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A Civility Revolution: A Call to Arms for Sign Language Interpreters

A Civility Revolution: A Call to Arms for Sign Language Interpreters

In a world where online and face-to-face interactions have lost a level of compassion and understanding, Diana MacDougall outlines a “Civility Revolution” to elevate the discourse of sign language interpreters.

 

The notion of “civility” has been tossed around these past several years, not only by the sign language interpreting profession, but in other professions (such as nursing and education), across the board on Social Media sites, and in ethics discussion groups, like the Institute for Global Ethics.  Everyone is concerned about how we are treating each other, and with good reason. In an era of social media, hit-and-run cyber-demeaning comments can be posted anonymously with impunity. Through the creation of the global internet and online social media (where nobody has to see our faces or know our true identities), we have somehow removed civility and humanity from interactive expectations.

[Click to view post in ASL]

#CommunityIsAccountability

In recent months, StreetLeverage contributors have posted articles on civility, accountability, diversityand social consciousness within interpreting. They are each timely, and yes, necessary, for our membership to read/watch. (After all, our own CPC tenet 5.1 reminds us to “[m]aintain civility towards colleagues, interns, and students” as a code we all agree to adhere upon joining our professional organization.) The most recent StreetLeverage conference in April stressed civil behavior towards each other in our interactions and discussion groups at least once a day. (And I have to say, this past conference was one of the most socially conscious and aware conferences I have EVER attended in my professional career!) Sitting back and watching the interactions of the participants and the leaders’ role model what civil interaction looks like, I began to think about what “civility” meant and what was needed to carry this movement to the next level. Centering our conferences and discussions around the notion of civil dialogues and accountability for our individual social behaviors is an important step towards a paradigm shift in how we interact with each other. But how do we take it beyond the intermittent “reminders” to “play nice”, if you will? What was it about this past conference that worked so well that could be replicated more consistently for ALL interpreting conferences, and carried over into our own lives as interpreters and as human beings?

Exploring Micro and Macro Levels of Interaction

As a Sociologist who studies social discourse, I often lecture on the concepts of the macro and micro levels of interactions. The “macro” is from an institutional, or large-scale level. The micro is from an individual or small-scale level. For the purposes of this article, I would like to consider our profession as the macro and our individual selves as the micro. I know that when I look at the larger schema of something—say, social injustice—I feel overwhelmed when trying to navigate my place in the world for change. It feels impossible, so I have a tendency to walk away from a global issue. But from the micro level, it feels more manageable; I can do something within my world—my life—to affect change. It is doable; therefore, I am more apt to participate in a social cause. At the micro level, we can see a ripple effect from our actions. It is a basic “cause and effect. Over time, our actions become habitual; therefore, changing how we behave. Because of our social interactions as humans, our behavior influences others around us. In time, other people’s behaviors affect larger groups, and ultimately affect social norms for what is considered—at the macro level—as appropriate behaviors within a society. So, with that being said, I am declaring a “call to arms”, of sorts. Yes, a revolution within our profession, starting at the micro level: us—individually!

Civility Revolution: Tools

As of today, I am declaring a “Civility Revolution”! What will be needed from us as collective individuals? Here are five values for what I believe we will need to “arm” ourselves for this revolution:

Moral Courage

The first would be a commitment to moral courage. Kidder defines “moral courage” as “[s]tanding up for [our] values”, stating that “having values is different from living by values” (2005). Moral courage requires “compassion” towards our fellow human beings.

Compassion

Compassion involves not only sympathy towards others’ experiences but empathy for them, as well. Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes will carry us far in being civil towards others.

Integrity

To be morally courageous and compassionate, we will need another quality necessary to arm ourselves in this revolution: integrity. To me, “integrity” means knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing to do right, whether anyone is watching or not, and whether it is uncomfortable to do so or not.

Accountability

Another piece of “armor” we need to put on is “accountability”. This is something missing in Western societies due, in part, to technology, where people no longer have to face their objects of critique. We have learned to say whatever we feel about others without thinking about the pain we may cause them. Learning to accept accountability for our words and actions is necessary for a Civility Revolution.

