Mea Culpa: We Failed RID & Sign Language Interpreters with Deaf Parents

Sign Language Interpreter Lamenting the Failure to Pass IDP SeatPart of my motivation in writing this article now is that I so poorly dropped the ball when the time came to vote on establishing a position on the RID Board of Directors that dedicated a seat to an Interpreter with Deaf Parents (IDP), the IDP MAL (Member-at-Large) position. I could cite my business at work, or the back pain and subsequent surgery as excuses, but the truth is I could have made time somewhere in there to attend to my business and vote! I failed to exercise my democratic power when the time came, and I failed in what I consider to be one of my personal and professional duties. I believed in the need for an ‘IDP seat’ already, having thought about the issues and arguments carefully, but by the time I got to putting my coins on the table, the hand was already dealt and done with.

I know there will be another opportunity for our community to debate and vote again on this issue, so I am ante’ing up now for the next hand and putting my arguments here in the public sphere to contribute to our next shot at getting this right.

The Who

Before going further, I want to state that I address this letter from the perspective of a Hearing interpreter (I.e. not a Child of Deaf Adults, CODA), to all of my fellow Hearing interpreters. I welcome all members of our community, Deaf, CODA, and Hearing interpreters, Deaf and CODA consumers of sign language interpreting services, and anyone else to read and respond to this writing.  However, I feel it important to state that I am directing this to my fellow Hearing interpreters.

Any Position Will Do

In the interest of keeping my long-windedness at bay, let me begin by starting off with the seemingly strong and seemingly logical argument against having a dedicated IDP-MAL position on the RID Board of DirectorsA CODA can always run for a position on the Board anyway! When I first saw this statement in discussions, it made sense and I had to ‘chew the cud’ as we say in the South, to figure out what bothered me about it. So chew I did and here is what I came up with. It is an absolutely true statement, but it is not an argument at all. It argues neither for a position nor against it.

So I chewed a little more, and I presumed that what was intended to be argued is that a need for the seat has not been shown. Having wrapped my slow but hopefully able wits around this nugget, I started to construct what arguments I could bring to bear to clearly establish that need and why it is important to the future of our field.

Running for Office

The first step in establishing a need for the position requires that we look at the assumptions underlying the “IDP’s can already run for office” argument. The fact that a thing can happen, does not mean a thing will happen.  Sheer numbers can greatly reduce the likelihood that a given thing will happen in fact. The United States of America could have a dozen Hmong Representatives in Congress, but the probability of that given the current populations and geographic positioning of Hmong people in the United States, is extremely low. Given the changing demographics of our field, IDP’s are a shrinking minority within our ranks. The proliferation of Interpreter Training Programs and ASL as foreign language offerings in High Schools and Colleges has brought an influx of Hearing interpreters in greater numbers than ever before. Alex Jackson Nelson’s article, Sign Language Interpreters: Recognizing & Analyzing Our Power & Privilege, offers some great insight on the need for practitioners to be aware of their privilege. In my mind, one demonstration that the need exists is because the math is against the continuous occupation of non-dedicated seats on the Board by Interpreters with Deaf Parents.

Affinity is Not Membership

As Hearing interpreters, we will never be members of the Deaf Community in the same way as a Deaf person is, or in the still different way that a CODA is. I say this without prejudice, or any sense of rejection by the community. We exist within the scope of the larger Deaf Community and are accepted into the fold to varying degrees throughout our lives, but we do not share the same experiences. It is vital that we address and accept that as the simple truth that it is. Laurie Nash offers excellent perspective on the value IDP’s bring to the profession in her interview with Brandon Arthur about the retraction of the referendum that would have established a designated position on the RID Board for IDP.

Adam Bartley

Adam Bartley

In other writings in other venues, I have spoken about my own background as child of a white mother and Mexican father. I have written about my experiences in the foster care system with a wonderful set of foster parents that were Black in the early 1970’s when such things just weren’t done.  I have also written about the amazing couple (he, Lebanese, she Cherokee/Choctaw) that turned my life around, and about the many ways that the Deaf community has been in my life since I was a child.

In those writings, just as here, it was all to make the point that affinity does not create membership.

Given my experiences, I have unique insights to many communities, but I cannot have full insight into any of them.  I was ‘interpreting’ for fellow children in the system at 12 years old, so I can relate to some experiences that an IDP has, but there are infinitely more that I can never understand or give voice to. If you want insight into the CODA experience, read Amy Williamson’s article, The Cost of Invisibility: Codas and the Sign Language Interpreting Profession. Affinity does not create membership, and if ever the Board does not have an Interpreter with Deaf Parents seated at the table, that voice will be absent.

