A Deaf Perspective: Cultural Respect in Sign Language Interpreting

August 7, 2012
Healthy dialogue between the Deaf and interpreting communities promotes bicultural literacy and mutual understanding. Trudy Suggs examines an incident in which interpreters took advantage of their hearing privilege to disrespect Deaf workshop presenters.
 
A chip on her shoulder.
An angry Deaf person.
I will definitely NOT be attending her workshops in the future.
The workshop seemed to be a venting session for the Deaf people. 

These were just some of the evaluation responses to a workshop I presented at a state-level sign language interpreting conference recently. I had been asked to do three workshops at this conference, and the first workshop went fabulously.

[View post in ASL]

The second workshop was after lunch, a notoriously difficult time slot because participants are often tired from the morning and lunch. Even so, I expected this workshop—which I had presented many times before—would be fun and invigorating. I was especially pumped by the participants’ awesome energy that morning, and was excited to see that many who attended the morning workshop had joined this afternoon session. The Deaf participants were renowned advocates and leaders. However, as the session got underway, I became a bit perplexed by the mood before me. Perhaps it was the lighting, the room set-up, or fatigue, but the room seemed tense, almost foreboding. Still, I figured the energy level would quickly rise.

I noticed, almost immediately, a specific group of interpreters who whispered to each other without signing. Participants in the first workshop had been extremely respectful about signing at all times. The conference organizers had also clearly stated that one language was to be used. I naturally assumed that for workshops led by Deaf presenters, all present would sign.

I won’t go into how many articles and discussions there have been about how interpreters and students are notorious for not signing at interpreting conferences (although I’ll cite an article I wrote six years ago about this), but it may be helpful to understand my background. I’ve worked with interpreters since I was a toddler, and was mainstreamed for most of my education. I also constantly work with interpreters in my career, and travel the nation providing interpreting workshops because I think it’s so important for Deaf people to share their knowledge and experience. I emphasize in every workshop that interpreters are among the most crucial allies Deaf people can have. Furthermore, as a mother to four children who are Deaf, I have a very personal reason for wanting nothing but the very best in the interpreting profession.

I was disturbed, as were several participants, by this group’s behavior, so I quickly reiterated the importance of signing at all times. After the fourth time I mentioned this, I became visibly irritated, because it was difficult to understand how such rudeness would be exhibited. I explained that as a Deaf person, they were taking away my opportunity—without my having any say—to catch side conversations that often hold such a wealth of information.

Let me share an example. At another workshop, during a break, I noticed two participants talking about their pregnancies. I happily jumped into the conversation; as someone who was pregnant for four years in a row, I always love sharing pregnancy experiences. Sure enough, one of the participants sat with me during lunch and we exchanged wonderful child-raising tidbits. This interaction is what is so important to the development of alliances between hearing and deaf people. It helps us build connections and recognize shared experiences as human beings.

As is true for any workshop I present, I always ensure that the Deaf participants are given an opportunity to provide input. While the Deaf experience may be common across many levels, it isn’t identical for every Deaf individual. At this workshop, there were four Deaf individuals in attendance. About an hour into the workshop, I made a comment in passing about how I wished all video interpreters knew the names of deaf school towns—that is, towns with deaf schools (i.e., Fremont, St. Augustine, even Faribault)—or at least be familiar with the names. I said this lightly, with a smile, and the Deaf participants nodded vigorously in agreement. This type of knowledge is an important element of Deaf culture for many people. Not recognizing its importance, or dismissing it when someone shares this information, speaks volumes to cultural (il)literacy.

A participant from that group suddenly said with an incredulous look, “I don’t understand why you’re so upset that video interpreters don’t know city names! That’s really ridiculous. It’s such a small thing.” I was momentarily caught off-guard by her flippant response. I quickly clarified that I wasn’t upset, saying, “Quite the contrary. It’s just one of those things that Deaf people have to live with. It does become cumbersome if you have to make several calls a day and each video interpreter you encounter doesn’t know a city sign or town where a deaf school is.”

The participant started to dissect my comments, shaking her head in disbelief. A Deaf participant stood up saying, “Trudy isn’t upset. She simply—and she’s right—means that it does get frustrating when interpreters don’t know the sign for large cities or deaf school towns. Deaf school towns are to us what major cities are to the general population.” This interpreter shook her head as if we were silly. In retrospect, I should have ignored her. I didn’t, because I was, truthfully, astonished at her disregard for our experiences.

