RID: Retraction Leaves Interpreters with Deaf Parents in Doubt

Brandon Arthur interviews Laurie Nash, Vice Chair of the Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP) Member Section of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), on the stunning  retraction of the referendum, that if passed, would have established a designated position on the RID Board of Directors for an IDP Member at Large position.


“Many of us felt that the passage of this referendum was important in order to help RID reconnect with the deaf community and the values that were the foundation of the establishment of RID 50 years ago.”

“I am here to talk about IDP but I do want to acknowledge that other members feel disenfranchised by RID as well. I cannot speak for them but they do have similar feelings of not being involved in the decision making process. IDP believed that if we had a position on the board then that would guarantee a place at the decision making table.”

Sign Language Interpreters With Deaf Parents Stunned“The president somehow misunderstood that a 2/3 majority of the vote was required as opposed to the a simple majority she used to determine the initial passage of the referendum.”

“We were told this late on Wednesday night and the announcement from the board was made Thursday. Obviously the RID board had already prepared their announcement and video and were ready to announce this to the membership.”

“I think for many IDP members there is a desire for our organization and our members to recognize that indeed many interpreters with deaf parents bring something unique to our field.”

“I think it is important to emphasize that respectful dialogue is the key to moving forward. I encourage all members of RID be mindful of respecting each other as we move forward.”

Interview Transcript

Brandon: Hello everyone. I am Brandon Arthur from StreetLeverage.com. I am here with Laurie Nash, Vice-Chair of RID’s Interpreters with Deaf Parents Member Section. Welcome Laurie.

Laurie: Hello. Thank you for hosting this dialogue and inviting me.

Brandon: We are here to discuss RID’s announcement from last week about Motion E, the referendum that if passed, would have established a designated position on the RID board of directors for an IDP member at large.  With the announcement that the referendum did not pass, I imagine there to be a lot of emotional responses to the announcement. Before we get into the retraction and the response from IDP, I’d like to back up a little bit to the beginning of March when RID announced the historic passage of a bylaws referendum that would establish an IDP seat on the Board of Directors.  Can you share with us the feeling and thoughts that the IDP membership had when they learned of the referendum’s passage?

Laurie: Clearly many people, including IDP members, who supported this motion, felt that after a long time we would be getting some change in the direction of RID. Many of us felt that the passage of this referendum was important in order to help RID reconnect with the deaf community and the values that were the foundation of the establishment of RID 50 years ago.  So yes, many people were relieved and happy. I know for myself, I felt that after many years, I now have a way to reconnect with RID.  The passage of the referendum gave me faith in RID again.  Learning that the referendum has passed in the first week of March left people feeling positive and pleased with all of the hard work done to get the referendum to vote

Brandon: You mention “having faith”’ in RID again. So, describe for us what the leadership of IDP, members of RID, and allies feel that this position represents for the future of RID.

Laurie: I believe that IDP members are not unique in feeling that they are underrepresented within RID. There are other groups of interpreters that feel the same way. We have all felt frustrated at some of the decisions made by the RID Board of Directors. These decisions show again a divergence from the communities we serve; their culture, their norms, their values. We have strayed away from that. So an IDP position on the board, we felt, would guarantee that along with the Deaf member at large that is already a part of the board, there would be a stronger connection to native language users and deaf-world natives  and those board members would be involved with the decisions of RID from this point forward. Historically there have been a lot of frustrations among many groups. I am here to talk about IDP but I do want to acknowledge that other members feel disenfranchised by RID as well. I cannot speak for them but they do have similar feelings of not being involved in the decision making process. IDP believed that if we had a position on the board then that would guarantee a place at the decision making table. This motion was initially made taking into consideration the current structure of RID. Many people have brought up different ideas for a restructuring of the board and changing the composition of the board.   I think that re-evaluating the board is a good idea but that’s not our current reality.  The current board composition is what was in mind when the motion was made. Let me clarify, the motion came out of the 2010 Region II conference. The motion carried and was then brought to the floor of the national conference in 2011. A lot of people were involved in the discussions to ensure that the position would work within the current board structure.  Members were both in support and opposition for various reasons but for the collective IDP membership was in support of this motion and the concept behind it: that our voice was missing from the board. Our current board has 3 people who are interpreters with deaf parents. 2 are deaf and 1 is hearing but that was not always the case. For many, many years there were no native voices on the rid board.

Brandon: You have recognized that IDP is not the only group within RID who may not feel that they have access to the decision making tables of the organization and by extension our field. That being said, to be told that you had a place at the table and then for that place to be taken away with the retraction must create an environment where there is little to no trust in the leadership of RID.  How did the news that the referendum did not pass actually unfold for IDP? How were you notified?