IDP’s Are Consumers

IDP’s are not merely our colleagues, against whom we sometimes compare ourselves, or whom we envision en masse as the fulfillment of some stereo-typical image of ‘the CODA interpreter’.

IDP’s are also the consumers of our services!

I cannot stress this enough. IDP’s are the children whose IEP we are interpreting for directly or for their Deaf Parents. IDP’s are the performers in the school play or the Broadway production their loved ones are attending. IDP’s are the scientists and educators that we are working with in many educational settings. CODA children are sometimes directly using interpreters in critical care situations where Hearing Interpreters and Deaf Interpreters are working as a team to provide access just as they would with a young Deaf child. IDP’s are the presenters and performers that we are working with. IDP’s are our consumers.  Few among our numbers would suggest that RID does not need to have a dedicated seat for a Deaf Member at Large on the Board, because we rightly see the need to have consumer/practitioner perspectives guiding our work and our future. Our field is also fortunate to have another community of consumer/practitioners in our IDP colleagues, and we should ensure that their unique perspectives are always part of our governing body.

The Gist

In short we failed to recognize and embed the value IDP’s bring to the governing table of our profession. The demographics of our field create a greater likelihood that Hearing Interpreters will always be present but IDP participation on the Board will be absent or intermittent at best; that no matter the level of affinity a Hearing interpreter may have, we can never bring the full experience of a Deaf person or a CODA to bear in shaping the future of the sign language interpreting field; and that as we recognize the necessity of having practitioners of all types on our Board, we must similarly recognize the imperative to ensure that IDP’s are also at the table.

Please join me in preparing for the next time we have a chance to ensure that our organization always has a team at the helm who can provide valuable insight on the work we do and the perspective of the people we endeavor to serve.

 

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About the Author

Adam Bartley is a Staff Interpreter III with Gallaudet Interpreting Services, He holds CI, CT, SC:L,and NIC: Master certifications. Originally from Austin Texas, Adam has called DC home since August of 2003. He has been interpreting professionally for 23 years, and has specialized training and skills in the areas of post-secondary academic interpreting, performance arts interpreting, and Legal/Law Enforcement settings. A well-known presenter at the local, regional and national levels, he often teaches seminars on interpreting for Law Enforcement. His hobbies include painting, sculpture, yo-yoing, etymologies and biking among 97 other past-times.

40 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Terri Hayes says:

    …and it would be ever so nice if the ITP’s out there would generally stop teaching (either blatantly or by implication) that Interpreters with Deaf Parents are somehow Less competent, less capable and/or less responsible than hearing interpreters. There is a general feeling of the IDP being… not quite “right” enough to be an interpreter… floating around out there, and while it may be true that not all IDPs are as expressivly fluent in sign as we would hope for the profession, they come with lots and lots and lots of other experiences that would serve to inform this profession in ways hearing interpreters cannot concieve.

    Nice article.

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Thank you for your comments. I think it cuts both ways, there is also a myth of IDP’s being superbeings that can’t be approached or connected to as colleagues. Either route ignores the nature of each IDP’s lived experience and variability.

      • Jarlath Bloom says:

        I think the thought that IDP aren’t very good stems from the culture at RIT/NTID/Rochester, and the teachers there, as I’ve never really seen the problem anywhere else, or heard of anyone discriminating.

        • Adam Bartley says:

          Jarlath,
          Thank you for commenting. I work at Gallaudet and have seen those same attitudes present even there. I don’t see the connection to NTID myself, but I’m open to hearing more from you about your perspective. Thanks again for reading and discussing these issues.

      • Kevin Lowery says:

        There are also a select few CODAs who don’t believe they need to go through an ITP. But they do if they want to become certified. There are all varieties, as you said, Adam. All bring different perspectives and unique talents to this business. We need to recognize that and move on from all this stereotyping and labeling.

        Thank you for both articles, Adam. I look forward to hearing more from you.

        • Amy Williamson says:

          Kevin,
          I want to understand what you are saying better. Your first 2 statements are puzzling to me. You state that there are a few codas who don’t believe they need to go through an ITP and you also state that they do need to go through an ITP if they want to become certified.

          First off, one does NOT need to go through an ITP in order to become certified. A degree must be had to sit for the RID certification test but it does not have to be in interpreting. There are many of us (codas and non-codas) who have become certified but have not gone through an ITP.

          There are many people (not just codas) that don’t believe they need to go through an ITP…and they are correct, they don’t. There are people that can sit for and take the Bar exam and become lawyers without going to law school. When ITPs are more accommodating and accepting of codas into their programs then codas will be more willing to attend. Most ITPs have curriculums that are designed for the adult, 2nd language learner of ASL who is not bilingual and does not have experience with the deaf community. Not a good fit for codas… This does not mean that we shun training. Most of us receive our training from very kind, supportive mentors and piecing together workshops and classes that better fit our needs.

