Will Sign Language Interpreters Recognize Their Own Reflection?

Brandon Arthur, Ben Hall, Jan Humphrey, Carl Kirchner, and Angela Jones - 2013 RID Conference

Brandon Arthur, Ben Hall, Jan Humphrey, Carl Kirchner, and Angela Jones

As I rub the blur of the 2013 RID conference from my eyes, I am left feeling a sense of appreciation for the conference program that took attendees through a highlight reel of contributions that have shaped both RID and the field as we know it. This stroll through history reminded me, perhaps other conference goers as well, that many meaningful contributions to the field of sign language interpreting have been made by those with a keen awareness of their own inexperience.

As the glimpses of our collective history shared at the conference exemplified, it takes individual and organizational courage to look into the unknown, lean forward and do what’s right for the future of the field—regardless of experience.

Extending a Reflection

It is with this backdrop that I tip my hat to Tina Maggio and Shane Feldman, and the RID Board for leaning forward into in the unknown to embrace the proposal to have a social media sponsor for the 2013 RID conference.

What is exhilarating about social media is why it is threatening—we humans are at the center of it. At StreetLeverage, we believe that social networking is a near immediate reflection of how we humans see and engage the world as we find it.

In the framework of the coverage of the 2013 RID conference, StreetLeverage endeavored to extend a reflection of the conference to sign language interpreters via the social web. It was our aim to encourage engagement and most importantly to add to the depth of the individual and collective reflections of sign language interpreters on important topics and industry developments.

Were we successful? You’ll have to be the judge.

Coverage Highlights

If you missed some or all of the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference, never fear. What comes next is our very own highlight reel.


We put our cameras to work capturing conversation with key players and conference goers and asked them to share their experience and views on the future of the field, the challenges we face, and how we might define success moving forward.  You can find a smattering of those conversations below.

Brenda Walker-Prudhom (13 min.)

We sat down with outgoing President of RID, Brenda Walker-Prudhom, to get her feelings about her term as President.

Dawn Whitcher (9 min.)

We met with the incoming President of RID, Dawn Whitcher, to get her view on the future of the organization.

David Geeslin (13 min.)

We met with the Superintendent of the Indiana Deaf School, David Geeslin, to talk about how Deaf Schools can fortify the skills of sign language interpreters.

Attendee Reel (10 min.)

We asked conference attendees about their experience and what they enjoyed most about the conference.

Flavia Fleischer (16 min.)

We met with 2013 RID conference keynote speaker, Flavia Fleischer, to gain insight into her keynote speech and the importance of Deaf Community Cultural Wealth.

Shane Feldman (16 min.)

We sat down with RID Executive Director, Shane Feldman, to get his impressions of his first RID conference and how the experience will guide his work.

You can find additional interviews and video coverage of the conference by clicking here.

Live Updates

We covered the largest amount of the 2013 RID conference via live updates on Facebook and Twitter. You can find the coverage by visiting the StreetLeverage Facebook page and reviewing our Timeline for the sessions you are interested in. Or, you can find the coverage on Twitter by searching #RID2013 or @streetleverage.

* If you are interested in the live streaming so graciously offered by RID, you can find it by clicking here. (Note, you will have to search through a number of events to find RID sessions).

Photo Album2013 RID Conference Closing Ceremonies

We hope you enjoy a collection of pictures from the 2013 RID conference. We had a lot of fun and appreciate everyone at the event being a good sport about our capturing the celebration. You can find them here. 

Educational Sessions

We attended several of the educational sessions during the conference. We hope you’ll find these interesting and informative.

Workshop | Conflicts Between Interpreters and Clients: When You’ve Tried Everything

Pamela Whitney, Matthew O’Hara and David Bowell noted that most ethical complaints stem from some sort of perceived violation of the Code of Professional Conduct via information shared on social media websites like Facebook.

Workshop | Thinking Through Ethics: Development of Ethical Decision-making Among Interpreters

Liz Mendoza uses the results of her online survey as a backdrop to explore if expert and novice sign language interpreters differ in prioritized competing meta-ethical principles when making ethical decisions.

Workshop | Educational Interpreters: The Missing Piece of the IEP

Richard Brumberg and Donna Flanders empower sign language interpreters in educational settings by providing the tools to become an effective member of the IEP team.

You can find additional session coverage here.

Team StreetLeverage

Team StreetLeverage at the 2013 RID Conference

Team StreetLeverage - 2013 RID Conference

I wish this would get easier, but it just doesn’t. I struggle to effectively articulate my gratitude for the work of the team of dedicated friends of the industry that made the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference possible. May karma smile upon each of them. In order expedite, I am sending karma wishes into the universe on their behalf.

Hayley Baccaire

May your contribution bring your family the swim test results it deserves and not less than 2 rooms of air conditioning.

Wing Butler

May your efforts deliver you endless evenings of milk and cookies and the knowledge that giants do come in all shapes and sizes.

Lindsey Kasowski

May your work at the conference bring you a tall and handsome that embraces both your 140-character addiction and your relationship with Starbucks.

Diane Lynch

May your contribution bring your mother a speedy recovery and you a fresh supply of rice cakes and natural peanut butter to share.

Jennifer Maloney

May your efforts bring you a readily available supply of gum and a life that never finds you squinting at an ice cream parlor menu.

Lance Pickett

May your work bring you a home studio that levitates with excitement each time you enter.

