The SignTalk Foundation is honored to present Lauren Ridloff with the 2018 annual Outstanding Achievement Award for her work advocating for the Deaf Community and advancing ASL as a mainstream language. To see a short video of the award ceremony, please go to https://www.facebook.com/SignTalk/videos/10155827550024141/
Just in time for Tony Sunday: the tale of an actress who never expected to see her name in lights. Jamie Wax has her story…
What’s the best story on Broadway? Consider this: At age 40, Lauren Ridloff, a stay-at-home mom with no professional theater experience ever, and who is deaf, was offered a starring role.
“Is there a part of you that still can’t quite believe it’s real?” asked Wax.
“A part of me? No, all of me!” she laughed.
And Ridloff put all of herself into the performance in the revival of “Children of a Lesser God.” She plays Sarah, a cleaning woman at a school for the deaf who falls in love with an able-hearing teacher, played by Joshua Jackson.
When asked how unusual Ridloff’s story is in the business. Jackson said, “Oh, she’s a one of one. She is a totally unique woman, person, mother, and now actor.”
Ridloff was born deaf to hearing parents. As a child, she worked on using her voice to speak, but spending time at a camp with kids and counselors who communicated only with sign language, led to an awakening, as Lauren told Wax through her interpreter, Candace Broker Penn:
“And for the first time, I never had to use my voice to communicate clearly with anyone. And I realized I could speak without thinking so much about how to say what I had to say.
“So, when I got back home, I really told my family, in a sense I ‘came out’ to my family. I said, ‘I’m not going to use my voice anymore.’ And my family accepted that, and accepted who I was.”
She was asked, “Does this feel like a dream? “It’s a wonderful dream!” she replied.
To see the interview with Lauren, please see CBS News’ full article at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tony-nominee-lauren-ridloff-children-of-a-lesser-god/
I recently found myself pulled into an argument on Facebook, responding to a friend’s post about Derlyn Roberts, the woman appearing to interpret a news conference by law enforcement in Florida.
The argument revolved around the question of whether this woman was a fake interpreter, as stated in many headlines reporting the story, or merely a bad interpreter, unqualified for the job and in over her head. Continue reading
To my interns current and former:
First, I hope you all are doing well and finding plenty of opportunity to interpret.
Second, I want to share with you a book I recently read that is valuable in understanding hearing and deafness from a perspective different than the traditional interpreting perspective and completely valid.
I Can Hear You Whisper by Lydia Denworth is a mother’s journey in navigating the worlds surrounding deafness after her third son was born deaf. Ms. Denworth’s day job is as a science writer and so she knows how to thoroughly research scientific aspects of a subject and presents them in a narrative easy for the public to understand. What Ms. Denworth does in I Can Hear You Whisper is almost magical. Continue reading
I hate the word “inclusion.” To me, it implies that all organizations are rightly controlled by the majority, and those with power control which few minorities are in or out. Including people of color, women, people with disabilities or Deaf people is subject to their whim. What if, instead of a few seats at the table being allotted for those who are marginalized, every workplace, school, government body and cultural institution were truly open and accessible to everyone? Continue reading
Last month, a local Fox News station reported a story about Marty O’Connor, a man living with quadriplegia after an accident, who earned his MBA from Chapman University. The headline, however, was “Mom of quadriplegic grad student surprised with honorary degree.” The story focused on the man’s mother, who attended every class with her son to take his notes because he could not. The university awarded the woman an honorary degree for her service to Marty, and the story I read focused on her achievement, while ignoring her son’s.
This story rubbed me the wrong way for a few reasons. The man has the right under the American with Disabilities Act to a paid note-taker of his choosing. He should not have had to be accompanied by his mother to attend classes and have access to note-taking. I can only imagine the impediments Marty faced to making friends or asking for dates while attending class with his mother. Was he less willing to participate in class, afraid of asking a simplistic question or giving a wrong response in front of his mother? Was she even a skilled note-taker, and was she willing to adapt her style to suit her son/consumer, or did she think she knew best? None of these questions is answered, because not one of them was asked — or at least not reported on in the published story. Continue reading
From time to time interpreters confide in each other about a job that has gone terribly wrong. From time to time, we find ourselves completely overwhelmed, unable to keep up with the speaker, and at a loss for words or signs. If it happens too often, we question whether we should be interpreters at all. We console ourselves and each other by saying that if we never find ourselves challenged by a job, then we’re probably not stretching ourselves enough, not enhancing our skills or our capacity to master more complicated and difficult interpreting experiences. And while it’s necessary for interpreters to take risks and do the jobs that scare us a little, it is sometimes accomplished at the expense of our consumers. For although we should make every effort to grow and hone our skills, we never want to block their access in order to give ourselves a chance to do something challenging and new. Continue reading
Before Sign Language interpreters were considered professionals worthy of pay, before the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf was founded or a code of ethics was written, interpreters came from the community—hearing people raised in signing families, teachers of the Deaf and signing clergy members—and their service was volunteered. They did not expect to be paid for their work, and no institution or individual making use of the interpreter, such as a doctor, a church, a government agency, expected to foot the bill for the service. Inherent in that practice was the audist notion that Deaf people can make do with an untrained interpreter, whose personal feelings may intrude on the interpretation or whose knowledge of the content may be limited.