          By saying that codas should attend ITP’s you are, without actually saying it, saying that codas are just like 2nd language ASL learners and therefore can go through the same training…again, not recognizing and acknowledging that a coda’s experience is unique and different. Again, I do NOT discount training. I believe very strongly in interpreters receiving training and education. I also believe very strongly that the current ITP curriculum (in most places) does not take into account the unique experience of a new coda interpreter and therefore the ITP may not be the best place for a coda interpreter to receive their training.

          Is this stereotyping and labeling or is it simply laying it out like it is. Coda interpreters and ‘hearing’ interpreters are bringing different skill-sets to the job.

        • Adam Bartley says:

          Kevin,

          Thank you for your input here. I see Amy has already commented on the mention of ITP’s not being required for certification. I will add that not only are ITP’s/IPP’s poorly designed for those native CODA students, but darn few are prepared to train Deaf Interpreters at all.

          One comment related to your post that I have seen by the very rare CODA is, “Why should I have to take some test, it’s my language?” As I said, I have encountered this rarely, in fact probably only 3 times in 23 years of interpreting. The majority of IDP’s I have known are conscientious practitioners that do not eschew training, but do often look elsewhere for it when ITP’s are not well suited to them.

          One related note: I have long been frustrated with the notion that ITP’s will train someone in a language while simultaneously trying to teach interpretation for the developing language. I have also often compared it with the tradition of spoken language training requiring full competency in both languages PRIOR to enrollment in the interpreting/translation programs. Sadly, spoken language colleagues tell me this is rapidly changing and many of their programs are doing the same things ours have been doing.

          Thanks again for your feedback.

    • Hrtmut Teuber says:

      Terri,
      I am quite surprised that at the ITPs (the use of ‘the’ suggests “all”) transmit this message as you described.

      It is true that some CODAs are variably fluent in ASL and English. Some have traumatic experiences while growing up, being mocked or bullied at schools or in the neighborhoods, because of their parents being deaf and using those “funny hand movements.” I know of two who committed suicide.

      But IDP don’t have those language imperfections. I haven’t met any IDP with unresolved emotional traumas. However, I have meet a very few (maybe under five) IDPs who did not support the Deaf agenda within the RID.

  2. Anna Kakel says:

    The benefit of the unique voice that IDPs can bring to the discussion can not be denied. The visceral reaction some people had to the proposal I believe stems in part from the fact that for too long voices (both IDPS and Hearing of Hearing interpreters) have been raised in anger and insecurity. IDPs accusing their colleagues of ruining the profession, of being Deaf-heartless… Hearing interpreters frustrations with CODA status being seen as a job qualification.
    This polarization benefits neither us not the communities we serve. We must come together to improve ourselves and subsequently the field of interpreting. It is our responsibility to make sure all voices are accounted for, even if that means a reserved seat at the table.

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Anna
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I can see those reasons as being contributors to the dilemma we are facing in the field, but I think it’s roots go further. Not that many IDP’s are railing against Hearing interpreters, and with the exponential growth of ITP’s being a CODA is far from the most common way to enter the field. I see much of the divide going back to a lack of understanding of each others position and experience.

      Thank you again for your involvement in the discussion.

  3. Hi!
    I think a good strategy would be to have voting items on the annual membership form. Lack of voting participation has impacted results. To improve return rates, why not try placing a handful of voting items on the RID annual renewal form to increase participation.

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Shelly,

      This is a great idea. As long as the voting isn’t mandatory for maintenance of certification, I think it’s a viable way to increase participation. Mandatory voting can have negative effects on the politics of an institution if folks are forced to vote on things they aren’t informed on or prepared to seriously consider.

      Thanks for your contribution here.

      • Shelly Hansen says:

        Hi Adam~
        Right…not mandatory. I know I would be more likely to read and check a few boxes when I am already doing some RID business renewing membership and participating as a member by voting.

  4. Shannon M. Simonelli says:

    I’d be interested to see what percentage of past/current board members were/are IDP. If that number is unproportionally low, that begs the question, what are the barriers preventing IDPs from serving on the RID board? As a community of interpreter we need to investigate any systematic and/or perceived barriers and figure out how we can break those down to more greatly encourage IDP participation in RID board service – whether or not there is a designated IDP-MAL position.

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Shannon,

      I too would love to know the stats on this, though I would add that I would also want to know the numbers that ran but didn’t win the seats. Intuitively I expect the numbers to historically start high and see a sharper decline in the mid 1980′s , but I now want to see if the data supports that.