Paul Tracy

May your contribution bring you a cameo with Harvey Spector and 5 pink shirts with kicks to complement. Oh, and an office with electricity!

Amy Williamson

May your efforts bring you the academic success you deserve and the quiet satisfaction that your plight to change the world for two little boys is well on its way.

Group, thanks for your willingness to put in the grueling hours necessary to ensure the coverage extended was worthy of the industry receiving it. I am proud to know you and call you my friends. 


As you can imagine, the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference would not be possible except for the generous support of our partners. I would like to thank each of them for their contribution and support of StreetLeverage and our aim to amplify the perspective of sign language interpreters.

Stand with me and raise a glass in honor of the companies that put their resources where there mouth is?

Gallaudet Interpreting Service (GIS) | Washington, DC

Champion Level Sponsor

The Sign Language Company | Los Angeles, CA

Champion Level Sponsor

Professional Sign Language Interpreting (PSLI) | Denver, CO

Activist Level Sponsor

Purple Communications | Rocklin, CA

Activist Level Sponsor

Sorenson Communications | Salt Lake City, UT

Advocate Level Sponsor

TCS & Associates | Rockville, MD

Advocate Level Sponsor

Partners Interpreting | Boston, MA

Advocate Level Sponsor

Access Interpreting | Washington, DC

Founding Sponsor of StreetLeverage – Live and Supporter Level Sponsor

Sign Language Interpreting Professionals (SLIP) | Pittsburgh, PA

Supporter Level Sponsor

Deaf Access Solutions (DAS) | Bethesda, MD

Supporter Level Sponsor

Visual Communication Interpreting (VCI) | Knoxville, TN

Supporter Level Sponsor

 In the End

At the end of the day, I am hopeful that the StreetLeverage coverage of the 2013 RID conference added value to those attending and was found to be informative and insightful for those sign language interpreters and industry stakeholders attending from afar.

I also hope, at some point, that the coverage of the conference can be used as an example of what is possible when new ideas are embraced, courage is taken, and generosity abounds.

The industry reflection we are creating today is what will be used to measure our progress 50 years from now. Lets create one we are proud to recognize.

What was your favorite part of the conference (live or virtual)?


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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.

9 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Michele Bach-Hansen says:

    I’ve never posted a reply on any blog, but feel I must to this. Thank you so much for providing access to the conferences for those who couldn’t attend. I tried to watch many of the live feeds, but when I couldn’t, and even when I could, the coverage on Facebook helped me keep up. While I’d still rather attend a conference in person, this was a nice way to stay in touch. Be proud of a job well done. With much appreciation for what you’ve brought to the field of sign language interpreting–Michele

  2. Jana Bielfeldt says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the videos interviews and articles you have sent. Keep it up!

  3. Meg Klein says:

    YES! You were very successful in extending reflection and engagement of those out in the field…so much so that we’d like a remote vote for future conferences! Surely RID we figure out a way to fully engage those who cannot for whatever reason attend in person the right to vote now that we can more fully and thoughtfully engage remotely! If only we have the will to equalize the power dynamic!

  4. Karen Bontempo says:

    Thank you Brandon and team, all the way from Australia!

  5. Shalene Germani says:

    Thank you for your coverage of the 2013 RID Conference! Would it be possible to post the results of the Business Meeting motions?

  6. Yes, thanks. I think this kind of coverage is so important for a few reasons which haven’t been mentioned:

    1) We don’t publish or preserve conference proceedings, and this helps us create a professional archive.

    2) Interpreters don’t typically have a chance to be visible online as professionals, and not just as working interpreters.

    3) This isn’t just for people who don’t attend – it’s for people who do attend to think of themselves as RID members beyond the conference.

    A cautionary note: As we include more videos of interpreters signing on the spot, I just hope that everyone is respectful about the signing skills of hard-working interpreters. I’m a strong advocate of ASL fluency. But I just hope that interpreters don’t go all Sue Sylvester on someone who signs something that looks more English. We’ve seen that happen before and it can be so ugly.

    • Anonymous says:

      Question: it has been the nature of sign language interpreters (and anyone presenting/standing before an audience) to be “analyzed”, why not give the presenters the option to receive feedback on their sign choices, style, or other possible queries?

      • I think that’s a great idea. So long as that feedback and analysis isn’t volun-forced (VOLUNTEERED+FORCED) on people. In fact, for all the of the talking/signing about signing at RID conferences, we have an opportunity to offer more workshops that train people (a) how to have a professional, intellectual conversation in ASL (let’s be honest, having one in English isn’t the norm as it is), and (b) how to give a professional workshop in ASL (or in any language!). Some of us pick up these skills because we have to. But there’s a big difference between interpreting for Johnny-mainstreamed student 36 hours a week and giving a professional presentation in front of senior colleagues in your second language. These is in part because of the dearth of upper-level ASL skill-building in most ITPs and in the world of interpreting workshops.

        I present in academic settings frequently in English and fairly often in ASL. I love feedback and I learn a lot. When I present with Deaf colleagues, we talk a lot about sign choices. But if I’ve just given a presentation on, say, immigration detention centers in the South or on 19th century theories of human culture, I may not be too interested in someone saying uninvited, “You should have signed culture with the “5″ hand-shape, not a “C” hand-shape. My response is going to be, “did you even pay attention to what I was trying to say?” Good presentations take a lot of work to develop, and we risk getting nitpicky if we perseverate too much on specific sign choices or style, and ignore the main contributions of presentations.

        I don’t know. Help me out here. What do you think?

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