Shane Feldman | Where Does Advocacy Fit in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession?

Does RID have Deaf heart? What happened with the Lewis and Naomi resignations? What’s going on at the leadership level at RID and what does the future hold for the organization? These are just a few of the candid questions Shane Feldman, Executive Director of RID, answered while attending StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta. He also examined how upholding standard practices, collaborating, and remaining current on industry trends can position sign language interpreters to support collective solutions that will support the profession long-term.

Read transcript here. Find the PPT deck for his talk here.

Open Forum

Shane Feldman - Advocacy for Sign Language Interpreters

Shane Feldman

In addition to speaking during Sunday’s Main Session at StreetLeverage – Live | Atlanta, Shane also made himself available for an Open Forum discussion. Please find the questions posed by attendees and Shane’s response in the vignettes that follow.

More Dialogue

Shane is prepared to respond to additional questions you may have for him about RID. He will be responding to questions asked in the comment section of this post and in a follow-up interview.

Bring on the questions!


Forum Questions (9 short installments)

Installment One   (5:51 mins)

- Josie McDaniel Burket: “Where is the Deaf involvement at RID?”

- Kyle Durate: “What are your thoughts about collaborating internationally and the view that there is a conflict with RID being a advocacy organization and a certifying body?”

Installment Two   (5:58 mins)

- Patrick Graham: “What can you do to bring more deaf professionals, and their experience, into RID?”

- Ramon Norrod: “Is now the time to spin-off certification aspects of RID to another organization?”

Installment Three   (7:20 mins)

- Richard Laurion: “What mechanism should RID be using to communicate?”

- Stacey Storme: “Do you think RID has Deaf heart?”

Installment Four   (7:44 mins)

- Natasha Terry: “How can RID support providing services to Native America tribes around the U.S.?”

- Nancy Bloch: “What is RID’s communication policy for this year’s conference?”

Installment Five   (9:19 mins)

- Betty Colonomos: “What is RID doing in the way of outreach to the Deaf Community to educate on their rights and the proper expectations related to interpreters?”

- Ramon Norrod: “Is it possible to set a policy at RID conferences that all presenters sign their presentations?”

Installment Six   (7:18 mins)

- Mandy Bracken: “How do you as a member of the RID leadership create a culture of communication equality?”

- Sandra Maloney: “How do you create trust in certification testing at RID?”

Installment Seven   (5:44 mins)

- Darlene Ensenat: “Has anyone lost their certification as a result of an Ethical Practices System investigation?”

- Ramon Norrod: “”Has RID considered reducing or eliminating fees to encourage more Deaf Community members to get involved in the field?”

Installment Eight   (6:08 mins)

- Nancy Holdren: “What is RID doing to ensure that the testing process isn’t a barrier for those taking the CDI test?”

Installment Nine   (5:16 mins)

- Twitter: “What can RID members do to gain access to information?”

- Facebook: “What do you say to those that are concerned with the state of affairs at RID?”

 (Questions relayed by Brandon Arthur)


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About the Author

Shane Feldman serves as Executive Director of RID. Previously, he worked as COO of the NAD. Feldman has a distinguished history of civic advocacy for accessibility rights especially those related to closed-captioning, although he serves the community in several other areas including his work with VRS and the FCC, the Maryland Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Maryland School for the Deaf.

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Detour | | May 15, 2013
  2. Sign Language Interpreters: Embody the Change You Want to See | Street Leverage | May 21, 2013
  1. Patricia Gordon says:

    I want to know the details why our deaf member at large Lewis Merkin resigned????? I saw the video but still not clear …. Please respond at your earliest convenience …. Thank you for your time ..

    • Peggy Huber says:

      Here is a link to an article from the RID website announcing their resignations. There are two other articles relating to this issue as well.

    • Shane says:

      Patricia – thank you for your question. I can understand your desire to know the details that led to Lewis and Naomi’s resignations from the RID Board of Directors. We strive for transparency in the governance, decision-making and strategic direction of the organization; however, RID members need to understand that the organization cannot be an open book, to do so would put the organization at risk. Straddling transparency and confidentiality is not an issue that is unique to RID, it is also a challenge that other nonprofit organizations face. We must find a way to prevent harm to your organization through confidentiality as well as communicate in a transparent manner to inform RID members like you that the organization is run efficiently and in a responsible manner This is a responsibility that the members of the board and staff have accepted in our roles within the organization. Thank you again for taking the time to engage in the discussion.

  2. John Hendricks says:

    Just want to say what an asset SL is to our profession. Brandon, you are doing a fantastic job in bringing information and dialogue to the whole community and making it accessible. You really show your passion and love for the Deaf community through your work with SL and you are greatly appreciated!

    • John:

      Thanks for the kind words and appreciation for the work being done with StreetLeverage. Truly, it is the many people who daringly put themselves out there that makes StreetLeverage meaningful to the field. I appreciate your participation and support.



    • Shane says:


      We agree, Brandon is doing a phenomenal job creating dialogue about the topics that are critical to moving our profession forward. This dialogue has been beneficial to our association and its members. We are truly fortunate to have his leadership in the field and look forward to the ongoing conversations on Street Leverage.