Commitment

And the last piece of armor we need is “commitment”. Individually, we need to commit to following through on living by our values. It is not easy; there are times when standing up for what we believe has a social price to pay. No one wants to be disliked (an American societal condition), and no one wants to be called a “moral busybody”. But, again, as we change our behaviors at the micro level, we eventually affect change at the macro level, and before long, civil behaviors towards others will become the status quo again.

Revolution in Action

The theory is a good one. But we’ve had enough of theory and “discussions” on the topic. What would this look like in action? 

Some ideas:

  • As individuals, we can interrupt audist/racist/sexist/etc. remarks when we see/hear them.
  • As individuals, we can choose to sign in Deaf/Hearing mixed environments for full access for everyone involved, even when others choose not to. (This one takes moral courage, but is SO doable; I believe in time, we will affect change in this arena if we are diligent in our commitment to this action.)
  • As individuals, we can respect the diverse perspectives we have within our communities by modeling the discursive language we use with each other.

Commitment to Civility

So, as you can see, “civility” is definitely an action word! We need to commit to standing together in our individual behaviors at the micro level by demonstrating collective moral courage through our common values of compassion towards our colleagues and clients. By committing to behaving with integrity through accountability for our actions, we CAN begin to affect change in how we interact with one another. So…are you with me? Who will join me in a Civility Revolution!?

Questions for Consideration:

  1. What are three specific habits sign language interpreters can develop and employ to elevate civility in interactions with colleagues? With those who utilize interpreting services?
  2. Remember a time when a colleague did not interact with you in a civil manner. If you could go back to that situation and experience it again with new tools and perspective, how would you approach the person? How can you apply this to future experiences?
  3. Beyond more civilized discourse, how can sign language interpreters and those who utilize their services benefit from this approach to engagement?
  4. How can sign language interpreters support each other in taking on this call to action?

 

References:

  1. Ball, C. (2012). What Role Does Civility Play in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession? Retrieved October 21st, 2015 from http://StreetLeverage.com
  2. DiFiore-Rudolph, G. (2015). Civility Within the Interpreting Profession: A Novice’s Perspective from December 29th, 2015 http://StreetLeverge.com
  3. Institute for Global Ethics. http://www.globalethics.org
  4. NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct. (2009) Retrieved June 30th, 2016 from http://rid.org
  5. Kidder, Rushworth, M. (2006). Moral Courage. HarperCollins Publishers. NY, New York.
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Voluntary Accountability: A StreetLeverage – Live Wrap-Up

StreetLeverage - Live 2016

StreetLeverage – Live 2016 may be over, but the takeaways linger; sights set on possibilities, participants shared generosity and perspective while looking at critical issues impacting the field of interpreting. Here’s a brief look at some highlights from the weekend.

 

#CommunityisAccountability

In the world of sign language interpreting, time is a precious commodity. The beauty of StreetLeverage – Live is that it provides opportunity to press pause on the day-to-day and allows us to step away to gain enough distance and perspective to recognize where change is needed and how we might personally contribute.

This year, StreetLeverage provided a pause April 15-17, 2016 in Fremont, CA. Holding this space allowed those in attendance to tap into a deeper understanding of accountability and what is possible when we choose to voluntarily hold ourselves accountable in our own careers and in the industry as a whole.

It is in these moments when we are wrestling with the decision to step up that change is being formulated.

While there are no easy answers, participants, presenters, partners, and organizers all came together seeking community, where they could explore and share ideas, perspectives and challenges and posit solutions for moving forward. In seeking higher standards and better outcomes, there is also an acceptance that there is no finish line – there is only forward progress.

What Community Can Do Together – Supporting the Future

#CommunityisAccountability struck a chord in StreetLeverage – Live 2016 participants on Friday night as evidenced by the nearly $10,000 in donations for the California School for the Deaf, Fremont’s Student Leadership Programs for Students of Color. Preserving and protecting programs and schools like these is critical and StreetLeverage is proud to facilitate this opportunity. Generosity is contagious.

National Treasure – Ella Mae Lentz

In an effort to recognize those who have enriched the fundamental assets of Deaf Culture, ASL, and the field of sign language interpreting, StreetLeverage created a National Treasure Award. Recognizing these outstanding individuals who epitomize accountability is an opportunity to highlight those in the field who have dedicated their lives to acting as agents of change.

StreetLeverage was honored to celebrate Ella Mae Lentz, the 2016 StreetLeverage National Treasure Award recipient.