      Thank you for your question, it’s a good one.

      • Amy Williamson says:

        In early October, a chart was shared with the IDP leadership that shows a preliminary count of almost 150 RID volunteers (Board, committees, councils) and 14 of those individuals were identified to be hearing interpreters with deaf parent(s). Many committees and councils had no IDPs.

        At the time the motion for the IDP MAL position was made, there were no hearing interpreters with deaf parents on the RID Board. Since then, one has joined the board as a region rep and we recently voted one in. His term will begin after this year’s conference.

    • Hrtmut Teuber says:

      Only a few terms, there were no IDPs on the Board. In my six-year service on the Board, there were two. In the earlier terms, there may be more than two on the Board. I have counted six CODAs and five non-CODAs serving as presidents, throughout the history of RID. This term, there is none. The one who has deaf parents are more Deaf than a (hearing) CODA in his experiences and identity, despite growing up as a hard-of-hearing, progressively losing the ability to understand speech altogether.

      • Hartmut Teuber says:

        There is one more non-CODA president, thus increasing the count to six. It is now 50-50 between both groups.

  5. Dan Parvaz says:

    I know we differ on this, but not by much. I’m on the record as saying that an IDP Board position would not have been a solution to the broader cultural problems within the field. The corollary, however, is equally important, in my mind: that we have in fact failed native voices within RID in ways far more subtle and insidious than simply not voting to create a particular slot on the board, and that failure, unlike the single event of a vote, is ongoing. The shift that is required is fundamental, and our discussions in Atlanta were a start. I hope the dialogue continues in Indiana.

    IDPs are in the unfortunate position of being fetishized at two extremes, neither of which is particularly helpful. Either they are horrible, under-educated, unethical, mom-and-pop interpreters, or they’re the very best we have to offer, since they have a native command of ASL (what CODA hasn’t had the microphone shoved at them, with the assumption that they would provide the ASL-to-English side of things?). I come from a position that we are at our best when we include all cultural voices, and accept one another as equals. Let’s figure out how to formalize that within the bylaws.

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Dan,

      I’m glad you shared your thoughts here. I always look forward to what comes out of that admirably sharp noggin of yours and respect your take on things a great deal. I am curious to hear more about arguments against a designated seat. So far the arguments I have heard have amounted to just the one mentioned in the article (IDP’s Can already run) and the cry of “If they get a seat, then all groups will have to have a specific seat “.

      I certainly don’t see an IDP seat as a panacea to the larger cultural problems in the field and in the national organization, but I do see it as a dose of the right medicine.

      We do not interpret between Russian and English, or Japanese and English. We interpret for ASL and English. I say this to hammer home an essential difference in the positioning of the communities we interpret for. The community of language users we interpret for is marginalized in a very different way than an immigrant or an international visitor that might be using interpreters. In fact, to paraphrase a comment I originally saw on Leala Holcombs Facebook page, we hearing interpreters are exotified for knowing ASL while Deaf people are often pitied for ‘having to use it’.

      The fact that we serve a minority community that is often marginalized, speaks to the need to have real stakeholders that are consumer/practitioners at the helm, with something to say about the course we steer into the future.

      • Dan Parvaz says:

        Of course ASL has a special place within an organization with “Deaf” in its title (AGB and their allies are the exceptions that prove this). My point was simply that the current culture is deeply divided on this, as evidenced by (a) the vote, and (b) the acrimony that has followed in its wake. The fact that, of all committees within RID, the *Diversity* Council was the source of some of the more egregious comments has given my irony muscle a massive Charley Horse, and is ind is indicative of the need for deeper dialogue. Had the IDP measure passed, it is my fear that the resentment would have increased, and perhaps have been driven underground temporarily, where it could fester. I’m not sure that quick procedural fixes would be effective, in this case. What I don’t have, alas, are any real concrete suggestions beyond a very long conversation and an ongoing calling out of any mistreatment against our native-signing colleagues.

    • Hartmut Teuber says:

      Dan Parvaz,
      I agree that an IDP-MAL would not be the best solution to the cultural problems within the organization. But it is still better than other means. I have my experience of CODAs on the Board and in a committee. They have a constituency and an office to fulfill. They too often became “hearing” with those duties. Even they were not in favor or only lukewarm of “Signing Everywhere”-practice in RID events. One former RID president even said to me “Why should we fake to be deaf to do so?”

  6. Kevin Lowery says:

    RID is coming up on their 50th Anniversary and they don’t have a clue. In the founding of RID many CODAs were an integral part of setting up the basics of this organization. Shame on RID for at least not recognizing that this could be celebrated in memory of the original founders of the organization who are CODAS.