Laurie:  Well the announcement came out last Thursday. On Wednesday at 9pm, the 4 members of the IDP executive council, participated in a video conference call with President Prudhom and many members of the board of directors. On that call, we were told that there was a mistake made in determining the required number of votes needed to pass the referendum. The president somehow misunderstood that a 2/3 majority of the vote was required as opposed to the a simple majority she used to determine the initial passage of the referendum. Now you should know that during the drafting of this referendum it was clearly understood by everyone involved that a 2/3 majority vote was needed to pass. This referendum was a change in our bylaws and required a higher standard than other referendums. So, she seemingly made a mistake and erroneously informed Shane Feldman, the Executive Director of RID, and others that the referendum passed.  We were told this late on Wednesday night and the announcement from the board was made Thursday. Obviously the RID board had already prepared their announcement and video and were ready to announce this to the membership. Hearing this news, we were floored and were at a loss on how were we to respond and we wondered how our members would respond to this announcement.  We asked President Prudhom for some time to organize and coordinate a respond. They gave us a little time but by 3pm on Thursday, the announcement went out to the general membership. As a result, the IDP council was unable to prepare a coordinated response right away. Unfortunately RID went ahead with their announcement.

Brandon: So what would IDP like to have seen done differently in a situation like this in the future. If we as an organization have learned anything from this, it won’t happen again but if you could advise the board on how better to handle something like this, what would you ask them to do?

Laurie: Well…when we learned that the referendum did not in fact pass we were of course disappointed. Many people worked very hard on this referendum, however; it was compounded by the lack of checks and balances and the realization that RID made a mistake.  We were left wondering,  How could something like this happen? Is it possible that only one person is counting the vote? It was very hard to understand how this could have happened. We are collecting a vote on a referendum that impacts the bylaws of our organization. Not a business as usual item.  These are the guiding rules of our organization, our bylaws.  We were disappointed that the referendum did not pass but we could move on from there. Our disappointment was further exacerbated by this mishandling of the vote and our experience that this was also one more example in a series of blunders the membership has experienced from the RID board. We believe that the IDP membership should have received a personal apology. The president of RID made a general public apology to the membership; however, this motion held great significance to many people connected to IDP. This general apology did not recognize the significance of the referendum and did not recognize that many members had very strong connections to it.  This fact seemed to be overlooked by the board of directors and I think that is just another example of perhaps a cultural disconnect from the membership. RID does have members of diverse backgrounds. President Prudhom’s manner of apology and announcement did not give enough attention to the significance of this referendum to members of IDP.

Brandon: Thank you. What do you hope the membership, the RID board of directors, and even the national office staff can learn from this situation?

Laurie: I wish they didn’t have to learn anything at all. I wish this didn’t have to be a learning experience for them to begin with. However, I think all members of RID, after seeing this; can agree that mistakes are consistently made within RID. This is not an isolated instance.  I am not sure what kind of oversight may be needed and I am unsure how the board functions. For vote counting, do they work together? Who is responsible for vote collecting? How does it work when voting happens through the internet? There need to be safeguards in place to make sure this kind of thing ever happens.  With a mistake of this magnitude, we all have to question how it came to be. I believe RID members have a right to know how this kind of mistake happened. It certainly shouldn’t have happened on such a large issue as the bylaws and leads us to wonder if this kind of mistake is allowed to happen, then what other mistakes are happening? I don’t want to get off the point here but we do need to wonder what is going on. I think the mistakes issue is not simply an IDP complaint. It is a systemic organizational and leadership problem that all of us have to be very concerned about.

Brandon: Clearly, you have said that representation at the decision making tables of our field is important to interpreters with deaf parents and other underserved groups. In considering the future of RID and perhaps the perspective of people seeing this interview, people who will see the passion that IDP has about this issue, what do you want them to know about your collective desire for more representation and collective diversity at the decision making tables of RID?

Laurie: I think for many IDP members there is a desire for our organization and our members to recognize that indeed many interpreters with deaf parents bring something unique to our field. We have a variety of deaf-world experiences that many if not most of our members within RID do not have.  Each interpreter brings their unique set of life experiences to their work.  The experiences of an someone who grew up in a deaf parented home instills the values and norms of the community in their work. Interpreters with deaf parents possess the ability to broker meaning in culturally appropriate ways. That is the value we need to have on the board. I think many of our members historically have felt those inherent skills have been negated in a systematic way within RID.  On an individual level, interpreters with deaf parents have certainly felt valued by many colleagues but we feel this must be a integral part of the board. During the national conference in Atlanta in 2011, Dennis Cokely commented on the logo for the conference. The logo was a tree. On the stage at the business meeting, he pointed out that the tree was missing its roots.  The roots have been missing for a very long time and It’s not just interpreters with deaf parents who feel this way. There are many people in our field, including leaders in our field, who believe that interpreters with deaf parents have something unique to offer. We recognize a unique skill at play but we believe that recognition of this skill needs to be an integral part of our national organization, RID. There may be talk about restructuring  and changing the composition of the board. I think that may be a great idea but let’s work together to make it happen if the membership agrees that to be our goal.  For now, the board structure is the way it is. We can work toward improvements but again with the kind of mistake that took place we have slipped back and the membership has lost faith once again.

Brandon: If you had the opportunity to send a message to the general membership and to IDP members what  would you say about the desire to again reconnect with our roots?

