Should the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Sue?

September 16, 2011

As the professional organization representing sign language interpreters in the United States, RID is in a unique position to champion working conditions and legislation impacting the industry. Brandon Arthur considers how litigation might impact RID and its members.

Is there any merit to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) litigating to advance the rights of sign language interpreters to reasonable working conditions and employment practices, and laws that defend their eligibility to work? Clearly, litigating has both a financial and a political cost and these costs should not be underestimated.

As it occurs to me, the pros and cons of RID taking a more offensive position in advocating for our rights are:

Pros of Litigation

  • Cases will lead to a body of information related to appropriate working conditions and practices when employing interpreters.
  • Publicly exposes organizations for interpreter abuse.
  • Creates an opportunity for industry stakeholders to work together to seek accountability for business practices and working conditions.
  • Imposes a financial hardship on offending organizations/individuals.
  • Uncovers the facts, which assists in identifying the people that can legitimately deliver solutions.
  • A demonstration that RID has a no non-sense approach to fulfilling its charge to protect and promote the interests of sign language interpreters.

Cons of Litigation

  • Establishes an adversarial relationship with the private businesses and government entities that employ interpreters.
  • The financial cost.
  • A lost case can create a damaging precedent, which makes it more difficult to defend our interests.
  • Increased scrutiny of interpreter conduct and practices.
  • Heightened conflict within the industry.
  • Strains collaboration between RID, private business and government entities on shared interests.
  • May have to pay court costs for the other side.

Which Situations?

Endeavoring to hold individuals and/or organizations accountable for unsatisfactory working conditions is—and has been—a difficult proposition. While I am not—and I don’t believe many would be—in favor of the concept of litigating for the sake of litigating, I do believe that there are situations where we would greatly benefit should RID take a more offensive position. You may be thinking, “Well, what situations exactly, Brandon!?”

To name a couple, I believe RID should evaluate the merits of any case where an interpreter is being tried in a court of law related to their role, work product and/or or ethical practices, and get involved based on the merits of each particular case. Further, it is my view that RID should take a more offensive role when legislation is being crafted that will adversely impact an interpreter’s ability to perform their work and earn a livable wage.

In the End

RID occupies an important role, representing the voice of the sign language interpreter, and if necessary should throw a little weight around to ensure we are heard. It is one thing to inherently understand that poor working conditions or deflationary practices render an interpreter unable to deliver their art and quite another to do something about it.  As interpreters, we should leverage all the resources we have to ensure we are able to do our work effectively.  RID is one of those resources.

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5 Comments on "Should the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Sue?"

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Member
Paul Christie
Before we entertain thoughts of litigation to advance our cause, I think we should be introspective about our working conditions and employment practices here at home, so-to-speak, and clean up our own act. I will come back and check the posts a year from now (29 Nov 2012) to see if anyone can provide an exception to the rule that the RID is the ONLY professional organization that requires membership to maintain credentials. The AMA doesn’t, in fact the membership of physicians in the AMA is less than 40 per cent the last time I checked. That’s right, 60 per… Read more »
Member
Jo Westbury
These responses confuse me. It seems as though the perspective is that RID is a professional organization that only provides professional development. By being an RID CERTIFIED interpreter a hiring entity has the validation that your skills have been evaluated. It means that the hiring entity can feel assured that you have at some level displayed a minimum of competencies that are necessary for that assignment. Being an RID member does not mean that I receive a monthly journal only and that validates my interpreting credentials. Why would you take issue with a request for validation of credentials and evaluation… Read more »

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