Realizing that perhaps her reaction came from culpability or taking my comments personally, I asked why she was upset. She said, derisively, “I’m not upset. I’m simply disagreeing. Disagreement is healthy, right?” I decided that I’d had enough and moved on, but I was shaken. Discouraged and belittled, I tried to keep the workshop going despite dagger-eyes from that interpreter who “healthily” disagreed with me.

After the workshop, at least six interpreters came up to me and apologized for that group; several thanked me for being so straightforward and expressed their appreciation for all the Deaf participants’ contributions. One interpreter said he was angry because he felt she wouldn’t have done this had I been a hearing presenter.

I talked with one of the volunteers at my workshop, a Certified Interpreter and the mother to a Deaf adult. I shared my puzzlement at why I felt blindsided. She said, “There’s a difference between challenging an expert and disagreeing respectfully.” She nailed it; after all, would the participant have so publicly disagreed with me had she respected me as an expert in my subject matter? What if I had been a hearing presenter talking about deaf people’s frustrations? Maybe she still would have, but I doubt it.

I received overwhelmingly positive evaluations for the first and third workshops. For the second workshop, I was pleased with the supportive responses, but also surprised by the depth of the few negative comments. I wondered why I was called an “angry deaf person.” Why not simply an angry person? Why were the Deaf people’s shared experiences considered venting? Why was it a “Deaf” issue?

I later saw the very same Deaf participants at the National Association of the Deaf conference, and they were equally taken aback by the negative feedback. As we discussed the contempt we felt from certain participants at this workshop, it suddenly made sense: hearing privilege. As we all know, some enter the interpreting profession with misguided intentions. Fortunately, we have so many solid interpreting standards and programs in place that help steer those individuals in a more positive direction. Even so, had all the Deaf participants sharing their experiences been hearing, would they have been criticized for their so-called venting? Would I have been labeled angry if I were hearing? Perhaps.

I wish that interpreter who challenged me had come up to me after the workshop and started, yes, a healthy dialogue, so that we could have come to appreciate each other. I wish she had respected my perspectives. I likely would have learned from her perspective as someone who did not grow up in the culture or community. I also find it quite ironic that she and a couple of others chose to vent via the evaluations, stating that the workshop was a “venting session for the Deaf people,” instead of building alliances.

Workshops led by Deaf people are golden opportunities to listen to their experiences—while reserving judgment—and understand that interpreting, for them, is not just a career or interest. It affects their lives, their experiences, and their realities—and for many, the legacy they pass onto their children. Ensuring the sincere desire to be an ally and exhibiting a genuine respect for experiences is a reward beyond measure.

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox? SignUp!

Conversation

Leave a Reply

79 Comments on "A Deaf Perspective: Cultural Respect in Sign Language Interpreting"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
trackback

[…] Originally appeared as A Deaf Perspective: Cultural Respect in Sign Language Interpreting at Street Leverage. […]

Member
Donna Reiter Brandwein

Dear Ms. Suggs:
I agree wholeheartedly that the signs for major cities and especially cities where Deaf schools are located is crucial. Sally Koziar, who ran the Interpreting program at Harper College always required her Intro to Interpreting students to learn these! Her cultural sensitivity as a CODA helped all her students become better Deaf allies!

Member
Nicole Barrett

I agree. I am an interpreting student at Harper College and one of my teachers shared a 42 page article, “Schools for the Deaf” I printed it and am committing it to memory. This is important cultural information to know and I believe it needs to be taught and learned. We are not just translating language we are sharing a language and a culture and this is an essential part of it.

tsuggs
Member

Way back when I was a graduate student, I had the privilege of teaching ASL at Harper with Sally as my supervisor. I loved her high expectations, her standards and her real-world experience. The students in my class were among the most open-minded, enthusiastic, genuine people. That was a fun experience.