Laurie: To the general membership, I think it is important for us to consider why we do what we do. If we claim to value the deaf community and value their norms and culture, if that indeed is what we are saying, then great.  Let’s move on and do it in our actions and in our words. Live it. Show it. Prove it. And if not, then if people do not want to achieve that then why are we here talking about this? Why does RID even exist?   We need to figure out our organizational purpose, values and goals. What we do is not just collecting a paycheck. For many of us our profession is not simply a job. Unfortunately for some it appears that they are here only to collect a paycheck and there is no authentic connection to the deaf community and certainly no investment.  For those of us vested, it feels exploitative of those interpreters. We really need to figure out why we do the work we do. To IDP members, I think it is important to say that your hard work bringing this referendum forward and the progress that we made was successful in many ways. The discussion we are having now is also housed within a broader context. We have all had our individual discussions and experiences with each other and with our colleagues. We have also had our experiences discounted and shunned.  It is time to move forward. We are now having a bigger discussion and this process is necessary in order for us to recover from the last 50 years.

Brandon: I really appreciate you being here with me today to lay out the issues. I hope this dialogue will help create some perspective for the people who are seeing all of the thoughts, emotion, and dissention on this issue.    At the end of the day, I hope that as an organization we can keep our eyes on the mission of service. If we can dialogue with respect then we can move forward. Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

Laurie: I am happy to be here but I do want to add something if you don’t mind. I think it is important to emphasize that respectful dialogue is the key to moving forward. I encourage all members of RID be mindful of respecting each other as we move forward.  Unfortunately, some public comments have been made that were not respectful and for many were insulting.  If we truly want our field and our organization to recover we have to maintain a respectful dialogue. I hope we can all remember the person receiving the message when posting comments via any open forum. Keep it honest and respectful.

Brandon: StretLeverage.com we try to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves so I can appreciate you bringing respect up. Laurie, thank you for your time. I appreciate you making time in your schedule for this discussion.  I hope that this dialogue will help others who have wondered about the debate and differing opinions surrounding this referendum so that we can all move forward to a successful future. Thanks again.

Laurie: Thank you.


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About the Author

Brandon is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and passionate industry entrepreneur. He has worked on both the practicing and business sides of the industry for the past 15 years. His father is deaf and his mother is a sign language interpreter. He is a devoted father and husband and enjoys the sport of triathlon.

32 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Albert says:

    I too am unhappy and disappointed that such a situation came to be. There definitely needs to be more oversight and a larger involvement with future referendums to ensure it will not happen again.

    I would like to comment though, however, how Ms. Nash feels IDP is owed a direct, formal apology. It seems that RID acknowledged the IDP Member Section’s vested interest in the matter by means of video conferencing before the announcement was made to the general membership. In addition, we have been bemoaning the lack of transparency in our leadership for some time now, and this interview suggests that there was a desire for the board to further withhold information from the membership while the IDP Member Section assembled their own announcement. I look forward to seeing the IDP’s Section statement when it is ready, independent of what RID has released, but for this RID member, I would prefer to get the information when it is available. I believe we should be more concerned on how/why such a blunder happened and less on who is owed the apology.

    I respect the IDP Member Section’s perspective and appreciate the need for CODA involvement at all levels of our organization. We as an organization should begin to examine what it is these members bring to the table and why these qualities are seemingly lacking from the general membership.

    I’d like to add, these comments are independent of my vote on the referendum. Thanks to Street Leverage for creating a forum for us all to engage and confront the big issues in our field!

  2. Justine says:

    I want to appologize to our IDP collegues. I must have been busy with life when the email request to vote on this went out. I don’t really remember it and I wish I had lent my vote in support of a position on the board for an IDP member. They are truly our greatest resource in so many ways. I deeply regret not voting.
    The only thing I can do to make ammends is be more vigilant in the future and let all IDP members know that you are truly valued though when you needed us most, some of us didn’t have your back, like we should have. I hope with the possible restructuring of the board there is potential for those of us who weren’t previously paying attention to add our support in assuring the IDP’s voice can be cemmented into RID in the future.
    Thank you for publishing this interview.

    • Terri Hayes says:

      I never received any information about this vote. The retraction is the first I heard of it… (and I check my email in a very addicted way)…
      wonder if someo of us were missed.

      Terri Hayes

  3. BJ says:

    While I agree the the RID board should be comprised of a diverse group, I’m not sure that specific board make up is the answer. The make up of the board, as it is, has a large IDP representation.

    I’m disheartened that this forum was used as an opportunity to take another stab at the RID board. This board has gone above and beyond to be transparent in their decisions. They’ve make a primary objective to “rebuild trust.” There are bound to be hiccups along the way. I think this event is an opportunity to applaud our national organization in handling this with such transparency.

    We are bound to accomplish much more as a profession if we turn our collective efforts toward a common goal. Taking low blows at the board as took place in this interview is counter productive.

    As for the request for an apology specific to this member section… I feel that course of action would cause further segregation of the membership. An apology was issued, but ultimately the membership voted against this by laws change. That is the nature of business. In 2011 Texas proposed a discussion surrounding the recognition of the BEI certification by RID… it failed. There was not specific apology offered to Texas members, nor should there have been.