  3. Kitty LaFountain says:

    I seem to always be a day late and a dollar short, so I am just now reading about Naomi and Lewis resigning. I would like to copy and paste from an email that I sent to Matthew O’Hara about an experience I had in Arlington, VA:

    Recently(August 2012) my husband and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary in Arlington, VA with my daughter and her husband. Connected to their building is a restaurant called “McCormick and Schmick” and we had our anniversary dinner there. To my surprise it appeared a meeting of the Board of Directors of different chapters and other members (minus you) were also there.

    I didn’t know at the time who the large table of Deaf folks were, as I didn’t stick my nose into their business. But I did what I call “Deaf Attention! Please Attention!!”. This is when I start signing, not full conversation, because the other participants at my table are hearing, but enough to get the attention of at least one Deaf person at the large table. It didn’t happen. So I thought perhaps my ole tactics (40 years plus) aren’t the norm anymore. I then made a direct approach to the table and signed “What is the name sign of this city? Arlington??” (We were leaving the restaurant at this time and most of the “Deaf” folks seemed to be finished with their meals, so, I thought, this might work).

    Two friendly faces responded, Lewis and Naomi! What a relief! the rest of the folks glanced my way, continued their conversations and never signed or said a word to me. The two Deaf folks even asked people if they knew the city name sign. No. Oh well.

    Thanks to these friendly Deaf folks that lessened my feeling of “out of place” and helped me feel that this is still the norm. We had a delightful conversation, but I was stunned to find out that this was a dinner with our board members. I had never met any of them in person, except for Kelly and that was 1998 in AZ (and I didn’t recognize if she was there)

    • Patricia L. Richey says:

      This is just to inform you that we spell out ‘Arlington’…no name sign at all. However, I have seen ‘Arl’ often.

      • Kitty LaFountain says:

        Thanks! I always like some kind of response when I post, even if someone says “What’s your POINT?” Then I start writing again!
        It’s nice not to be invisible!

  4. Jennifer Harper says:

    I must say, Shane Feldman is a very articulate speaker. His answers to the questions posed were intelligent and insightful. I’m quite impressed. I feel confident that RID will do well under his direction and look forward to the changes to come.

    • Shane says:


      We appreciate your support. As I shared during my video, this is the time to come together and make the important decisions to create the changes we want to see in RID.

      If you have any questions about the steps to achieve these goals, I would be happy to answer them.

  5. Sallie Mae Pauley says:

    Wish I could go to that conference. I would bring up about diversity. I do not see much of that in RID and I wonder why?

    • Shane says:

      Sallie Mae – Thank you for your comments as this is an important issue and area of discussion for our organization and the profession. Your comments reflect the current demographic breakdown for the RID membership, which is as follows:

      Male: 1,314 (12.41%)
      Female: 9,272 (87.59%)

      Ethnic Origin**
      African American/Black: 473 (4.94%)
      American Indian/Alaskan Native: 84 (0.88%)
      Asian American/Pacific Islander: 169 (1.77%)
      Euro-American/White: 8,376 (87.60%)
      Hispanic/Latino(a): 379 (3.96%)
      Other: 81 (0.85%)

      *This represents reporting from 10,586 of our 16,000+ members.
      **This represents reporting from 9,562 of our 16,000+ members.

      To incorporate diversity into the decision-making process, the RID Board of Directors established the Diversity Council in 2010. The Diversity Council assists the RID Board of Directors in promoting diversity and inclusion within the association, develops recommendations on how to make RID’s membership and leadership more diverse and inclusive and assists in developing diversity programs and initiatives.

      Additionally, RID has an official Memorandum of Understanding with Mano a Mano that codifies a strong and continued collaboration between our organizations and publicly attests to the organizations’ commitment to work in close partnership for the future benefit of the Deaf community, the sign language interpreting community and for all people who use sign language.

      Furthermore, our collaboration extends to the National Alliance of Black Interpreters, Inc. (NAOBI, Inc.) as a key stakeholder in partnership to move the profession forward in achieving excellence in interpreting.

      While this is a good start to addressing diversity within our organization and the field, it is only the beginning and we will continue the dialogue among RID members at the 2013 RID National Conference this August. The members of our Diversity Council will host a plenary session to further dive into this topic.

      Perhaps you or others following this post have suggestions as to how we can better achieve diversity within the field or the organization? I encourage you to share your ideas. Thank you for bringing this issue to the discussion on Street Leverage.

  6. Hartmut says:

    Just great to arrange such a conference with great participation, not only by local folks but nationally, who flew to Atlanta for this. Thanks a bunch to Street Leverage!

    Shane made a good presentation, even though having been in Office for four months. The information he gave in his address and responses are not really new. He only could give such information that are safe. Very understandable and even necessary to protect the organization. He could not respond to the questions relating to history and current policies, for example, communication policy at the RID conferences. I as a Deaf person recognize the need for such protective behavior. Protecting the organization is in the best interests of the Deaf Community. Yet this takes not away our responsibility as leaders of the Deaf Community that each component (or should I say institution?) of the Deaf Community does not harm our community as a whole.