Member
Terri Hayes
hmmm – having a good grasp of where the Deaf Schools are (and were) is a nice idea – but a little bit unreasonable considering how many are closing, and how many significant schools have already closed. I am one of the few hearing people who still hold Berkeley school out and above Fremont -as I believe those Deaf who attended Berkeley do, but I’m not sure that knowledge is crucial to being a good interpreter in these days and times. I also suspect that expecting interpreter to know all of the name signs for all of the cities is… Read more »
tsuggs
Member
Hi, Terri! A quick response as I have three little ones flying around pretending they’re superheroes (the fourth is a new crawler–thankfully). I should be clearer. I didn’t mean for everyone to know the SIGNS–but rather, the NAMES of the deaf school towns. I don’t know the signs for every deaf school town, either, but I can tell you where every deaf school (still in existence or not) is. It’s not hard…just get a list of deaf schools, look at where they are, and commit that to general memory. So if someone mentions the town, you immediately know its significance.… Read more »
Member
Terri Hayes

I agree 100%! Thanks for the clarification!

Member
Becky Stuckless

I realize that there are or have been many Deaf schools, but why shouldn’t we take the time to memorize the names of them? No one expects 100% accuracy, but if you’ve committed them to memory and over time forgotten them, they will come back to you when you see them. In education, we expect students to memorize the 50 states, and their capitols even though most people never actually touch all 50 states.
In my opinion, this is something that should be taught in Deaf Culture classes or a Deaf History class.

Member
Terri, I also am a VRS interpreter who is challenged by interpreting discussions about locations I’ve never heard of, much less been to. However, since being a life long learner, I have no problem to continue to expand my lexicon of geographic signs. But more than that, when it is something culturally relevant to the Deaf-World like residential school signs, it is no longer just geography. It’s one of those filters that distinguishes people with cultural literacy. I respectfully submit that if we talk about being bi-bi interpreters, that includes understanding aspects of Deaf Culture that are significant. Regardless if… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

Paula, wonderful insight, especially the part about how your education was regional. Glad you shared that.

Member
Kitty LaFountain
I’ve never had the honor of attending one of your workshops but have only heard wonderful, fabulous, adoring comments about(you) your workshops. Needless to say I am blind-sided also to hear about your experience and the “angry Deaf” comments. As a SODA,GAODC,AODN, and a wannabe Deaf person (until I truly understood the hardships of being Deaf),I’ve heard the comments of “angry Deaf person” many times. It is actually how most of my Deaf family have been described by hearing people. I often tried to explain to those unfamiliar with Deaf that it is passion, not anger. At least that is… Read more »
Member
Kitty, I respectfully disagree with your suggestion that these interpreters are somehow mad at themselves. Hearing privilege (English privelege?) affects the Deaf community the same way White privilege affects the Black community. Whether overt, subtle, or just suggested, it conveys a power over a group that is so oppressive that it is something that we all should be conscious of and guarded against. The vast majority of people that generate income from Deaf people, solely because of their deafness, are hearing people. This is a fact that we should all be aware of, and in many ways, ashamed of. It… Read more »
Member

Amen Sistah!

Member
Kitty LaFountain
@John, HELLO! I respectfully accept your disagreeing with my statement, as, thank God you have that right in our dear ole USA! But to your statement(concerning earning an income from Deaf):”This is a fact that we should all be aware of, and in many ways, ashamed of.” Oh my, WHY? Being an interpreter dating back to the ’60s (I am saving ALL the Deaf, stand aside! Equal education, moving FORWARD!, Advocacy or Interpreter, which hat should I wear? and on and on)has been an adventure. I have personally sacrificed an income in order to advocate (ain’t no money there), been… Read more »
Member
Kitty LaFountain

@ John,HELLO AGAIN!

“If for some reason we need to “whisper” to someone next to us, I’m sure we can find a less power-wielding, exclusive, narcissistic, and less audist way than speaking English in the presence of a Deaf person”

P.S. What is your suggestion to your above statement?

Member
Nancy Chastain

For hearing people there is NO need to whisper to the person next to us. It is equally rude to hearing and Deaf alike. If there is an emergency, there may be a need to shout and run, but not to whisper.

Member
Kitty LaFountain
@Nancy, HELLO! Your comments brought back a sad memory for me, “…emergency, there may be a need to SHOUT and RUN…” My former (profoundly Deaf) brother-in-law lost his toe from a motor engine breaking from the chains above his head and landing, thank God, on his foot. I say “Thank God” as the entire engine could have landed on his head instead of his foot. Had he not been constantly observing his surroundings (as he could not hear the chains breaking, or the SHOUTING of the other guys working on the engine)he would be dead. BUT he did see them… Read more »
Member
Mistie Owens

Very, very poignant article! Good points discussed therein. Thank you for sharing this experience, Trudy!

