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RID: Retraction Leaves Interpreters with Deaf Parents in Doubt

Sign Language Interpreters With Deaf Parents Stunned

Brandon Arthur interviews Laurie Nash, Vice Chair of the Interpreters with Deaf Parents (IDP) Member Section of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), on the stunning  retraction of the referendum, that if passed, would have established a designated position on the RID Board of Directors for an IDP Member at Large position.

Highlights

“Many of us felt that the passage of this referendum was important in order to help RID reconnect with the deaf community and the values that were the foundation of the establishment of RID 50 years ago.”

“I am here to talk about IDP but I do want to acknowledge that other members feel disenfranchised by RID as well. I cannot speak for them but they do have similar feelings of not being involved in the decision making process. IDP believed that if we had a position on the board then that would guarantee a place at the decision making table.”

“The president somehow misunderstood that a 2/3 majority of the vote was required as opposed to the a simple majority she used to determine the initial passage of the referendum.”

“We were told this late on Wednesday night and the announcement from the board was made Thursday. Obviously the RID board had already prepared their announcement and video and were ready to announce this to the membership.”

“I think for many IDP members there is a desire for our organization and our members to recognize that indeed many interpreters with deaf parents bring something unique to our field.”

“I think it is important to emphasize that respectful dialogue is the key to moving forward. I encourage all members of RID be mindful of respecting each other as we move forward.”

Interview Transcript

Brandon: Hello everyone. I am Brandon Arthur from StreetLeverage.com. I am here with Laurie Nash, Vice-Chair of RID’s Interpreters with Deaf Parents Member Section. Welcome Laurie.

Laurie: Hello. Thank you for hosting this dialogue and inviting me.

Brandon: We are here to discuss RID’s announcement from last week about Motion E, the referendum that if passed, would have established a designated position on the RID board of directors for an IDP member at large.  With the announcement that the referendum did not pass, I imagine there to be a lot of emotional responses to the announcement. Before we get into the retraction and the response from IDP, I’d like to back up a little bit to the beginning of March when RID announced the historic passage of a bylaws referendum that would establish an IDP seat on the Board of Directors.  Can you share with us the feeling and thoughts that the IDP membership had when they learned of the referendum’s passage?

Laurie: Clearly many people, including IDP members, who supported this motion, felt that after a long time we would be getting some change in the direction of RID. Many of us felt that the passage of this referendum was important in order to help RID reconnect with the deaf community and the values that were the foundation of the establishment of RID 50 years ago.  So yes, many people were relieved and happy. I know for myself, I felt that after many years, I now have a way to reconnect with RID.  The passage of the referendum gave me faith in RID again.  Learning that the referendum has passed in the first week of March left people feeling positive and pleased with all of the hard work done to get the referendum to vote

Brandon: You mention “having faith”’ in RID again. So, describe for us what the leadership of IDP, members of RID, and allies feel that this position represents for the future of RID.

Laurie: I believe that IDP members are not unique in feeling that they are underrepresented within RID. There are other groups of interpreters that feel the same way. We have all felt frustrated at some of the decisions made by the RID Board of Directors. These decisions show again a divergence from the communities we serve; their culture, their norms, their values. We have strayed away from that. So an IDP position on the board, we felt, would guarantee that along with the Deaf member at large that is already a part of the board, there would be a stronger connection to native language users and deaf-world natives  and those board members would be involved with the decisions of RID from this point forward. Historically there have been a lot of frustrations among many groups. I am here to talk about IDP but I do want to acknowledge that other members feel disenfranchised by RID as well. I cannot speak for them but they do have similar feelings of not being involved in the decision making process. IDP believed that if we had a position on the board then that would guarantee a place at the decision making table. This motion was initially made taking into consideration the current structure of RID. Many people have brought up different ideas for a restructuring of the board and changing the composition of the board.   I think that re-evaluating the board is a good idea but that’s not our current reality.  The current board composition is what was in mind when the motion was made. Let me clarify, the motion came out of the 2010 Region II conference. The motion carried and was then brought to the floor of the national conference in 2011. A lot of people were involved in the discussions to ensure that the position would work within the current board structure.  Members were both in support and opposition for various reasons but for the collective IDP membership was in support of this motion and the concept behind it: that our voice was missing from the board. Our current board has 3 people who are interpreters with deaf parents. 2 are deaf and 1 is hearing but that was not always the case. For many, many years there were no native voices on the rid board.