    Let’s work to support our national representation to accomplish impactful business (i.e VRS regulation, state licensure laws, etc). United we stand. Divided we become undervalued technicians at the mercy of uneducated hiring entities.

    • Aaron Brace says:

      It’s not accurate to say that the membership voted against this bylaws change.  A sizable majority voted for it, just not sizable enough.I’ve heard a number of perspectives against the referendum that boil down to this:  The lived experiences and informed perspectives of IDPs are no more central to the endeavor we’re all engaged in than any other identity one might consider in ensuring diversity on the board, and that IDPs can be adequately represented by running for any board position without having one reserved for them.  I whole-heartedly disagree.

      Brokering/mediating/interpreting the interactions (and power differences) between Deaf and hearing people is the very essence of what we all claim to be engaged in.  It’s what IDPs have been doing all their lives, and we “store bought” interpreters have proven inconsistent, at best, in doing it in ways that recognize and prioritize the dignity of Deaf people over our own professional theorizing and our own professional advancement.  Even though I’d say the vast majority of us have the best of intentions, Deaf people still report that they can’t rely on even a basic level of skill or cultural competence in new interpreters that come their way- even certified interpreters.Certainly, not all IDPs are great interpreters and not all make for great leaders.  But IDPs who also have all requisite skills and leadership experience required of any board member offer unique and key insights into the very work we do- insights that we could never, in a million years, come to without the insider guidance.  I don’t want to leave their participation in RID leadership entirely to the vagaries of the electoral process.  A guaranteed IDP MAL seat may only be a small step toward ensuring that involvement, but I and a majority of the RID members who voted are in favor of it.

      The debacle in how the vote count was handled raises a whole new set of questions that I look forward to seeing hashed out here.  I don’t feel prepared to dive into them … other than using the word “debacle”.


      • Bill Moody says:

        The debacle, as the IDP group has pointed out, is not unusual in this very inefficient organization. I hope that Shane will improve the our organizational efficiency, but we will have to wait and see… the fact that such a small minority of members even bothered to vote is what bothers me most.

        If the majority of RID members don’t care about our core values, which are embodied in the IDP members; if they are members only in order to keep their certification valid through membership and earning CEUs; if, in fact, they are ASL/English interpreters as a job only, then I am no longer interested in the association. As a member since 1975 and soon to retire, a non-coda but very community-oriented interpreter who has always wanted to make the world better, I find I am now ashamed of my professional association. I will try again to facilitate face-to-face conversations at the Community Forum this summer in Indianapolis in a spirit of mutual respect, but if I find that our members have deemed selfish interests to be more important than our mission, then I will reluctantly give up on the RID, which I have treasured for more years than I have been disappointed in it.

        • T3 says:

          I agree that such a debacle is not unusual in this very inefficient organization. Let’s not forget that they told 34 people “Congratulations! You passed the NIC!,” and then a year and a half later said to those people (with families, jobs that require certification, homes that require mortgages to be paid…) “Oops! We can’t prove that you didn’t pass nor can we explain specifically why you were chosen, but fraud occurred within our organization, so those certificates we issued with the raised seal signed by Board members… we’re gonna invalidate that unless you pass the exam again…an exam we can’t back up with any empiricle data whatsoever, even when pressed to do so.” Everyone I know is a member for exactly the reason you stated…because they have to be in order to keep doing what they’re doing. Their certifications are held hostage by RID. They do not, however, see interpreting as a job only. It’s the organization at the helm which is discouraging, and which, frankly, makes me wish I could find something else that I loved to do as much. It is clear that they are trying to put a new face on RID. They’ve “cleaned house,” and have a new Executive Director. It is difficult, however, to trust at this point. Very difficult.

        • Terri Hayes says:

          I appreciate your comments friend… but where you and I have stood on the same step for these many years – its very hard to walk away when your income relies on their stamp of approval…
          I dont believe I will ever be able to retire – so I am somewhat captive… and yes – I see that the organization is changing (has been changing) into something more supportive of the “pulled out of the population and generally educated” interpreters than those of us Deaf-made or Deaf raised… the shift away from Deaf influenced interpreters has been going on for many years – the organization just has enough members of the “hearing/degreed” type now – to actually start voting things the way they’d like to see the business go.
          Its disheartening
          its heartbreaking
          its defeating
          its really Frightening… especially when you see this change of consciousness along side the comoditization of the industry

          but I guess the reason I’m writing here and now – is to second your “I will try again…”
          which is what we all do – over and over and over – for the length of our career…

          it just makes one so tired sometimes.

          • AS says:

            Why is it “frightening,” “disheartening,” and “heartbreaking” that the next generation of interpreters looks different? What do they have to offer the field? Might they have some quality or skill that will contribute to the field and perhaps bridge the “us” vs “them” mentality that is so pervasive in our rhetoric?

            Is different always bad? If there is something lacking, can we offer to mentor them and/or tell them why it is important to our practice? Perhaps their values aren’t different but their behaviors, does that have to be “defeating”?

            Why do we feel threatened by change? What are we afraid of?

