

There are two types of disempowerment discussed throughout today’s talk and workshop, both interconnected: situational disempowerment and economic disempowerment.

For another example of situational disempowerment, let’s go back to when I was 13 years old. I went to a public high school that had 80 deaf students and 8 full-time interpreters. I took a theater course with three other deaf students and maybe 25 hearing students; it was interpreted by one of the better interpreters. She criticized my signing every single day, saying that I signed too fast and too “ASL.” She even went as far as voicing gibberish if she didn’t understand me—at fast speeds to mimic my signing speed—and this would cause the hearing students and teacher to break out in laughter.

For an extremely insecure teenager struggling with her identity, having attention called to her like this was beyond horrifying. This was humiliation, pure and simple. The interpreter, to cover up her lack of fluency, purposefully disempowered me. Even today, I momentarily revert to that 13-year-old whenever someone says I sign too fast—which, by the way, a deaf person has never said to me. Interpreters should be accountable for their lack of fluency and not put this on the deaf person’s shoulders.

Every interpreter’s goal should be to ensure communication access, not disempowerment in any form. To take away a deaf person’s power, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is unacceptable. With that in mind, there is another way deaf people can be disempowered—and that’s financially.

As we all know, there are people who do take advantage of the deaf community. History has shown this time after time, ranging from pretending to be deaf and peddling ABC cards to trying to get out of tickets or charges. Back in 1997, I uncovered one of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever come across. While we’ll discuss this more in my workshop, it is a long, strange tale with so many twists and turns. This really happened. This isn’t fiction.

In 1997, Saturn, the car corporation, ran a series of advertisements both on television and in print. This ad campaign was called its Real People, Real Cars campaign—and featured actual owners, not actors, in its ads. I need to say that one more time: the people in the ads were actual owners. Not actors.

One of the owners was Holly Daniel, who posed as a deaf person. When I saw the televised advertisement, I immediately knew she wasn’t deaf. I called the car company, and a representative there insisted she was deaf. That’s when I learned that it was a campaign featuring actual owners. After a serendipitous series of events—including a lot of backlash from people who were angry that I would be so nitpicky— I got a tip from someone that this woman was an educational interpreter and not deaf.

When I talked with Holly about the claims that she was hearing, she responded that she was deaf, but she had a twin sister who was hearing, and that was what was causing the confusion. She even faxed me falsified birth certificates. After many odd incidents, she finally came clean. I later found out that she had pretended to be deaf for up to two years before the advertisement—so she didn’t do it for the money alone.

Speaking of money—she was to get $75,000 for the ad campaign. She ended up only getting $10,000—and the car company decided not to pursue legal action because that would have cost more. She’s still working as an interpreter and has never apologized to the community for what she did.

So things like this do happen—all the time.

Even if the Holly Daniel story is an extreme example, it happens in so many ways. Power follows money. When people make money off deaf people, deaf culture, and ASL, this can easily lead to disempowerment and have ripple effects.

Take ASL teaching. There are thousands of ASL teachers. Guess how many are deaf? No real statistics exist on this. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of certified Baby Sign Language instructors. How many are deaf? Your guess is as good as mine. I contacted the company that certifies instructors; it wouldn’t respond to my requests. I’ll say probably a very, very small percentage. There are about 20, maybe more, Deaf Studies programs at colleges and universities across the nation. Are all the program directors deaf? No. What’s wrong with this picture?

One of the more common responses when I ask why a deaf person isn’t at the helm of a program or agency working with deaf and hard of hearing people is, “We advertised the position and couldn’t find anyone qualified.” That certainly could be the case. Still, I say hogwash. Such situations lead to economic disempowerment and its ripple effects: deaf people aren’t hired, and those outside of the deaf community continue to have beliefs and perceptions shaped by hearing people.