Brandon: You have recognized that IDP is not the only group within RID who may not feel that they have access to the decision making tables of the organization and by extension our field. That being said, to be told that you had a place at the table and then for that place to be taken away with the retraction must create an environment where there is little to no trust in the leadership of RID.  How did the news that the referendum did not pass actually unfold for IDP? How were you notified?

Laurie:  Well the announcement came out last Thursday. On Wednesday at 9pm, the 4 members of the IDP executive council, participated in a video conference call with President Prudhom and many members of the board of directors. On that call, we were told that there was a mistake made in determining the required number of votes needed to pass the referendum. The president somehow misunderstood that a 2/3 majority of the vote was required as opposed to the a simple majority she used to determine the initial passage of the referendum. Now you should know that during the drafting of this referendum it was clearly understood by everyone involved that a 2/3 majority vote was needed to pass. This referendum was a change in our bylaws and required a higher standard than other referendums. So, she seemingly made a mistake and erroneously informed Shane Feldman, the Executive Director of RID, and others that the referendum passed.  We were told this late on Wednesday night and the announcement from the board was made Thursday. Obviously the RID board had already prepared their announcement and video and were ready to announce this to the membership. Hearing this news, we were floored and were at a loss on how were we to respond and we wondered how our members would respond to this announcement.  We asked President Prudhom for some time to organize and coordinate a respond. They gave us a little time but by 3pm on Thursday, the announcement went out to the general membership. As a result, the IDP council was unable to prepare a coordinated response right away. Unfortunately RID went ahead with their announcement.

Brandon: So what would IDP like to have seen done differently in a situation like this in the future. If we as an organization have learned anything from this, it won’t happen again but if you could advise the board on how better to handle something like this, what would you ask them to do?

Laurie: Well…when we learned that the referendum did not in fact pass we were of course disappointed. Many people worked very hard on this referendum, however; it was compounded by the lack of checks and balances and the realization that RID made a mistake.  We were left wondering,  How could something like this happen? Is it possible that only one person is counting the vote? It was very hard to understand how this could have happened. We are collecting a vote on a referendum that impacts the bylaws of our organization. Not a business as usual item.  These are the guiding rules of our organization, our bylaws.  We were disappointed that the referendum did not pass but we could move on from there. Our disappointment was further exacerbated by this mishandling of the vote and our experience that this was also one more example in a series of blunders the membership has experienced from the RID board. We believe that the IDP membership should have received a personal apology. The president of RID made a general public apology to the membership; however, this motion held great significance to many people connected to IDP. This general apology did not recognize the significance of the referendum and did not recognize that many members had very strong connections to it.  This fact seemed to be overlooked by the board of directors and I think that is just another example of perhaps a cultural disconnect from the membership. RID does have members of diverse backgrounds. President Prudhom’s manner of apology and announcement did not give enough attention to the significance of this referendum to members of IDP.

Brandon: Thank you. What do you hope the membership, the RID board of directors, and even the national office staff can learn from this situation?

Laurie: I wish they didn’t have to learn anything at all. I wish this didn’t have to be a learning experience for them to begin with. However, I think all members of RID, after seeing this; can agree that mistakes are consistently made within RID. This is not an isolated instance.  I am not sure what kind of oversight may be needed and I am unsure how the board functions. For vote counting, do they work together? Who is responsible for vote collecting? How does it work when voting happens through the internet? There need to be safeguards in place to make sure this kind of thing ever happens.  With a mistake of this magnitude, we all have to question how it came to be. I believe RID members have a right to know how this kind of mistake happened. It certainly shouldn’t have happened on such a large issue as the bylaws and leads us to wonder if this kind of mistake is allowed to happen, then what other mistakes are happening? I don’t want to get off the point here but we do need to wonder what is going on. I think the mistakes issue is not simply an IDP complaint. It is a systemic organizational and leadership problem that all of us have to be very concerned about.