            • Aaron Brace says:

              “Fear” and “threat” are interesting concepts. In my career I have mostly witnessed fear and the feeling of threat from non-IDPs towards IDPs. What, exactly, are they (we) afraid of in having an IDP MAL position on the board? Might it be a fear of having someone of marginal power consistently bringing to our attention the ways in which our (non-IDPs’) intuitions about our practice *consistently* valorize our sense of our own professionalism over what constitutes effective service in the eyes of Deaf and hard of hearing people? Any “us” vs. “them” fears I have seen have been generated by my fellow non-IDP interpreters. In the ASL interview, above, Laurie falls all over herself to *not* demonize non-IDP interpreters but to, rather, encourage us all to step up and discuss the issues at hand.

              Those of us who came to this field as an intellectual/academic/professional pursuit DO.NOT.HAVE. a realistic sense of how our work impacts the lives of Deaf people. We can do good, even outstanding work, when we are guided by both Deaf and IDP members who have the most at stake in the success of our endeavors. That current practitioners don’t see a difference between the life-long experiences of IDPs and “what we all bring to the table” is what is horribly disheartening to me.

              I’d normally sign off “Cheers”, but I just can’t manage that now, in all honesty,

            • AS says:

              (I can’t seem to reply to you directly)

              So, if I understand correctly -

              “you (we) are afraid that current and future generations of interpreters won’t have a full appreciation (or understanding?) of what native language-users contribute to the field”

              (As an extension – and without that appreciation, may not have a full sense of their own limitations thus compromising services provided)

              Is that accurate?
              I think that is quite helpful to articulate as it is something we can address in a direct way. There is MUCH value in native voices and I agree, wholeheartedly, that non-natives cannot bring an equivalent perspective. I think Laurie articulated it quite clearly, in fact.

              So, how do we address this gap and void in the current and future generations? One way could be the IDP seat on the board as this discussion focuses on but there are likely other ways. Education, mentorship, discussion, reaching out, etc.

              I think articulating the “why” behind our fears and disheartened feelings helps us reach solution. Sometimes I don’t find those labels of feelings helpful if I don’t understand what is behind it. And in seeking to convey the importance of this issue to current and future generations I don’t think we can assume they understand why we might feel this way.

              This is helpful! Thank you for taking time to articulate the “why.”

            • AS says:

              PS – I think words like “heartbreaking” and “frightening” lack hope and connote giving up (I think that is what I was responding to in my question reply).

              I happen think there is much hope for current and future generations with appropriate guidance. We cannot expect them to come to the same conclusions we did since their experiences and paths have been so different but that doesn’t mean they can’t come to an appreciation and understanding of what is important and critical to our field.

              I don’t think our field is a lost cause.

            • Aaron Brace says:

              I think we’re bumping up against the site’s limits on nesting of replies- that’s why there’s no “reply” button on our recent postings. And is there any chance you’d be willing to introduce yourself as something more than “AS”? It feels odd to be addressing someone I’ve never met using only his/her initials.

              I’m not *afraid* of the outcomes you mention- they are here and in evidence on a daily basis, and have been since non-IDPs like me took an interest in becoming interpreters. We come to the endeavor keen on learning, without understanding the depth of what we need to *un*learn in order to be able to see Deaf people as fully powerful and competent. While I have certainly known some IDPs who, for whatever reason, emerged from their upbringing with dysfunctional approaches to serving Deaf people as interpreters, the vast majority of my colleagues who are IDPs prioritize that power and competence- I used the word “dignity”- in ways that are informed by having been powerless children parented by Deaf people and their friends; ways that I couldn’t possibly come to naturally, that need to supercede my belief that my good intentions, training, professionalism and general liberal philosophy will be sufficient to carry me through in good grace.
              Since the demand for our services is such that codas, alone, won’t be able to meet it, we have to conceive of our profession, and the gatekeeping that allows access to it, in ways that lead through some very tough yet supported unlearning/learning processes. All of us, of how ever many years experience, need to continually revisit how we came to the work and just what we think we’re doing in this field. I can’t think of any better role models than the IDPs who have persisted through training and credentialing, and who care enough about the work and the community to put themselves on the line in the way that they have done with this referendum. No curriculum will inculcate in students what these IDPs have to show us by their example, which is why I want to ensure that qualified IDPs are always in leadership. I do believe we can do a better job of preparing students, but what I’ve found in IDPs is the incredibly generous and trusting ability to put all possible shortcomings out on the table and support one another towards improvement. Those of us who have been on the “professional” track since day one are typically leery of making ourselves that vulnerable.
              The issue of gatekeeping is what keeps me from being as optimistic as you, AS. One needn’t have anything more than a passing ability in ASL and a mercenary nature to hang out one’s shingle as an “interpreter” and do reasonably well in some markets. It’s even enough to get into some training programs and to make a sufficient showing for RID certification. Some manage to hide out in cubicles in VRS companies, some get the majority of their work from foreign language agencies, and some have the chutzpah to brazenly position themselves openly as experts in markets where they know that no purse-string controller is qualified to question them.
              ALL of us underestimate the coercive power we have over Deaf people simply by showing up at an assignment.
              Oh, dear… once I get wound up I’m very wordy. There’s always more to say, but I’ll take a breath here to get out of the way for anyone else who wants to chime in.