If no qualified deaf person applies for that position, then there needs to be a short-term and long-term remedy. One solution is to keep the position open for as long as possible until someone who is qualified and deaf is hired. Another possible solution is to have an interim director in place, hire someone who is definitely capable of doing the job—and train that person until she or he is ready to take the helms. Is that costly and cumbersome? Perhaps. Cost-beneficial and cost-effective in the long run? Absolutely. This is one of many ways we can help boost deaf economics.

I first heard the term deaf economics when I interviewed DeafNation’s CEO Joel Barish for an article. He said that it’s extremely important to support deaf owners:

“. . .with more people supporting deaf businesses, there will be more job opportunities for deaf people because deaf business owners are more likely to hire deaf people more than anyone else. As a result, they can empower each other by working together or supporting each other. At the same time, with this support, visibility and networking will grow beyond the deaf community into the hearing community. It’s unfortunate that many people can’t see the bigger picture and will only chase the cheapest rates or prices instead of supporting deaf-owned businesses.”

With today’s dismal unemployment rates, we know deaf people are among the most underemployed people. Yet interpreting is one of the fastest-growing professions, largely in part because of laws requiring communication access, but it’s also because ASL is now an awesome thing to know, a cool language. Even though it has gained recognition as an actual, stand-alone language, it continues to be mocked by so many entities. We’ve all heard of the recent Lydia Callis spoofs on the Chelsea Handler show and even Saturday Night Live. While I understand Lydia’s general refusal to speak to reporters aside from the one interview I saw, I wish she could tell reporters to talk to deaf people. That would be incredibly refreshing.

I remember sitting by the pool at the 2001 RID conference in Orlando. I was with an interpreter friend, and I looked around. Interpreters surrounded us, and I said, “Wow. Everyone here is making money off my language.” She giggled, and then shushed me, saying, “Don’t say that! You’ll piss them off!”

Years later, as I remembered that conversation, I wondered why I shouldn’t have said that if it was the truth. ASL is a wealthy language not only in its contents, but also in its moneymaking opportunities.

Don’t think this is an attack on hearing people. It isn’t. After all, I, like many others, make money off my languages of ASL and English. I run a writing company that specializes in both ASL and English. I work as a certified deaf interpreter. I teach ASL and English. I train interpreters. So I have absolutely no issue with making money off any language—as long as the goal isn’t to make money, but to really share the culture and language, and to encourage genuine language acquisition.

So why do so many interpreters, mentors, rehabilitation professionals, ASL teachers, and others bristle at the idea that they’re making money off ASL? Maybe because it’s a harsh way to look at their professions. Perhaps if we face the truth, and say, “Yes, we do make money off ASL,” that’ll help us gain greater appreciation of the responsibilities that accompany the language and culture.

Even so, what is more important—to me, at least—is to understand how we can be allies in such challenging situations. How do we come together to prevent disempowerment in any form or shape? As interpreters, and as consumers, we can become aware of disempowerment, particularly situational disempowerment and how we often participate by accident or decisively. By actively resisting the almost automatic temptations of empathizing with hearing consumers—or even deaf consumers—we can minimize, even eliminate, potential disempowerment. By refusing to control situations, by deferring to the deaf person whenever appropriate, by allowing the consumers to control the situation, and by ensuring that you don’t speak on behalf of the entire deaf community especially if you’re hearing—you can take steps towards ensuring that deaf people retain their power while you do your job. Through supporting deaf businesses and agencies, operate under the assumption that a qualified deaf person should be the automatic choice—and if this isn’t the case, be among the first to question why not.

Another approach is to always analyze why something happened, and not instinctively blame it on the deaf consumer, however educated or uneducated he may be. Look at all the factors involved. Analyze whether or not the consumers felt as if they had full communication access. For many deaf people, a trigger point is losing communication access.