    Also, RID could have touted this not only as a commemoration BUT as a bridge, a way to renew the Deaf perspective and breathe life into their Deaf Heart which is on the verge of going into cardiac arrest.

  7. Mrs. Jones says:

    We don’t agree with RID interpreters at all. They really terribly signs not as Deaf people. Let CODA do with Deaf parents to give them feel comfortable !!!!!!

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Mrs Jones

      Thank you for taking a minute to share your thoughts. I agree it is important for CODA’s to be an important part of the field of interpreting. Any future for interpreting needs to have Deaf, CODA and Hearing interpreters work together to make it stronger and better to serve our communities.

  8. Joe McCleary says:

    Adam,

    Happy to see you here on SL. I have been struggling with understanding this issue and I appreciate your article. However, I still don’t understand what the “it” is that IDP’s can bring to board that requires a special position. I agree 100% that affinity is not membership and I’m even willing to discuss the notion that IDP’s are consumers but what is the value that we are “failing to recognize and embed”?

    Other thoughts:

    If we say that IDP’s should have a special seat on the board because they are consumers then logic would lead us to have a seat on the board for hearing/non signing consumers as well. Do we want that?

    I have also seen the argument that the RID board lacks a “deaf heart” and therefore needs an IDP seat. Now I don’t know what “deaf heart” means but I assume the underlying thought behind statements like this are that people feel the board doesn’t have enough deaf perspective. If in fact that is a problem then brining on hearing IDP’s to provide a deaf perspective is a bad idea, if you want a deaf perspective I would suggest talking to deaf people.

    I also have a problem with the term IDP. Interpreter with Deaf Parents. What does that mean? I believe the assumption is that the interpreter would have deaf parents that us ASL and are part of the culturally deaf community, either deaf or hearing. If that is a correct assumption then it needs to be made explicit. If it isn’t correct then it needs to be defined for the sake of the position. IDP’s come from varied a background as anyone else. All of us bring unique experiences and backgrounds with us to the collective table. That diversity is what makes every board of every organization unique. RID is a professional organization for sign language interpreters. RID is not a collection of people that are brought together to preserve deaf culture and it shouldn’t be. If NAD or Gallaudet’s Deaf Studies Department wanted to have an advisory board to discuss the deaf experience then there should be seats set aside for CODA’s but that isn’t the purpose of the RID board.

    • Adam Bartley says:

      Joe
      Thank you for your thoughtful response. You raise good questions here. I am going to try to give a thoughtful response here. First I ask that you and other readers reference my response to Dan ‘s earlier comment. The positioning of the communities we work with is fundamentally different than an organization of J-E interpreters for example (though I would still be very suspicious of a Board for such an organization that did not have any Japanese native speakers on it).

      The ‘it’ you speak of should be made explicit, and I’ll try to she’d some light on my own understanding of what that ‘it’ might be. First, history has shown that the decisions made by RID have a direct impact on the lives of Deaf people, for better or worse. Decisions on position statements, certification requirements and an unwieldy ethical reporting system are evidence of far reaching impact on Deaf lives. My own fear is that without stakeholders at the helm who hold a cultural, familial, personal self interest, there is too great an opportunity for decisions to be made with too great a weight on the economic self interest of practitioners at the expense of the communities we serve.

      I agree that CODA’s do not bring a Deaf experience to the table (they are not Deaf) , in fact that’s not what I am aiming for. I ask that they bring their experience as CODA’s. Yes that will have all the variability of any other community, and the possibility exists that an IDP is elected that will not serve their post well despite bringing their CODA-ness to the work. This chance exists with any elected position and is the reason by laws have terms and other processes for removing folks. The fact that not every IDP will bring the same qualifications to the table is just a reason for vibrant debate and robust elections.

      As for the term IDP, I think that is a good question, but one I ask our CODA/IDP readers to respond to.

      Thanks again for wonderful discussion points.

    • Patty Moers-Patterson says:

      what is the value that we are “failing to recognize and embed”? – See more at: http://www.streetleverage.com/2013/06/mea-culpa-we-failed-rid-sign-language-interpreters-with-deaf-parents/#comment-9103

      Thank you Joe for the question. It allows one to look deeper and reframe the discussion which is so central to the point. This urge to articulate in a way that would lay out logic so brilliantly clear that no one could question the weighted value by an IDP perspective has its allure. I must refrain back to you – ——-
      Why is there even a question that argues for one to define identity as contribution in a cultural heritage richly acquired? I say to do so is to deny it’s true value instead of for no other reason than embracing value purely for the virtue in and of itself? I believe part of the resistance is fear, not an intellectual understanding.