        • SJ says:


          I too feel disheartened and share your shame. I feel compelled to make one additional comment, however. If the core values of RID are ONLY embodied by our IDP members, then we have a larger issue at hand than simply adding a CODA position to the board. The “if’s” you bring up about our membership feel very real and seem more like fact at this point.

          Looking forward to the discussion at the Community Forum this August. Here’s hoping we find a way to turn our organization around, for the benefit of ALL our stakeholders.

    • MM says:

      BJ, I just reread the transcript and I haven’t been able to identify any stabs or low blows mentioned in your comment. I see a frank and assertive discussion. Can you clarify where and why it seems that way?

      While I think the errors that transpired are not only specific to this vote and it is not just an IDP issue, I also think the comparison is inaccurate. This motion had to do with a particular member section’s representation on the board after a long history of discussion, and the fact that it was granted and later retracted. Comparing it to a state/certification issue that was *not* erroneously granted and then retracted does not identify the layers involved in this issue.

  4. john hendricks says:

    Well stated Aaron!

  5. john hendricks says:

    I don’t believe Streetleverage or IDP was taking any kind of “stab” at the Board of RID. The facts were simply stated and IDP certainly has a right to respond and share their point of view. It was mentioned that RID has gone above and beyond to be transparent in their decisions and made it a primary objective to “rebuild trust”. If this was so, why the need to, as was said, “rebuild” something? For many years now there have been issues that have been mishandled which one would not use an innocuous word as “hiccup”.

    While someone may choose to applaud the national organization in handling this particular situation, I would not. It was a mistake that should not have happened, especially when it relates to changing the by-laws and everyone on the Board should be aware of the parliamentary rules of 2/3 majority. Additionally, as was stated, RID did not give IDP appropriate time to give a formal response when they knew of this at least a week before hand. An apology to the IDP member section would be wholly appropriate since this motion specifically came from them and this error affected them directly. It was stated that this would cause further segregation. I would challenge anyone on how an apology could possibly be a negative. This was also compared with the BEI certification vote, but this is apples and oranges. While we respect the vote of the membership and accept their decisions, the Motion E scenario was a decision that was announced as passed, then retracted due to errors made by someone (transparency?) at the National office.

    I hope further respectful discussions are had and a better understanding of the unique perspectives (as Aaron so artfully expressed) a professional interpreter from the Deaf community/culture and hearing world can bring to the Board of an organization that serves the Deaf.

  6. Deaf and Anonymous says:

    First of all, I want to state why I am commenting anonymously. I am a member of RID and I am deaf. I voted against the Deaf MAL position, as well as the IDP position, and will elucidate why shortly. But for those reasons, I do not want to be easily identified and potentially bullied or slandered (I know Brandon will not allow that, but this community is what it is.)

    I have been involved with other nonprofit organizations and served on boards. The larger the board, the more difficult it is for the board to function effectively. Additionally, Boards should be focused on ensuring that the organization’s activities are in line with its vision, mission, and goals. The Executive Director of an organization is the liaison between the Board and the staff.

    As I perceive it, the goal of RID is to focus on the professional development of its membership, through providing certification and CEUs. I know that many people, myself included, are conflicted about this organization being a certification AND membership organization. However, I submit to you that this organization is, first and foremost, a certification/professional development organization.

    The Member Sections (or SIGs) were created for the purpose of bringing together members with common attributes. It is MY opinion that the Board should be working with the leaders of these groups. If they are not, then that’s a problem that needs to be tackled. The solution is to NOT create a Board position that replaces the leadership of those SIGs.

    Additionally, if we had added the IDP Board position, where do we stop? Do we also need to add positions for representation of other minority interpreters (race/ethnic-based)? GLBTQ? Female? Religious interpreters? Educational interpreters? I saw the potential for a domino effect and that would NOT be conducive to the future progress and efficacy of RID.

    Additionally, RID has over 15,000 members (according to the FY 2011 Annual Report, the total number of members was 15,617). Of that number, 13,297 were voting members (active Certified and Associate).

    How many eligible voting members voted on this referendum? 1,019.

    Based on FY 2011 numbers, that’s a mere 7.6% of the eligible voters.

    My perspective? I don’t think it’s the Board that’s the issue here. I think it’s the lack of members voting. You cannot get a true sense of what people think is appropriate unless you have their perspective. And we don’t have that here.

    That’s not to say that President Prudhom have doubly verified the requirements before notifying the rest of the Board and the National Office Staff and the general membership. She should have. Yes, absolutely.

    I think the largest issue here is an unwillingness or passivity among our membership to take action and speak up. The more people who speak up and get involved, the better our organization can serve all of us.

    I realize that fellow interpreters with d/Deaf parents may feel slighted. But my question to you all is: Are you involved locally or with the member section? Do you communicate with the RID Board? If not, why not?