Member
We should not be ashamed that we make a living interpreting. My son and my ASL are the 2 things I’m most proud of in my life. We should be ashamed that the majority of jobs in the “sign language industry” are occupied by hearing people, resulting in the power staying in hearings hands. Sidebar: I used to have a wonderfully warm jacket that was originally a Sears repairman’s jacket. Wore it into the ER and the Deaf patient asked me if Sears was my “real” job. Note writing and texting are usually available. I’ve been to some workshops that… Read more »
Member
Kitty LaFountain
Hello John, Wow! such an awesome remark about your son being a priority, a source of pride! It took me years before I was able to vocalize my pride and love for my son and daughter. Such a shame to have put work as a priority over my children. So I am so glad to read of your pride in your son. I love your story of the Sears jacket, as I was constantly asked by my Deaf students, “you grow-up-what do work?” Ummm, let me think, ah- ha, be an interpreter for the Deaf in the school system???huh? And… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

John, I’m curious about whatever happened to that Sears jacket, and how you came to get it in the first place. 🙂

Member
Becky Stuckless
While “shame” would not be the word I choose, I think the point is that as professional interpreters, we should not lose sight of the fact that we work out of neccessity for access to information. Deaf people would not choose to bring us along if they had Dr.’s, Teachers, Professsors, Lawyers who were fluent in ASL and presented their information in ASL. I feel like there is a sense of “debt” owed to the community. This debt is paid by contiuned involvement, ongoing respect and ongoing learning. I once spoke to a board member of an interpreting association that… Read more »
Member
Peggy Huber
Thank you so much for sharing that very uncomfortable experience with us and opening this important issue. It does seem the participant in your workshop had a very strong response. It’s clear something in the presentation struck a nerve with the participant and her friends. It may not have been the suggestion to learn the names of cities with deaf schools – it could have been some other statement, or a string of statements that brought her to the tipping point while she was in your workshop. Unfortunately, we cannot ask her directly to see what it is that took… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

You have an excellent point about it maybe not necessarily being the deaf school town name issue. It’s too bad I didn’t get to talk with this particular interpreter and the others at her table. Would have answered a lot of questions. But then if we had, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write this article.

Member
Julie Alsaker

Thank you for sharing your experience at the workshop and perspective as a whole. Being an idealist, I sincerely hope the attendee was just having a very bad day, and would not behave in such an unprofessional, rude way on a regular basis. Yikes!

tsuggs
Member
I appreciate the positive feedback (believe you me, it is greatly welcomed). This happened in May, and I am still processing it even today. I’ll try to respond to a few key points people have mentioned here. First, I agree that there is never an acceptable reason to whisper without signing when in Deaf people’s presence. As someone said, if it is necessary, leave the room. It’s possible to whisper in sign language, of course. Besides, why would anyone skip the opportunity to sign at all times? It’s great practice. (And yes, I wrote about this once…it’s on my personal… Read more »
Member
Kitty LaFountain
Thanks Trudy! As I get older I am finding that the word “energy” doesn’t seem to apply to me, so THANKS! I do have a suggestion, as your comment was that: ” But I talked with the participants; they said I was clearly not too serious as I made the town name signs comment,… ” When you say “participants” are you referring to the rude folks? Or is it even a possibility to discuss this matter with them? or did they RUN for their lives when the workshop was over? I strongly suggest you get more feedback from these rude… Read more »
Member
Tiffany Tuccoli

Dear Ms. Suggs,

I wrote an entire thesis on the concept of Hearing Privilege. If you would like to read it, please let m know. Thank you for sharing your experience. I believe hearing people need to be aware of their privileges in order to become allies with the Deaf community.