      As for “Deaf-Heart” – RID IDP and Deaf Members working/planning group, facilitators, and all involved communities look forward to dialoguing this and many other topics that are seen as unfair.

      Before I go further Joe, you and I know each other. We have worked together for several years in different job positions. You know me and my family. Honestly, I’m taken a back by the tone with the characterization of a “special seat” on the RID board.

      Cultural relativism is looking at a situation through comparing one’s own view. I am suggesting here that as a coda interpreter, well trained and qualified, I bring a under served sensitivity having lived my experience that is unmatched.
      I will say this line of reasoning you present actually calls out to me with a voice that is familiar. A voice that mistreats and has assumptions attached that are dismissive of interpreters but actually minimizes the experience of Deaf people. You note what RID is not intended to “preserve deaf culture” and suggest NAD as a more appropriate forum.

      This assumption is exactly in conflict with a collectivist culture and disregards professional responsibility. An IPD perspective is absolutely obligatory for allowing native heritage values represented as underpinnings that guide our work ethically to “do no harm.”

      Molly Wilson in her vlog draws an analogy of white people coming into a community of color and telling the adult children of these folks of color that through study, white people know more or just as much as they do so actually the adult children have nothing of significance to contribute. That’s absurd, right?

      • Hrtmut Teuber says:

        Patty Moers-Patterson,
        I cannot understand what you wrote in the second paragraph of your post. It looks like incomplete. Wouldn’t you mind to rewrite it?

      • Joe McCleary says:

        Patty, Adam, and whoever else is reading:

        You asked this question:

        Why is there even a question that argues for one to define identity as contribution in a cultural heritage richly acquired?

        This is making an assumption. The assumption is that IDP’s have a richly acquired cultural heritage. What believe is the request for an IDP board member position (which is a specially set aside position) should be clear in what is wanted. What is wanted is a CODA who grew up with culturally deaf parents who sign. That is clear and if that is wanted then say that. Otherwise we don’t know what we are voting on. I’m also concerned that without clearly defining what is expected I can foresee a situation where someone runs for the IDP seat and is accused of not having truly Deaf parents. Then we get into ugly arguments about being Deaf enough or CODA enough and that is something I don’t want to see.

        Some of the best interpreters I have ever seen are CODA’s (you included) and I think you deserve a seat on the board because of the work you have done, which is guided by your CODA values. I also believe that without this clear explanation of what is being requested then that can lead to every special interest group in RID asking for a special seat. That would make the board impossible to manage.

  9. Gina Oliva says:

    I simply want to say two things:
    1. Great article, Adam – admire you for it!!
    2. I fully support a dedicated seat for an IDP on the RID Board.
    That’s all!!!
    Smiles,
    Gina Oliva

  10. Shelly Hansen says:

    I want to add…there are so many more important issues than fussing about an obvious value…my opinion: of course there should be an IDP in the RID governing structure. Let’s focus on improving RID, the certification process, support for independent contracting, improving the RID website as a platform for independent contractors, improved consistent quality of interpreting services, advanced training/certification (medical, mental health, etc…), inclusion and support for CDIs/DIs, advocacy for interpreting services under the ADA, increased access to quality VRI, etc…

  11. Kimberly says:

    The term “Deaf Heart” is kicked around all the time now, but I don’t see it in RID. They don’t really understand it. They know something is missing, but they don’t know how to find it.

    There is always a CODA. Right there in the middle of the Deaf community. One foot in either world. Deaf don’t understand hearing. Hearing don’t understand Deaf. But the CODA knows the rules of both worlds. Who better to advise an organization that spouts ideals of Deaf Heart and empowerment than someone who has lived the fight and survived? Someone who is also hearing and an interpreter. They should be honored with a position on the board. And yet that’s not even the real issue here.

    Where is the honor for family that exists in every single Deaf household? Until RID is modeled after the mores and rules and culture of the Deaf community, they will always lead the profession astray. They have taken us farther away from our roots instead of closer. I’m ready for the hearing interpreters to give back the reins to the Deaf community. They’ve had their chance. Give Deaf empowerment for real and let them take charge of training interpreters again. They will pick people they trust, who have ties to the community. They will pick family members and interpreters they know, that sign and think like the Deaf community does. Not ITP students or hearing of hearing who know three Deaf people, or the ones who used the Deaf to learn ASL, then abandoned them. Those haven’t proven their Deaf heart yet. But until RID gives the profession back into Deaf hands, they are shooting in the dark, looking to find Deaf Heart in a people who don’t know it and probably never will.