The bottom line is we must always strive to ensure that each culture and community is maintained and preserved by its very core, which in this situation are deaf people. However, we must also be careful to remember that if a deaf person expresses frustration at disempowerment, it doesn’t necessarily mean she or he is angry, divisive or separatist. Rather, take a look at the situation, and figure out how, if at all, you or other interpreters might have contributed to the situation. Support deaf businesses, services and events. If a job opportunity comes up, see if it would be best filled by a deaf person. If no deaf person is available, figure out how to ensure that a deaf person could be brought in.

Of course, your primary responsibility as interpreters is language facilitation and cultural mediation. But we must remember that all individuals, deaf or hearing, should always strive for full, mutual respect rather than disempowerment.

 

Tags: Articles Post1, Deaf Disempowerment, Economic, Situational, StreetLeverage-Live, Trudy Suggs
Category: Practices & Trends, Talks & Interviews

About the Author (Author Profile)

Trudy Suggs, born Deaf to Deaf parents, has worked as an educator, administrator and editor. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University, and a master’s degree from University of Illinois-Chicago. She has long been involved with many organizations, including serving as chair of the Illinois RID Deaf Caucus, the Minnesota RID Deaf Interpreting Group, RID’s national CDI task force, and the Illinois State Police Communication Issues committee. She has also served on numerous boards, including the National Association of the Deaf and the National Deaf Business Institute, and is a RID-certified deaf interpreter. In 2008, Trudy received the Gallaudet University Alumni Association Outstanding Young Alumnus Award and the National Association of the Deaf CEO’s Award. In 2009, she was selected by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for a National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award.





OUR NEW WEBSITE HAS LAUNCHED!

16 12 2012

SC RID has been working with MJB Design to create an up to date website for our members. The new site is extremely user friendly and has features that we believe our members will find useful. Each SC RID member now has an account and when you log in you will be able to access a member directory. Also membership renewal will be a more streamlined process when you log in. Members will also be able to access our blog posts on the new site and we have provided a community calendar to make our event information more accessible.

Before:

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After:

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SC RID board members would also like to say THANK YOU to Stan Halstead for his hard work as webmaster up until now! His “labor of love” has not gone unnoticed and we are truly thankful for all of the hard work that he has done for SC RID.

Take the opportunity to explore the new website and let us know what you think. 🙂

Just follow this link!

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Southcarolinarid

 





Sign Language Interpreting: Can Self-Interest Lead to Disregard of Industry Stakeholders?

11 12 2012

ImageAs an Interpreter Educator, I like to use real-life scenarios in my classroom, where one of the courses I teach is Professional Ethics for Interpreters. This one is an excellent teaching tool on what effect self-interest—even at the higher levels with established professionals—can have on everyone involved.

To make sure we are all understanding terms used, I will pull from RID’s CPC on the definitions of consumers and colleagues. The first is defined as “[i]ndividuals and entities who are part of the interpreted situation. This includes individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and hearing”. The second is defined as “other interpreters”.

The Scenario

An interpreter had been approached by a Fortune 500 company to interpret an annual appreciation banquet. It is open to the public, and many famous people also attend. Apparently, there were several Deaf staff, as well as the potential for Deaf individuals from the public attending every year, and historically, the company relied on well-intended “signing staff” to interpret this important, high-profile event. One year, some complaints were launched that certified, qualified interpreters were not being hired to interpret. In wanting to meet the needs of the Deaf community and their Deaf staff, the company sought out interviewing for such an interpreter. It was through professional recommendations that the interpreter mentioned at the beginning of this scenario was approached.

This interpreter came with full RID certifications, as well as many years of interpreting experience. After being interviewed, she was offered this yearly event interpreting assignment with this Fortune 500 company, and eventually through the years other events taking place within this company involving their Deaf staff. They have worked collaboratively and professionally for many years now. Deaf staff members have expressed satisfaction, and through word of mouth, more and more Deaf community members were attending the annual event.