Member
Mike Cahill
Ms Suggs – I’ve heard great things about your workshops, and I haven’t been in interpreting for ten years. If you’ve been doing this for 15 years and this kind of episode is so unique that it’s bothered you for months, it can only be another testament to how good your work is. In every group of would-be interpreters I’ve been in, there’s always been a subgroup who sit in the back, cling to each other doing the same rude nonsense you had to put up with, don’t associate with Deaf, generally can’t sign worth a fig, and drop out… Read more »
Member
Mike Cahill

And sorry for projecting… When something sticks with me like that, I’m chewing on what I could have done differently. You probably know better. =)

tsuggs
Member

Mike, projecting is just dandy. I am still chewing on what I could have done differently–so I need to really “accept” that I shouldn’t have done anything differently. I just wish I hadn’t gotten visibly irritated…if only I were a cool, calm, collected personality. I can see my family snorting in laughter at that.

Member
Maria Holloway
Trudy, I find it incredibly disappointing to know that people I might (initially) consider colleagues could behave so callously. It makes me angry to know they would so openly and as you said, flippantly, dismiss your (and the Deaf participants’) comments about Deaf school city names. In my assessment, this interpreter (or group of interpreters) was behaving in an incredibly disrespectful manner. I agree with you 100% that their behavior displays cultural illiteracy, and if you ask me, they did not deserve to even attend your workshop. Early in this piece, you mention feeling perplexed by the mood in the… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

Maria, I agree with your read on the room’s mood. That was my initial assessment, and is what I think today as well. Still, I can’t answer for the participants.

Thank you, Maria–hope to see you again in person sometimes soon!

Member
I am hearing & a signer, (not an interpreter). The very basic ASL classes that I took always emphasized that when in the presence of a Deaf person, always sign. It’s rude not to. The same applies if several hearing people who speak English are together, and two decide to talk in Spanish, Chinese, or other language unknown to everyone, and not share with the others….is just plain RUDE! (Sometimes I forget this rule myself, so this is a good reminder to me when I’m in a mixed Deaf/hearing group.) As for your misfortune of having those few students challenge… Read more »
Member

Great to see a Deaf person’s perspective here, and even more so to watch this article in ASL. I appreciate the time and care you took to analyze this experience from various points of view including how you felt about it and why you felt that way. Please keep sharing your consumer perspective and educating us interpreters! You and your children, whose future you care about, remind me of why it’s so important that we do the best job we can to provide the best communication access possible.

Member

I am hearing, who signs, not interpreter, and have many deaf friends. Yes the whisperer’s were being RUDE! There are rude people every where, in every culture. At work there are a people who whisper in my presence That is rude but I don’t take is personally. I chalk it up to “they are rude”.
When I go to a “silent supper” (A place for students to learn, to immerse in ASL) is it not rude for the deaf to ignore me and take this time to catch up with each other? Just saying.

tsuggs
Member

Teresa, interesting point you make here. I’ve never been to a silent supper–but I would agree that the point of such gatherings are to give students of the language opportunities to interact with Deaf people. That’s another article, though–and an interesting topic at that.

I’m reminded of a quote by John Locke: “There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse.” That somewhat applies in this situation…although I’m always open to interruptions as long as they’re genuinely “healthy.”

Member
Terri Hayes
hmmm – I’m sitting here thinking about this idea of “whispering” as rude. I’m not sure it is. At least from my perspective… (and I’m not at all saying its appropriate to whispter without signing when in the company of Deaf)… but I am a very social person- and also very talkative (and I also function pretty “deaf”.. in that my language goes in better when its in some form of exchange… like many Deaf – its harder for me to just sit and passivily listen.. so I tend to talk my way through stuff). So when I go to… Read more »
goliva
Member

Hey Trudy!
It was great to see your name here on Street Leverage and I am so glad you told this story. It made me very angry, especially that this individual would argue with you, the presenter – on a point where you are clearly the expert. Absolutely unacceptable.
Please don’t give up your workshops. We need you to continue.
All the best!!
Gina

Member
Laurie Barry
Trudy, To begin with, thank you for posting this. I plan to share it with my entire class. Secondly, had my hearing teacher of Sign, a Coda with a ton of deaf family, heard those interpreters…he would have thrown them out or put them on the spot enough that they would have left on their own, let alone notifying the agency they were affiliated with. This is not acceptable behavior in the Interpreting World. It has been drilled into our heads that every part of Deaf Culture should be important and respected by us. Last month I went to lunch… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

Thanks, Laurie! I’m with you–I love learning people’s life stories, regardless of the labels we slap on each other.