    • Shelly Hansen says:

      Hi Kimberly~
      Few thoughts:
      1. The Deaf Community has expressed a desire for “professional” interpreters who are skilled, competent, keep info confidential, follow the Code of Ethics (NAD-RID with Deaf input), etc…
      2. The Deaf Community has had negative experiences with untrained, unskilled interpreters
      3. To get interpreters trained, commonly people go to college for a training/educational program
      4. Training up people takes time,staff,mentors, internship opportunities,exposure to variety of signers/Deaf community, money and a facility such as a college or training program
      5. Because of technology specifically VRS, more interpreters are needed who are trained/certified/prepared to do the job

      While it would be great for every interpreter to start with years of ASL exposure, a strong tie to the Deaf community, native experiences etc…it is unrealistic to match the volume of interpreters needed. Somehow the hearing people who want to become professional interpreters need to be trained to be both technically skilled in ASL AND have a Deaf heart, mature relational compassion and approach their work as an ally.

  12. Hrtmut Teuber says:

    No vote has ever been cast based on sure knowledge, fully informed, or after collecting the relevant facts like a scientist. Too often they are made politically, defined as “currently most convenient”, “follow the crowd”, or in “conformity with influential people or power brokers (brown nosers maybe)”. That certainly happens on the issues that are inherently diffuse and no one can provide persuasive indisputable arguments in their support. Just vote along the current climate and move onto other issues, because there is no harm as long as it does not require too much molah, and because there will be peace on the issue. Or do not vote at all.

    The issue of the IDP-MAL is much on that line. The most cogent argument, in my view at this moment, is based on how much we are willing to consider the CODA experience as a VALUE to help guide the direction of the interpreting profession and RID. Value cannot ever become a definable, measurable criterion.

    The same applies to “Deaf Heart”. It is also a value that should guide the communicative and humane interactions between interpreters and Deaf people and shape some policies within RID. It was part of my agenda as a Region I Director on the RID Board. My key-word was “deaf-friendly”, which implied “signing everywhere”, and “visual oriented”.

    As a point of historical information, the metaphor of heart arose in Germany in the early 1980′s as some Deaf association leaders got worried about the growing “professionalism” of sign language interpreters that emphasized excellence in interpreting skills above everything else with an ethical code that did not consider the Deaf Experience. They wanted a “Dolmetscher mit Herz” (= interpreter with heart; note: without the attribute “deaf”) without delineating what it constitutes. I criticized it in a German Deaf publication, not the concept per se, but what it implied generally (akin to “compassionate heart”) and how it could be misunderstood and lessen the social empowerment of the Deaf community.

    The concept of the value of “Deaf Heart” as discussed among interpreters in this country applies only to those working in the field of deafness (it should be elsewhere too). It is largely an issue of interactions between Deaf and hearing professionals and how decisions are made that affect Deaf people. It is both a communication issue and internal political issue of how decisions are made.

    IDPs in RID can provide a resource how the conflicting values and behaviors between hearing and deaf people can be mediated, both in behavior and policy and decision making. By just being a CODA on the Board as an officer, a Regional Director, or a Committee Chair may not suffice to serve this mediating function. I have my experiences. IDP-MAL then has to assume this mediating role, whenever conflicts appear.

    What I now see as “too hearing” is the OVER-reliance on written policies and rules by the current Board. For example, the “procedure” of nominations, deadlines, and actions upon certain eventualities is interpreted by the Board upon the advice of the Bylaws Committee Chair as the policy (the only way) to follow, which is inherently a guideline or time plan to do an election and is against all logic to see it as the rule to obey. No other alternative, which may be more sensible, can be considered! By strict adherence on something written as a guideline, inherently non-regulatory, as the LAW to go by is against the nature of the Deaf culture who goes by Common Sense rather than by a written “legalistic” stuff on non-regulatory matters.

    When both Deaf members on the Board resigned from the Board out of protest, who else can act to pursue the Deaf agenda. Sadly that is what happened that decisions were made unfavorably to the Deaf agenda afterwards. Not only the affair surrounding their resignations, the officers’ election were also affected by refusing to reopen the nominating process to increase the candidacy pool, which would be a better route to go than just casting the ballots for the sole candidates. The option of extending the nomination deadline is not written in RID’s PPM, and therefore, seen by the Board as a non-option. There was enough time to do so one month or more ago. The strict adherence to something written as policy (even though it may only be a guideline-like procedure) is, in my view, a conflict to Common Sense and to what one would consider as best to do at the current moment. That is, what I believe, to be the Deaf norm.

  13. diana says:

    What I say has no fluff, no big words, no challenges to theory or myths, no stats or research….just my thoughts.

    Why do we have to fight for what’s right? My gosh, have we learned nothing from the Deaf community? How long have Deaf people fought this fight? To be recognized, to have standing.

