Oppression, Empowerment, and the Role of the Interpreter

January 1, 2016


This paper examines the history of oppression of the Deaf as a cultural minority and the ways in which interpreters may contribute to oppression. The paper then shows how interpreters can recognize and stop such oppressive tendencies and how they can instead empower the Deaf as an ally. Society views the Deaf as defective and requires that they conform to the hearing majority—a type of oppression called audism—this can cause interpreters to unconsciously form a negative view of their Deaf clients. Also, because interpreters are often the only ones that understand what is going on between both languages and cultures, they are in a powerful position that could easily be abused. Even after the establishment of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), interpreters have still frequently caused oppression in the Deaf community, and whether that oppression is caused by ignorance or lack of respect, becoming aware of such tendencies will help to stop oppression. Oppression ceases and empowerment begins when the interpreter becomes an ally, someone who comes alongside and supports the Deaf. There are many different ways to empower the Deaf, such as using a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and constantly working at improving competence with skills in interpreting and American Sign Language (ASL). The end goal is dynamic equivalence for Deaf and hearing clients. It is when both hearing and Deaf people work alongside each other that the cycle of oppression will be broken.


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Ziebart, Erika L. (2016) “Oppression, Empowerment, and the Role of the Interpreter,” Montview Liberty University Journal of Undergraduate Research: Vol. 2 : Iss. 1 , Article 1.

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