    What I notice after Feldman’s presentation, is how the questions were formulated to him. None of them signed ASL, bringing me to wonder, why couldn’t they? Something in the environment of the conference that prevented them to use the language they would use conversationally with each other? Except for two, I haven’t seen them being at the RID Conference. Feldman was using more ASL in his presentation, but he drifted more to English in his signing due to how the questions were formulated by the questioners. Those questioners need to consider more how to present their questions in ASL, and forget about how it is in English. They complain about accessibility to information from RID, but they ought to be also concerned how their signing is accessible to the grassroot of the Deaf Community.

    With regards to “communication policy” at RID Conferences, I would say as an ex-Boarder of RID, there was not ever any real policy formulated to be “enforced” at the conference. I only managed for the 1999 Conference in Boston that every RID Board member signed everytime during the conference and motivate folks from my Region (the NE Region of RID) to exhibit the Region I pride to “sign everywhere” (this was an informal slogan at this conference). That way, this 1999 Conference has been hailed as the most Deaf-friendly conference. What it says, a “communication policy” does not effect much. There ought to be strong pressures locally and regionally to hold the chapter meetings and conferences Deaf-friendly by the local leadership and the Regional Representative of the RID Board. Deaf-friendliness usually implies “signing everywhere”.

    With regards to CDI tests, I have been able to stop continuing administering the written test to deaf applicants after seeing a high failure rate. A test task-force was created to engineer a new qualifying CDI-test.

  7. Louis Schwarz says:

    The recent comments and remarks make me think that, in the current board, the “hearie” members are condescending toward the “DEAFIE” members. The RID will never be established if it was not for deaf people who gave the interpreters the professional career status which was unheard in early 1900s. The current board members MUST understand the need of transparency, which has been a common issue in many non-profit organizations. It is not the issue of “uniqueness” – it is the issue of making the RID a recognized authority regarding the issue of being a qualified interpreter! It should be an OPEN dialogue for both board members and registered members. Shane, I am sorry to say that, you have to be blunt with the board directors! The changes are needed to be made now, not years later. The minutes of board meetings, according to 501(c)3 regulations, must be open to the RID members.

    • Shane says:

      Louis – I appreciate you taking the time to comment. First, the meeting minutes of all board of directors meetings are public. They are posted on the RID website Typically, they are posted after they have gone through final approval of the minutes.

      From my experience with the board of directors since starting as Executive Director in January, I do not think that the issues at hand can be simplified by a “deaf vs. hearing” argument. In fact, the barriers that face RID have to do with long-standing policies and procedures that have been inherited by this board and headquarters; policies that are long-overdue for review and changes. The board has committed itself to reviewing these policies which serve as RID’s foundation. Creating stronger policies will accomplish two main goals 1) better represent and serve our members’ needs and 2) follow association best practices and laws.

      The review and overhaul of the policies and procedures will go a long way to address some of the current issues we are facing. However, the shift in approach and attitude must happen beyond just the board of directors and headquarters via the Policies and Procedures Manual (PPM).

      I want to talk about this “us vs. them” perception a little more and I hope we can extend this dialogue further with more RID member involvement in the discussion. It seems to be present and an underlying theme at many different levels within the organization: staff vs. members; new graduates vs. experienced interpreters; deaf interpreters vs. hearing interpreters; IDPs vs. non-IDPs; and the list goes on and on.

      This continual approach to the issues facing the organization, the field, and the community has not been conducive for a productive solution and has interfered with the organization’s ability to move the profession forward via strategic planning and goal-setting. We need to support each other rather than tear each other down. This will take honest dialogue that includes respect and civility.

  8. Nancy Berlove says:

    From my understanding there are two perspectives on the issue of transparency between hearing people and Deaf people.

    In the Deaf community, the lack of access to information from the hearing world, led to the common practice of sharing everything so that no one feels left out. Agree or disagree, like the person or not, want or not want; information is shared. Then the discussion starts. “What do you mean? How does it work? Where did you find that out? Who said?”

    In the Hearing world, that is definitely not the norm. People guard what they know, share when it seems safe, and fear retribution for saying the wrong thing. It may seem polite in the hearing world to tell someone not to say certain things in public but in the Deaf world being told not to discuss something can be seen as divisive.

    As new ED for our organization, where the members expect the board to follow their norms, it could be very difficult to navigate toward transparency. Hearing members may agree that it would be wrong to share too much, Deaf members say if you don’t share you are hiding something and we don’t trust you. Then there are a whole bunch of us who are somewhere in the middle.

    Perhaps one first step is to recognize that there is a difference in perspective. Second step may be to see where there can be some bending toward the middle on both sides. Third, to admit when that bending is not occurring and re-examine the stance that says “you must/we cant”. Find how to share what can be shared and do it in a way that both protects the organization and acknowledges inclusivity as the norm.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Anna Mindess says:

      Thank you, Nancy, for clearly articulating those two perspectives. This divergent pair of culturally-influenced perceptions explains a lot about the tension in the present situation.

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