  7. IDP’s response to RID can be found here at the IDP website. There are English and ASL versions available.

  8. Hartmut Teuber says:

    This only short, indeed of 2 cents (smile). There are many points I could say here, but I needed to go out of the house shortly.

    One I wish to comment is, how the interviewer use the fingerspellled acronym “R-I-D”. Who do they mean by that? President of RID? Board of RID? The National Office? An invisible power pulling the strings of power of the organization? Just the organization by the official pronouncements? Or an individual member when they talk about the organization to an outsider?

    Avoid using the careless use of the acronym. Be more concrete by what it is to be meant.


  9. Hartmut Teuber says:

    Another issue, a quickie again:

    There is a problem of understanding of the legal position of a referendum, obtained through an email vote. This may have influenced in believing, a majority vote was sufficient. But “sufficient” for what? Does it have a binding force?

    Also whatever a parliamentarian says has only the force of advice, certainly is not a ruling.


  10. Gina Oliva says:

    A short response from me also:
    1. I am a member of RID and I did not know there was a vote going on
    2. I support that there should be a designated position on the Board for a CODA interpreter, as well as for a Deaf person. Many Boards have a variety of designated positions so that key, recognized perspectives are included.
    3. I wonder why this was voted down. I guess the nay-saying voters need to read more of the articles posted on Street Leverage about disempowerment, transformational leadership, interpreters having more moral responsibilities in public schools, etc.


  11. Meg Klein says:

    I also didn’t know about this issue and I do try to keep up on things. I am not a CODA/IDP but I greatly value interpreters who are native ASL users and have Deaf values. We sometimes bring very different skills and values to the table. Interpreters seem to feel alienated form each other, from the Deaf community and feel very disempowered about our future. It is time to LEAN IN as they say. Perhaps some people did not vote for the IDP referendum because they feel there are so many diverse groups within RID and we can’t give all of them special recognition. I think though, that native language users who have a “deaf heart” should always have a seat at the table. None of us need choose between having a “deaf heart” and having “professionalism.” We all need each other and need to acknowledge our diverse perspectives and gifts/skills.

  12. AS says:

    This is a great discussion. I appreciate the perspective shared in the interview and the comments. I value the contributions of the diverse people who make up our field! I think the native and non-native alike bring different skill sets, as Laurie mentioned, and that we need to respectfully acknowledge what we all bring to the table. Perhaps I’m too optimistic but I hope this brings us to a place of more unity and appreciation for one another and away from the place of hierarchical status and division.
    Thanks for sharing the interview and prompting discussion!

  13. Lillian says:

    This is the perspective of a Deaf person who was one of many Deaf
    persons who functioned as ‘interpreters’ in the Deaf Community before
    the word ‘interpreter’ became a byword for ‘hearing interpreter’.
    This was before RID existed. My message is delivered with respect and
    a goal towards bringing attention to an essential part of the dialogue
    regarding the Deaf Community and RID.

    Hence, with all due respect to Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP)
    and ‘connected’ interpreters, RID was never connected to the Deaf
    Community and its values thus its foundation was built on ‘sinking
    sand’ from day one. The ‘solid’ foundation could only come about with
    realization by both Deaf and hearing people entering the interpreting
    field of the necessity for and recognition of a ‘Deaf-centric’ RID.

    Thus all decisions and actions within a ‘hearing-centric’ RID could
    only go on a divergent path from the Deaf Community: its culture, its
    norms, its values, which over time often resulted in ‘disservice’
    instead of the intended service to Deaf people.

    Though not intentional, a major ‘disservice’ to the Deaf community
    took place when NAD relinquished its responsibility for ‘evaluation’
    of interpreters; thus, what ‘Deaf-centricity’ the Deaf Community had
    regarding interpreters and their competency skills was ‘lost’,
    ensuring only an evolving ‘hearing-centric’ interpreting field.

    There are many variables and diverse reasons as to why we are where we
    are today. This is a dialogue to be had by Deaf people with hearing
    interpreters going forward, both at the local levels, and most
    definitely at the national level between NAD and RID. The dialogue,
    of course, will need to include serious discussion and review of our
    interpreter training programs.

    Deaf persons have always had a innate perception for what constitutes
    effective interpreting that best ensures a communication ‘functional
    equivalent’ outcome. However, it was, either, lost or not fully
    grasped, either, by Deaf people in general, or NAD.

    Has there ever been a dialogue on ‘Deaf-centric’ Interpreting

    Dialogue as to the ‘why and how’ a Deaf-centric RID could restore
    ‘the loss of faith’ in a hearing-centric RID and interpreting
    field experienced by both Deaf people and hearing interpreters over
    the last 50 years? A dialogue all ready begun in StreetLeverage
    articles by Deaf people including Dennis Cokely’s ‘Complicit in a
    Devil’s Bargain’.

    Other aspects of ‘Deaf-centric role modeling come from Deaf
    interpreters such as MJ Bienvenu and Elaine Forestal, along with
    ‘connected’ hearing allies such as Betty Colonomos (how we loved her
    signed name ‘SweetB . . .’) and Dennis Cokely.

    In hindsight, this dialogue could not have taken place 50 years ago,
    but given what has evolved over the last 50 years, it needs to take
    place today.