Recently, one of the executives made a phone call to the interpreter. He mentioned that their company was going to be “out-sourcing” to an interpreting agency to cut costs for interpreting services, and gave this interpreter the opportunity to get on board with this agency. Since she enjoyed working with this company the few times a year that she did, she agreed to do just that. The executive was thrilled to know this, as he explained that his company would be able to request this same interpreter for their annual event only if her name was on the roster. He informed the interpreter that the agency rep would be calling her to set things up.

Two to three months later, the interpreting agency’s rep finally called the interpreter. The rep explained to this interpreter that “although [the interpreter] may be interpreting the event this year, things were going to be different” from now on, and that she needed to understand that. She listened patiently, and cordially reminded the rep that it was the company that asked her to apply to this agency so that they could request her every year; she had not solicited the interpreting agency. The conversation soon ended, with the interpreter being instructed to submit a full resume to the agency.

Submitting resumes to various agencies is not new in our field; any time we want to work for a new agency, this is standard. Even the RID CPC states in tenet 6.1 under Business Practices: “Interpreters accurately represent qualifications, such as certification, educational background, and experience, and provide documentation when requested”. The interpreter obliged, submitting a comprehensive resume, as well as evidence of her MA degree and RID certifications. Soon she heard from the agency, stating they were impressed with her qualifications and experience. The agency then requested that she submit a tape doing her best interpreting, to make sure she met expectations for this agency. Again, this is also not entirely unheard of. She chose a text and videotaped herself, burned a DVD and mailed it to the agency. Eventually someone emailed her back, and they raved about the DVD, stating it was a “beautiful job”, and the agency was impressed with her skills.

Diana MacDougall

Diana MacDougall

The interpreter was happy to have obliged by the agency’s requests, and felt she was set to meet the requests of the Fortune 500 company that wanted to employ her interpreting skills for their annual event. With her name on this agency’s roster, the company could request her, and all stakeholders’ needs and requests would be met. This would reflect well on RID’s CPC tenet 4.0 Guiding Principle on Respect for Consumers to “honor consumer preferences in selection of interpreters and interpreting dynamics, while recognizing the realities of qualifications, availability, and situation”. This situation seemed to meet everyone’s needs and desires.

However, in a later email from the interpreting agency, they explained that even though the interpreter met all qualifications and had submitted an impressive professional DVD, their original intention was to reserve this annual event for their in-house staff. This assignment, she was told, was considered “a coveted assignment” by the interpreting agency. Since the interpreter did not work regularly for this agency, she would not be selected to be the interpreter for this event anymore. Surprised, the interpreter reminded the agency that it was one of the consumers (hearing) that had requested that her name be placed on the roster specifically so that they could request her for this event. The agency would not relent, stating that it was their decision not to use this interpreter for any interpreting assignments requested at this company. The interpreter responded that she would be happy to interpret in other settings for them, but was disappointed at their decision not to honor the original intent of allowing the Fortune 500 company to request her. It was out of her hands now. There was no further contact between the interpreter and the agency. She figured her run as the interpreter for the company had passed, and that was that.

About two months prior to the annual event of that same year, the company executive called the interpreter asking her what had happened between her and the contracted agency. When the interpreter enquired as to what the executive meant, he stated that when they requested this interpreter for their annual event, the agency had told the company that the interpreter had “refused to work for that agency under any circumstances”. Wanting to remain as professional as possible, and not present the profession in a negative light, the interpreter carefully explained

that she had emails showing how she was willing to work with them, but that it was the agency who had emailed her and explained that they would not be using her for this company in the future. The executive asked for those emails to be forwarded to him.

Although initially the company was able to show the interpreting agency that they had held up their end of the business relationship by doing as they asked to get the interpreter’s name on the roster, and that the agency had not been up front about their true intentions from the beginning, in the end, the company was forced to follow the legal contract signed by everyone. With the interpreter’s name not on the roster, the company could not request her anymore, even though it was their desire to do so. More significantly, on the night of the annual event, it was none other than the owner of this interpreting agency himself who showed up to interpret this “coveted assignment”.