Member
Shannon Groat

Wow!!! You truly are a AMAZING woman! I think you did a fantastic job with this article, I wish I was in your workshop!!! People are so quick to label us as a “deaf person,” not just a “person.” We are all the same. We are not like aliens, we look just like hearing people, we just don’t have hearing! Keep up the FANTASTIC work, I am proud just knowing that you are standing up for all deaf people! So I THANK YOU!!!!

Member
Trudy, Thank you for sharing your experience. As a fellow presenter, I feel the pain of doing what you love to do in an energy that is less than fully supportive. As you well know this is not easy work; the relationship between Deaf and hearing communities complex, the interactions between and even within communities not always pleasant, and the manner in which we treat one another sometimes much less than we are capable of. As I read through your post and the subsequent comments what I see is a need for each of us in the profession to take… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

Amy–this is perfectly said: “I hope that your experience enables greater awareness and the beginning/deepening of the healing process for all who are touched by it.” Thank you.

Member

By now, the hearing people who were in Trudy’s workshop have seen this. I’d love to hear the ‘other side of the story.” Come on out now people! Don’t be afraid. Tell your viewpoint! Or at least, write an article for “Street Leverage!”

tsuggs
Member
Larry–thanks for your post. I’m afraid that some of the people who don’t know you (and I do, fortunately–you’re a great friend) won’t understand the intent of your posting. I also want to point out that the majority of the workshop participants were hearing and very respectful. I do not want this to become a hearing vs. deaf issue. This is a cultural respect issue–and as we can see, these disruptive participants do not represent the majority of interpreters–at least, those who have reached out to me either via e-mail or this website–and I don’t want your post to come… Read more »
Member

HI Trudy,
My post was not to shake things up, or goad. As many presentations as I’ve done, like you, from where we stand at the front of the group, and what happens in the back of the room is always different.
Since we have to switch between cultures in our field of interpreting, I remain curious about the hecklers in your presentation, simply for the viewpoint that they present.
Yes, it does not reflect on the majority of attendees, but still, one we have to deal with on a daily basis.

My apologies if that’s how my message came off otherwise.

tsuggs
Member

Ha–don’t think I’d call them “hecklers,” but that’s an interesting choice of words. Food for thought. No worries–just wanted to make sure the intent of your message was clear. Thanks for all that you do for the CDI community!

Member
One thing you wrote about has clearly pointed out my disappointment often times in any interpreting conferences or workshops– that is not signing in public, during banquet, luncheons, etc….. I would have loved to have the opportunity to scan around and decide on MY OWN which conversation to join in rather than those non-signers individuals DECIDE FOR ME. Those not signing at the table during a banquet/luncheon, AUTOMATICALLY DECIDE FOR ME where I can sit. Naturally, I will keep scanning until I find a signing table (sad to say, if I am lucky!!!) One can argue that at the conference… Read more »
tsuggs
Member
Hi, June! Don’t know if you remember the forum we were at in the 2006 article I cited above…I remember being relieved that I wasn’t the only one who felt completely shut out. But you are *absolutely* right–I do the same in “scanning until I find a signing table…” What I have been fascinated, but not surprised, by is how every Deaf person I talk to says, “Nothing new!” about my experiences. I totally understand that it is natural for hearing people to automatically speak without signing, but it is simply–as you said–“ridiculous” to have to ask people to sign.… Read more »
Member
Trudy, I just want to say that you handled this situation with class and respect, so do not let it shake you!! I do agree with you that this is not a Deaf vs. Hearing issue … It is rather an issue of respect ,ethics, and personality! These individuals displayed a complete lack of respect to, not only you and the other Deaf attendees, but all the attendees who undoubtedly understood your point! At the point others stepped up to help her understand, she obviously put up a wall to refuse any idea that did not agree with her (almost… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

You know what–it’s interesting, because I thought this particular participant was a really fluent signer (not native-level, but fluent) and would have allowed her to interpret for me…of course, that was before the conflict. And that goes back to the basics of what makes a good interpreter. We all talk about it throughout our interpreting careers, but attitude and open-mindness really are key elements. And this incident really drives that home.

Thanks, Marcy. Appreciate the support.