Brandon: Clearly, you have said that representation at the decision making tables of our field is important to interpreters with deaf parents and other underserved groups. In considering the future of RID and perhaps the perspective of people seeing this interview, people who will see the passion that IDP has about this issue, what do you want them to know about your collective desire for more representation and collective diversity at the decision making tables of RID?

Laurie: I think for many IDP members there is a desire for our organization and our members to recognize that indeed many interpreters with deaf parents bring something unique to our field. We have a variety of deaf-world experiences that many if not most of our members within RID do not have.  Each interpreter brings their unique set of life experiences to their work.  The experiences of an someone who grew up in a deaf parented home instills the values and norms of the community in their work. Interpreters with deaf parents possess the ability to broker meaning in culturally appropriate ways. That is the value we need to have on the board. I think many of our members historically have felt those inherent skills have been negated in a systematic way within RID.  On an individual level, interpreters with deaf parents have certainly felt valued by many colleagues but we feel this must be a integral part of the board. During the national conference in Atlanta in 2011, Dennis Cokely commented on the logo for the conference. The logo was a tree. On the stage at the business meeting, he pointed out that the tree was missing its roots.  The roots have been missing for a very long time and It’s not just interpreters with deaf parents who feel this way. There are many people in our field, including leaders in our field, who believe that interpreters with deaf parents have something unique to offer. We recognize a unique skill at play but we believe that recognition of this skill needs to be an integral part of our national organization, RID. There may be talk about restructuring  and changing the composition of the board. I think that may be a great idea but let’s work together to make it happen if the membership agrees that to be our goal.  For now, the board structure is the way it is. We can work toward improvements but again with the kind of mistake that took place we have slipped back and the membership has lost faith once again.

Brandon: If you had the opportunity to send a message to the general membership and to IDP members what  would you say about the desire to again reconnect with our roots?

Laurie: To the general membership, I think it is important for us to consider why we do what we do. If we claim to value the deaf community and value their norms and culture, if that indeed is what we are saying, then great.  Let’s move on and do it in our actions and in our words. Live it. Show it. Prove it. And if not, then if people do not want to achieve that then why are we here talking about this? Why does RID even exist?   We need to figure out our organizational purpose, values and goals. What we do is not just collecting a paycheck. For many of us our profession is not simply a job. Unfortunately for some it appears that they are here only to collect a paycheck and there is no authentic connection to the deaf community and certainly no investment.  For those of us vested, it feels exploitative of those interpreters. We really need to figure out why we do the work we do. To IDP members, I think it is important to say that your hard work bringing this referendum forward and the progress that we made was successful in many ways. The discussion we are having now is also housed within a broader context. We have all had our individual discussions and experiences with each other and with our colleagues. We have also had our experiences discounted and shunned.  It is time to move forward. We are now having a bigger discussion and this process is necessary in order for us to recover from the last 50 years.

Brandon: I really appreciate you being here with me today to lay out the issues. I hope this dialogue will help create some perspective for the people who are seeing all of the thoughts, emotion, and dissention on this issue.    At the end of the day, I hope that as an organization we can keep our eyes on the mission of service. If we can dialogue with respect then we can move forward. Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

Laurie: I am happy to be here but I do want to add something if you don’t mind. I think it is important to emphasize that respectful dialogue is the key to moving forward. I encourage all members of RID be mindful of respecting each other as we move forward.  Unfortunately, some public comments have been made that were not respectful and for many were insulting.  If we truly want our field and our organization to recover we have to maintain a respectful dialogue. I hope we can all remember the person receiving the message when posting comments via any open forum. Keep it honest and respectful.