Live Stream Access – Reaching Out to the Future

This year, StreetLeverage charted a new course for Live Stream access in an effort to extend the message #CommunityIsAccountability beyond the walls of the hotel in Fremont, CA. In addition to the new opportunity to participate in the Main Sessions via Live Stream, StreetLeverage was proud to partner with CIT to extend Live Stream access to all students enrolled in sign language interpreting programs in the U.S. and to partner with WASLI to extend the opportunity to its members living outside of North America.

The Power of Voluntary Accountability

Shaping a better future for the field of sign language interpreting requires open and honest dialogue and a commitment to accountability.

Conversation Catalysts

We are inspired by those courageous enough to articulate their ideas, perspectives and thoughts and who stood up front as catalysts for the many insightful conversations which unfolded during the course of the weekend. Our sincere thanks to:

Ben Bahan Marty Taylor Pamela Collins
MJ Bienvenu Aaron Brace Jackie Emmart
Ritchie Bryant Jimmy Beldon Wayne Betts, Jr.
Event Architects

Behind all of the insight and perspective, there is a team of people dedicated to the running of cables, the nitty-gritty minutia, the back-stage and back-office details that make an event run smoothly.

For their ingenuity, tenacity and dedication to creating an environment where courageous and free-flowing dialogue helps formulate change, we salute our LiveCorps staff and volunteers. May there be more tippy-toes than deep as you work to regain balance in your lives post event. Our deepest gratitude to these event architects who flip the switch which illuminates StreetLeverage – Live.

Core Staff
Tara Arthur Sean Benson Kristy Bradley
Dee Collins Jenna Gorman Kelly Ker
Erica Kramer Cassie Lang Tom Lauterborn
John Lestina, Jr Diane Lynch Jean Miller
Deborah Perry Lance Pickett Jason Smith
Student Volunteers from American River College and Ohlone College

Volunteers - Live 2016

Becky Alcantara Brittany Arnold Kate Clark
Rey Duprey Lisa Gomez Jenny Gove
Jay Jempson Lindsay Kram Gabriela Loera
Catherine Lowry Jessica Luna Sean Roberstson
Jarice Starbuck

#PartnersAreLeverage

The foundational commitment of our vision partners allows StreetLeverage to extend thought leadership to the field of sign language interpreting. These partners support the space and belief that change can happen, not only via resources, but through their dedication and commitment to voluntary accountability. Our profound thanks to:

Access Interpreting | Washington, D.C.

Bay Area Communication Access  | San Francisco, CA

Conference of Interpreter Trainers 

Convo |  Pleasanton, CA

Deaf Access Solutions  | Bethesda, MD

Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency | San Leandro, CA

Hawaii Interpreting Service | Kaneohe,  HI

Linguabee | Fremont, CA

Northern California Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf | Oakland, CA

Partners in Communication | San Francisco, CA

Partners Interpreting  | Plainville, MA

Professional Interpreting Enterprise | Greenfield, WI

Purple Communications | Rocklin, CA

Sign Language Resources | Newburgh, NY

Sorenson Communications | Salt Lake City, UT

St. Catherine University | St. Paul, MN

Connect With Us

Share StreetLeverage - Live via Social Media

If you haven’t done so, we hope you will take this opportunity to subscribe to receive our weekly posts in your inbox and connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We are committed to continuing the dialogue that occurred during the Live event and hope you will connect with us regularly to share your insight, perspective, and experience in order to enhance the practice of sign language interpreting. #CommunityisAccountability #WeAreLeverage

#WeAreLeverage

A community of people committed to possibility creates a powerful foundation for change. Those who attended StreetLeverage – Live 2016 stepped into their accountability by choice, opening their minds to new thoughts, perspectives, and approaches in the field of sign language interpreting. The hashtag #WeAreLeverage calls us all to utilize our collective influence to hold ourselves and our colleagues to a higher standard, to strive for more, and to live up to the ideals which brought us to this field in the first place. We were reminded that #CommunityIsAccountability and that, indeed, the work sign language interpreters do impacts people’s lives. Our hope is that these weekend conversations stir participants to generate thought and dialogue long after settling back into regular life.

Sincere thanks to all who participated in StreetLeverage – Live 2016.

Stay tuned for announcements for StreetLeverage – Live 2017. Coming soon!