Stand Aside in Order to Stand Behind Your Consumers

GettyImages-184376841sLast 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

Challenge or Risk: How to Determine If an Interpreting Job is Over Your Head

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????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

Pro Bono Service: What Do We Owe Our Consumers?

abc1280x960Before 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.

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SignTalk Foundation is Proud to be a Sponsor of NY Deaf Theatre’s A Night Among the Stars!

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SignTalk Foundation, Inc. is proud to be a sponsor of NY Deaf Theatre’s Benefit on Friday, June 2nd from 7-11pm which promises to be their best one yet! This year’s theme: A Night Among the Stars, encourages guests to indulge in the glamour of old New York and Broadway, with an evening of cocktails, appetizers and dancing.

  • General admission tickets are $75 from 7-11pm, featuring an open bar, specialty cocktails, appetizers and silent auction.
  • VIP admission tickets are $125, this includes an extra exclusive VIP only hour of celebration from 6-7pm and entitles you to their special NYDT VIP Gift Bag.

Ethics: May I be Included in a Group Photo with my Students?

Dear Ethicist:

The Deaf students in my high school went on an end of the year field trip and I joined them as the interpreter.  The students wanted a group picture in front of the museum that included me.  Can I be in a group picture with the kids, on the kids’ phones? I don’t know how they will use the picture.  (I also want a picture with the kids and me because I’ve been working with them all year and I’m fond of them.) What should I do?

Signed,

I Promise Not to Instagram the Picture

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How Do We Participate when Tradition Expects Us to Hear?

TasteJewish holidays mark moments in time in the story of a people. The traditions bind the past to the present — reminders of historical events as well as guides for present and future generations.

Sharing this information from generation to generation is an integral part of every holiday. For my parents, the weekly observance of Shabbat created an opportunity to sit down to a family dinner with their nine children – a weekly experience marked by lighting of the candles, saying the blessings over the wine and challah, and sharing a family dinner. Continue reading

Educational Interpreting for a Neurodiverse Child

Child using tactile sign language.  Photo courtesy of www.sense.org.uk

Child using tactile sign language. Photo courtesy of www.sense.org.uk

Last year, I worked as an interpreter for a young student with CHARGE Syndrome.  While the student was in a program for children with special needs, she was the only student in the school with CHARGE.  CHARGE can cause deafness and blindness, as well as physical and cognitive complications.  In Alex’s case (whose name has been changed), she has cognitive delays (congruent with learners who are deaf-blind), has blurred vision in part of her visual field, balance issues, low musculature, pain from constipation, some repetitive behavioral tendencies, and self-stimulating physicality—similar to those observed in children with autism. These behaviors may include clapping, tooth grinding, and tense jumping.  This job was not what interpreters are trained as in terms of “typical interpreting.” As such, the work constantly generated questions and challenges for me about my role and daily practice.  Like many educational interpreting jobs, issues arose about the meaning of true inclusion, as these issues were all the more heightened by physical disability and neurodiversity. Continue reading