Member
Hi Trudy~ Thanks for posting! Two thoughts: 1. I would hope that the other interpreters would advocate during the workshop for respectful interactions and express gratitude for the opportunity to learn from each other. Sometimes we are so shocked or surprised that we don’t respond at the moment, but think about it later. This is a good reminder to be aware and ready to address rudeness during conferences. 2. It is shocking that an interpreter, who should have had extensive exposure to the pervasive oppression and pain experienced by Deaf/Hard of Hearing/DeafBlind individuals due to lack of communication (at home,… Read more »
tsuggs
Member
I’d love to come to Washington! 🙂 I think that’s exactly what happened (your first point). I saw a lot of interpreters visibly bothered by the interpreters who weren’t signing (and one was speaking loudly enough that she had to be asked by another interpreter to not use her voice). I also think some interpreters were probably intimidated by my obvious frustration and didn’t want to set me off any further, so they decided to stay quiet…and then of course, there are those who prefer to talk one-on-one instead of standing up in front of everyone. Most of us do… Read more »
Member
Trudy, thank you for writing this and sharing your experience. I recently attended an interpreting conference and witnessed the same behavior (it is unfortunately way too common) and even attended the recent DeafNation World Expo with a hearing person who’s fiance is Deaf and who’s goal is to become an interpreter, and who almost never signed the entire trip. I was shocked, but her behavior made me realize how there are many hearing people who just don’t understand the impact of their actions on the people around them. She legitimately saw nothing wrong with sitting in a group of 15-20… Read more »
Member
Kitty LaFountain
Ah Evelyn your last sentence, “The Deaf group is always easy to spot, go introduce yourself. They won’t bite. ” brings back YET another memory. It was 1980 and I had enlisted in the US Army and was transported to the Atlanta International Airport where I sat in the cafe area with over 20 other recruits. As I glanced around at the other civilians eating their snacks I noticed a Deaf couple. I immediately waved at them and started signing. We were close enough that we didn’t have to leave our tables. Immediately the couple to my left also started… Read more »
Member

What a great story! Thank you for sharing 🙂

Member
read and watch vlog. Agreed what you said. Privilege and motivation behind to put up it. Secondly, no matter what depend who can read non marker signals and non verbal signals gives many messages or symbols that lead to many assumptions without check or ask to make sure if same page or meaning before can move to next one. Mostly, I noticed their first impression when see eye brows movements and assume quick before read the message with good content. Often mislead the information. Suggestions that VRS/VRI industry should develop standardized signs for cultural appropriation like deaf schools or connection… Read more »
Member
Duane Rumsey
Hi Trudy I’m going to refrain from trying to figure out the reason why that group and the one participant behaved the way they did. I’m going to provide my comments based on being a long-time instructor and presenter. First of all, I’m sure you’ve experienced that it’s not possible to please everyone every time. Obviously, this group was one of those groups. I think one of the things this experience helps you look at is how you were affected by their lack of signing. Most of us (presenters) have pet-peeves or things that annoy us. It would appear that… Read more »
Member
Trudy, Thank you for sharing your experience. I think there are some individuals who feel threatened by outspoken and well spoken deaf people. The threat they perceive as a challenge to their power and they try to display that power in disrespectful ways, the whispering, facial expressions, rude comments, and challenges. They do not realize how audist they come across. It’s easier for them to label you an angry Deaf person. Unfortunately all the discussion in the world won’t change them! I’m sure you are familiar with the sterotypical “angry black woman”. We are not really all angry folks just… Read more »
Member
Terri Hayes
Trudy, just a note – I think that anyone who stands up with an idea about how to make the environment more Deaf friendly is going to be labled “angry”… its an affront to all of the interpreters who suspect they are being held responsible to make the world a better place -but who simply dont have the time or the inclination. Most interpreters “gave at the office” (every time they go to work) – and the majority are no longer those people who were Deaf-Made, having come into the world through the assimilation of Culture through language.. most interpreters… Read more »
Member
Trudy, I’m still scratching my head over why this suggestion (that sign language interpreters know something about the lives of Deaf people, including where the schools are located) was seen as such a big deal. In fact, it makes sense that this be made a part of ITP curricula, since it is really basic information. Now, there may be quibbles about details, but the point you and the other Deaf participants were making was basically a no-brainer. The only thing that might clarify this hostile response is that they really *had* encountered an “angry Deaf” person (and yes, they’re out… Read more »
Member
Laurie Barry
These posts have been helpful to me. I had no idea that a deaf person scans the room to sit with those signing. It makes sense but that hadn’t occurred to me. When I first started signing and went to deaf events I signed and talked, but was encouraged by a peer to only sign. At the time, my skills were very low and I was intimidated in the company of the better signers. I have found the more I sign the more help I receive if I’m wrong. Now I get excited before deaf events for the chance to… Read more »
lwickless
Member
Love, love, love this article! I’m a hearing interpreter and am always disappointed and saddened when I notice interpreters who react with what to me is intolerance toward Deaf individuals and Deaf culture. I have attended Deaf-lead workshops and also have seen this disrespectful and frankly, condescending attitude by hearing interpreters toward expert Deaf presenters. Sad to say, I feel there is far too much audism (unintentional yet blatant) among hearing interpreters. The answer I think is more multicultural awareness and training as well as strongly urging/possibly mandating participation in Deaf community events. One thing that also puzzles me is… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