Brandon: StretLeverage.com we try to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves so I can appreciate you bringing respect up. Laurie, thank you for your time. I appreciate you making time in your schedule for this discussion.  I hope that this dialogue will help others who have wondered about the debate and differing opinions surrounding this referendum so that we can all move forward to a successful future. Thanks again.

Laurie: Thank you.

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5 Must Have Apps for Sign Language Interpreters

Happy Sign Language Interpreter Using Apps To Enhance Her Productivity

Harnessing technology to save time, energy, and effort can support sign language interpreters increase productivity and accuracy. Join Brandon Arthur in his exploration of five must-have apps for every sign language interpreter.

Few sign language interpreters live without a smartphone or tablet. It’s probably hard for most of us to remember what life was like before we had the ability to manage the intersection of our work and personal lives with the swipe of a finger.

With the bazillions of apps out there, which ones are particularly useful for sign language interpreters? Below are 5 apps that may help you reclaim some of your sanity and be more productive in the process.

1. Leave Now

Tired of being “that interpreter?” Wish you knew exactly when to leave in order change your tardy ways? Wish no more. Leave Now will send an alert, which calculates for traffic delays, to your iOS device telling you exactly when to leave to be on time.

In the event you are going to be late, a single tap will send messages alerting people and giving them an ETA.

Cost: Free
Available for: iOS
Info: http://leavenowapp.com

2. Google Maps

Find yourself regularly doing the repeat 20mph drive-by only to discover you are on wrong Washington St? Well, no more drives of shame for you. Google Maps gives you the classic transit directions, Street View, and most impressively voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation.

Google Maps will also give you nearby places to grab a bite.

Cost: Free
Available for: iOS and Android
Info: http://www.google.com/mobile/iphone/ 

3.  Evernote

Sheepish about busting out that spiral notebook crammed with old agendas, receipts and coupons in order to capture job details or dialogue with a team interpreter? You know who you are! Evernote allows you to easily capture everything from personal musings to critical billing information.

You can quickly browse, edit and search on the information captured and it conveniently syncs across all of your iOs devices.

Cost: Free
Available for: iOs and Android (and more)
Info: http://evernote.com/evernote/ 
 

 4.  Expensify

Every superhero has their kryptonite. Do your powers of analyzing form, meaning and context go weak with the very thought of organizing and tracking expenses? Have no fear. Expensify makes it easy to record expenses and mileage as they occur, upload receipts by snapping a quick picture of them, and even track travel time. 

Expensify generates reports with the tap of your finger and integrates with QuickBooks to make invoicing a breeze.

Cost: Free (basic version)
Available for: iOS and Android (and more)
Info: http://help.expensify.com/mobile

5. Bump

An oldie, but a goodie! Go ahead and get your virtual man hug on by exchanging information with a colleague by “bumping” your phone with theirs. Bump allows you to exchange your contact info, calendar events, social media profiles and more simply and easily.

This will save you time and the additional bloat of your spiral notebook.

Cost: Free
Available for: iOS and Android
Info: http://bu.mp/company/ 

Productivity is Key

As sign language interpreters, we have a keen sense that time is our most valuable asset. I am hopeful that you will find these apps helpful in adding time back to your life.

After all, in a world that is increasingly busy, anything that takes our mind off of the logistics of the job and helps us focus on the work at hand is a good thing, no?

What apps have made a difference managing your work?

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VRS Reform: Will Anyone Wade in to Save the Sign Language Interpreter?

Sign language interpreter under water

As the FCC continues to reform VRS under its mission to reduce “waste, fraud, and abuse,” Brandon Arthur urges sign language interpreters to maintain a presence in the decision-making process.

The October 15, 2012 Public Notice released by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has sent another wave of distress crashing over top of the already apprehensive sign language interpreters working in support the nation’s Video Relay Service (VRS). As these interpreters, awash in the regulatory storm of VRS reform, reach out for the relationships, practices, and leadership that have anchored them in the past, they appear to find themselves largely alone in rough and rising waters.