    The dialogue must begin between NAD and RID. Deaf people, hearing
    interpreters, agencies, ITPs, start the dialogue now. May it lead
    Deaf people, Deaf and hearing interpreters, ITPs, service providers to
    re-think, re-direct towards a ‘Deaf-centric’ interpreting field that
    should have started 50 years ago.

    Though purposely vague in particulars, it is hoped the ‘point’ of the
    message comes across. This is intended to be forthright and
    respectful, I hope it comes across as such. If it does not, apologies
    for any disrespect perceived. However, no apologies regarding the
    stand for the need of a Deaf-centric RID, as well as, Deaf-centric
    Interpreter Training Programs and Deaf-centric agencies if there is to
    be sign language interpreting service at its best for Deaf people.

    Lillian, ‘retired’ RSC interpreter
    (anyone remember such?)

  14. Hello all,

    I so wish we had been having these discussions for the past 10 years; maybe we wouldn’t be in this place. I want to thank Aaron, Bill and other non-IDP (I don’t like this label…codas often call you “real hearing interpreters”) interpreters for your passion and eloquence in saying what we cannot say. You are valued, respected, and trusted friends of the coda/Deaf communities. You acknowledge IDP contributions to the work and you complement our work with your own gifts. Those who don’t “get it” gain much more from your insights than ours, which appear to be self-serving. Please hang in there. I know it’s draining and disappointing. Just remember that we support you and some of us love some of you dearly.

    I have questions about the validity of the so-called vote. The only reason I knew I needed to vote on Motion E is because I was inundated with emails and posts from IDP and the Deaf Advisory group. I kept asking where the vote was…then someone explained that the RID “Survey” was really a vote to change the By Laws. Who knew that? Clearly from the comments here, many involved members had no idea that there was a “call” for a vote at all. Many people, including me, never got a clear understanding from RID. I believe this whole fiasco should be nullified because it was not–in RID’s words–a vote at all. It was a “survey”. If we do this the right way (adequate recruitment and advertising, wide dissemination, the Board not taking any sides, recognizing that the Diversity Council view is not relevant in this case, etc.), I would respect and accept the results…whatever they are.

    Regardless of outcomes on Motion E, we need to drastically change the way we elect a Board of Directors so that we have leaders at the helm. Right now there is no criteria regarding leadership or vision required to run. We have had far too many elections where positions were uncontested. This is not helping us move forward. Suppose we had a system where people would get on the slate for the Board of Directors elections on a local/chapter level. Those who were elected would then run against others who won local elections, ending up with a “statewide” candidate. Then this would be repeated at the regional level. We would end up with a slate of regional nominees for each position. giving us options. Each candidate would then present the membership with their vision for RID and the field so that we may make informed choices. This “screening” process will leave us with the best of the best and make for a process where members are involved at all levels (local to national); maybe we would get a larger voter turnout. What do you think about this? It’s a rough, outside the box idea that may get us started in making significant strides.

    • Hilary says:

      Hi Betty,

      I saw your comment and that struck me as odd, because I remembered receving emails from RID and seeing reminders. I checked my inbox and found two emails:

      The first one was dated 12/19/2012 and was only about the Bylaws. The subject of the email was “RID Member Vote NOW OPEN”.

      The next one was the January 9 eNews sent out by RID, and the same information in the 12/19/2012 email was included in the eNews as the fourth item. I’ve copied the text from those emails below. I also subscribe to RID’s Facebook page and I feel like I saw reminders there as well.

      Granted, the “Take a Survey” link was not clear – I suspect that the link is used for any survey or vote that is done online. Perhaps RID could have two separate links and the member vote links could be made painfully obvious somehow in the future. Although, I’m not sure that would entirely help, since we don’t all go to the RID website on a daily basis. :)

      Text from emails:

      Bylaws Referendums Vote:
      Interpreters with Deaf Parents Member at Large

      There is currently a Bylaws vote open to the RID membership from now until midnight EST, February 15, 2013, for the creation of a new position on the RID Board of Directors: Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP) Member at Large.

      Please read more about this vote, including the original motion and position statements from the Board of Directors, the Deaf Advisory Council, the Diversity Council, the Interpreters with Deaf Parents Member Section, the Deaf Caucus Member Section and the RID National Office Staff, here on the RID Web site. To vote, log in to your member account and click on “Take a Survey,” and “Addition of IDP Member-at-Large on the RID Board of Directors.”

  15. Hi Hilary,

    Thanks for your response. Perhaps I should have been able to figure out that when RID announced 2-3 months ahead of time that a vote was now open that they really meant “go respond to a survey.” I was looking for a “ballot” for two weeks until someone from IDP enlightened me. Why wouldn’t RID have their webmaster update the site to allow for VOTING? I did not imagine that a professional organization would categorize a By Laws referendum as a survey. Given the meager numbers of members who care enough to read these emails, this issue was treated so frivolously that too many members just didn’t investigate how to “vote”. I accept responsibility for not being able to figure this out and accept responsibility for expecting my professional organization to behave as such.

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