That’s an interesting observation re: the NAD/RID attachment…hadn’t considered that. Hmmm….I’ll have to look into that and see what the rationale behind that is. Thanks for bringing that up.

trackback

[…] be successful, a relationship with the DHHC is paramount, as suggested by Trudy Suggs in her post, A Deaf Perspective: Cultural Respect in Sign Language Interpreting .  An interpreter in California once stated, “If you call yourself an Interpreter and you have […]

Member

Trudy,
As an interpreter, I fear referring to those people as “peers”. And here is one scary thought: The local ITP, not far from where you presented, does not employ ANY Deaf instructors for these future interpreters. Nope, not one. So their lack of cultural sensitivity and their unprofessionalism unfortunately does not surprise me, although their behavior does still astound me.

Workshop presenters deserve attention and respect but it sounds like that group would have been rude no matter what the topic.

Thanks for posting this article. I enjoyed it and the many commments.

Member
Hi Trudy! Long time no see! I absolutely loved this article (not because of what happened to you, but because I agree with you and your feelings). I think this is a macro level issue rather than the micro level issue (knowing the names of the cities where Deaf schools are). The macro level issue is that the majority of interpreters are not fluent users of the language and are not involved in the Deaf community. They go to school to learn ASL for an employment goal. I often hear interpreters complaining about “having to” sign at conferences and they… Read more »
tsuggs
Member

Hi Joe! Always good to see your name.

Curious–what was the backlash primarily directed at? That they didn’t want you to present in ASL? Or…what was the reasoning for their, for lack of a better word, discomfort with your presenting in ASL?

Member

A couple different things. Some just didn’t want to receive the content in ASL (complaints of eye strain/fatigue) and then others just felt it was silly for me to present when most people present were hearing and using English. I live in DC and using inclusive language is the norm here so I didn’t think about it much, but as I traveled it was interesting to see the differences. In the Midwest there were no complaints, but in the mountain/plain states it was a HUGE issue.

Member
Thank you, Trudy. I’ve noticed at some workshops I’ve attended, an undercurrent of hearing passive aggressiveness. It’s not always, indeed, most have been like the positive ones you described. The non-signers make me crazy, as in “who do they think they are?” It represents a complete lack of interest in attempting to understand the “other” perspective. As a hearing interpreter and non-CODA, I have access to both languages and can move freely between them. I will admit to eye/mind fatigue after a 3-4 hour workshop entirely in ASL, but that won’t stop me from picking up my hands. Nonetheless, interpreters… Read more »
Member

Let me clarify: I emphasize hearing non-CODA to make the point that even though I am neither Deaf nor CODA, I still value picking up my hands, I still value the language, and I still recognize that I owe my career and L2 ENTIRELY to the Deaf community, and therefore strive to be an ally to the culture, admitting how little I know, and promising never to stop learning.

trackback
trackback

[…] inappropriate to put ourselves in a place of authority. As suggested by Trudy Suggs in her article, A Deaf Perspective: Cultural Respect in Sign Language Interpreting, we must bring deference to every situation we encounter, or risk upsetting the delicate balance of […]

trackback

[…] Trudy Suggs illustrates this clearly in, A Deaf Perspective: Cultural Respect in Sign Language Interpreting […]

wpDiscuz

Forward-looking organizations committed to retelling the story of the interpreter.

(National)

(Nevada)

(New York)

(California)

(Wisconsin)

(Massachusetts)

(Pennsylvania)