    As an example;

    I recall my parents, serving in various roles on the board of their Deaf organization. At the time, the thought of a “hearing” person having any political role in a deaf organization was not acceptable. As there was belief that it would be the beginning of the demise of the Deaf/Identity of the organization itself. We see that happening now with many schools for the Deaf closing.

    An organization(RID)which came long after codas were interpreting. Coda’s which were there from the absolute beginning. How can you even move forward without this historical seat reserved for the first interpreters. We are the children of the Deaf, their legacy. Yes, we have value, a value that is not taught in school, or in books, or learned at the best ITP. Why is that not important to this organization? Shame on us, and if I do say so myself…some of us have a hell of a lot to offer. Cha? Nope….just the right thing to do. We belong.

  14. Michelle says:

    I am not a CODA or an IDP. I am not eloquent. I am not a high-powered individual with astonishing credentials. I am not philosophical. I am not political. I am not as involved with the Deaf community as I would like to be (but I’m working on it). I don’t have any special insight into what is going on within RID.

    I am an interpreter with 14 years of experience. I am constantly striving to increase my knowledge of the communities I serve and improve my skills. I think I’m doing something right based on the feedback I’ve received from Deaf and hearing people.

    I am concerned about what is happening to the Deaf community, the interpreting community, RID, and our profession as a whole.

    This is my mea culpa.

    I admit that I did not cast vote for the IDP-MAL. I wish I had. When I saw the information, I thought, “This is a no-brainer. Of course, it will pass. My one vote won’t be missed.” I was so wrong. I also misunderstood that it would require a 2/3 majority.

    I have had the privilege of working with CODAs, IDPs, and Deaf interpreters. At first, I was scared to death that my skills weren’t adequate. After I realized that they have struggles just like me, I got over it. They are my colleagues. We need to support each other, learn from each other, and most importantly, VALUE each other.

    As I have been trying to understand the issues behind the resignations from the RID Board, the concept of Deaf-heart, the IDP-MAL board position election, etc., it truly breaks my heart. I am so thankful that this forum on Street Leverage has provided such great information to help me see different perspectives. Thus far, I have seen no convincing arguments against the IDP board position. I don’t think that having an IDP-MAL board position will cause all other groups to demand board positions as well. I truly believe the council and task force representation can work.

    As an organization, we need leadership who can understand BOTH communities we serve. Let’s not get into the argument of “what is Deaf enough”. It’s pointless and hurtful. We need to trust that the people who want to hold positions of leadership will know if they are qualified.

    I agree with Hrtmut Teuber’s comment about an over-reliance on and lack of flexibility in policies and procedures. Yes, having written policies is important as a GUIDELINE, but it should not be the only way things can be done.

    C’mon people, let’s fix this. We can’t succeed if only Deaf people or only CODAs or only hearing interpreters, or only ________ (fill in the blank) leads the organization. We need everyone! We’re all in this together!

    • Lauren P says:

      “Thus far, I have seen no convincing arguments against the IDP board position. I don’t think that having an IDP-MAL board position will cause all other groups to demand board positions as well. I truly believe the council and task force representation can work.

      As an organization, we need leadership who can understand BOTH communities we serve. Let’s not get into the argument of “what is Deaf enough”. It’s pointless and hurtful. We need to trust that the people who want to hold positions of leadership will know if they are qualified.”

      From this portion of your reply, you are saying that people will have common sense ([they] “will know if they are qualified”). But the very core of this debate is that people feel RID (the Board, the organization) is not operating with common sense. We’ve all heard some form of the joke that common sense is so uncommon it should be a superpower.

      Joe’s point about arguing over being Deaf enough was that he didn’t want it to come to that. I agree with him, if the qualifications for this position are not clearly defined then we will get to a point of arguing whether a person is Deaf- or Coda- enough. That will further divide the field.

      I’m also not convinced that other groups won’t want a seat reserved for their views. Just as Codas bring value to the group, so do interpreters of color, interpreters who identify as LGBTQQI, tri-lingual interpreters, etc. What’s to stop the Board from growing to an unruly size? Where do we draw the line and how do we handle the conversation that will be heard as ‘no, you aren’t special enough for your own seat’?

      This is not to say that the organization would not be well served by the IDP-MAL, just a reminder that every choice has consequences. From Covey “We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the consequences that come with them.”

  15. Leigh-Anne Elizondo says:

    Thank you for this article. I am ashamed to say that I read it thinking: yeah… uh huh… I know… until the paragraph: IDP’s are our consumers. Of course! I should know that. It shouldn’t be an aha for me, but it has given me a another perspective on the recent and on-going discussion.

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