Upon Review

This story caused me to ponder on the ethics around this situation. While actions that occurred may not have, in themselves, been illegal, they may still be considered unethical. Certainly, agencies have a right to hire whomever they choose. But it seems to me that the requests of the hearing consumers in this situation were ignored over the self interests of an agency that wanted to fill this assignment with their own people. RID CPC tenet 3.0 on Conduct reads: “Interpreters…avoid situations that result in conflicting roles or perceived or actual conflicts of interest.” Further, tenet 3.7 counsels interpreters to “disclose to parties involved any actual or perceived conflicts of interest”, and 3.10 says to “refrain from using confidential interpreted information for the benefit of personal or professional affiliations or entities”.

Intentionality

The actions of this agency, from the beginning when truthful intentions were not expressed clearly to the company, to the end where the owner himself took this assignment for his own benefit, revealed a conflict of interest. It appears the agency members intended to keep this assignment for themselves all along. Honesty from the beginning would have prevented the interpreting agency from appearing self-interested, shedding a negative spotlight on the profession of interpreting. Perhaps, the owner could benefit from reading, A Sign Language Interpreter is a Sidewalk Executive?, by Brandon Arthur. This whole situation left a negative opinion in the eyes of the executive company, which was very unhappy with the decision in the end.

Respect

Also, respect for consumers (CPC tenet 4.0), was also not considered in the decision to not add the interpreter’s name to the roster. The executive company, in good faith, proceeded with a contractual agreement with the agency, under the impression that the certified interpreter they preferred would be added to the interpreting roster. That was not honored on the part of the interpreting agency.

Furthermore, respect for colleagues (“other interpreters”) was also not considered in this action. CPC 5.0 states that “interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the profession”, with the Guiding Principle warning RID members that “interpreters…also understand that the manner in which they relate to colleagues reflects upon the profession in general”. Certainly misrepresenting the integrity and character of one of their own was not showing “respect for [a] colleague”. One of the company’s executives felt an obligation to call the interpreter that they had been working with for the last many years to state how disappointed he was about the outcome of this situation, stating that meetings for the annual event planning committee were “very somber over the pettiness of it all”. This is unfortunate, indeed. And it could have been avoided completely.

Ethical Behavior Models

In aiming to teach ethical behavior to interpreting students, how can we instill such ethics as collegiality, civility, as described by Carolyn Ball in her post, What Role Does Civility Play in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession, and professional conduct, along with adhering to the RID Code of Professional Conduct, if the very leaders we want to emulate do not practice them? Even in the 21st Century, people can act in a less than civil or professional manner, not realizing the impact their behavior has on others, or how it reflects negatively on our profession.

In the End

Although this seems like an extreme case, is it? Do you believe this is a rare occurrence, or does our profession still deal with individuals and agencies conducting themselves in this manner? What do you think? How can we, as a profession and as individuals within the profession, move toward preventing this from happening in the future?

Food for thought…

 

About the Author ()

Diana E. MacDougall is a nationally certified interpreter through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), and has been working as a professional interpreter for over 30 years. She holds a Certificate of Interpretation (CI) and a Certificate of Transliteration (CT). She has a BA in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, and an MA in Sociology, both from the University of California at Riverside. She is an Associate Professor at Riverside City College, Coordinator of the ASL/Interpreter Education Program, and currently the Department Chair of World Languages. Her experience as a Performing Arts interpreter spans almost 20 years, interpreting in settings such as live plays (Shakespeare, drama, comedy), stand-up comedy, concerts (pop, county, heavy metal, alternative, music and comedy festivals), film and television (interpreting for Deaf actors), and live performances for Disney Productions. Her experience as a freelance interpreter spans over 30 years, interpreting in settings, including but not limited to, medical appoints, educational settings (K-12 and post-secondary), employment settings, Department of Social Services, Department of Rehabilitation, religious, platform/conference interpreting at the national and international levels, and for 7 years as a legal interpreter.