It has been nearly 12 months since the FCC dropped it’s December 15, 2011 FNPRM seeking substantial comment on the structure and practices of the nation’s VRS program, the last in Docket 10-51. With that filing, I found myself wondering if there is anyone—individual or entity—positioned to successfully snatch sign language interpreters from these troubled waters by prevailing upon regulators with a solution that more centrally considers functional equivalency and the plight of the sign language interpreter who makes that possible.

The Latest Signal From the FCC

The October 15, 2012 Public Notice released by the FCC is an indication to VRS stakeholders (consumers, interpreters, providers, educators, and industry associations) of it’s consideration of the TRS Fund Administrator’s (RLSA) October 15, 2012 Supplemental Filing, which proposes a transition to a cost-based model of reimbursement, resulting in deep cuts to the per minute reimbursement rate.

The RLSA proposes an immediate reduction of 11-15% to the rates paid to providers, with further reductions to follow in subsequent years. The aim being to move reimbursement rates towards the “weighted average cost per minute” of $3.51, as calculated by RLSA. The “initial” cut proposed, or something similar that the FCC ultimately approves, is likely to occur soon after the first of the year.

Unfortunately, for VRS users, sign language interpreters and providers, the targeted average cost of $3.51 per minute is 31%-44% below the current tiered reimbursement rates, which range from $6.24-$5.07 per minute. Adoption of a cost-based model and significant cuts to the current reimbursement rate will only intensify the impact of the reform on VRS users and sign language interpreters working to deliver it.

What’s the Impact?

In response to the December 15, 2011 FCC FNPRM referenced above, I wrote, Will Sign Language Interpreters Remain Silent on FCC VRS Reform? In that post I stated that should VRS reform occur without specific recognition for the cost and commitment of employing certified interpreters via a reimbursement rate differential, it would serve a damaging blow to the longevity of employing credentialed, qualified interpreters in VRS settings.

I offered then, and still believe, that the practical impacts of this fundamental failure are largely twofold:

1.   The ultimate compromise of the functional equivalency of VRS.

Should the proposed rate reduction occur, providers would be forced to make fundamental shifts in their businesses in order to survive. As stated in my post referenced above, some of these shifts will almost certainly include to amp up performance expectations, decrease wages, and hire less-qualified practitioners in order to find cost savings. The necessity of being more efficient will result in an erosion of the quality, and therefore the functional equivalency, of VRS.

2.    The destabilization of the sign language interpreting profession.

The cost pressures will inevitably be too much for the smallest of the handful of providers remaining today. As such, the sign language interpreting industry will continue to see a consolidation of opportunity. This consolidation and the tremendous pressure to be efficient will result in fewer opportunities for credentialed, qualified interpreters to work in VRS settings.

The natural consequence of this declining opportunity will be an imbalance in the industry’s supply (excess number of qualified, credentialed interpreters looking for work) vs. demand (organizations and agencies seeking to hire interpreters) equation. With a greater number of sign language interpreters competing for decreasing opportunity a dog-eat-dog erosion of the best practices—designed to protect the accuracy of an interpreter’s work and their very health and wellbeing—will ensue.

In my view, the results of this supply vs. demand imbalance and the erosion of best practices will also impact interpreters working in Community settings. With rates and opportunity decreasing in VRS, the more highly qualified interpreters will start competing for Community work, which will lead to reducing rates for community work.

There are no safe-havens from VRS reform.

In my mind, these impacts are as real and relevant today as the day they were offered last year. In some cases, they are already being seen and experienced as shared by Karen Graham in her piece, Sign Language Interpreters: The Unintended Victims of VRS Regulation Change.

Again, adoption of a cost based approach to rate setting and deep rate cuts, as proposed by RSLA, will only accelerate the impact of this reform on D/deaf and Hard-of-Hearing users of the service and sign language interpreters working to deliver it.

A Call for Heroes and Heroines

At this point, sign language interpreters need someone—individual or entity—with the expertise and resources willing to wade into the rough water. Interpreters need someone willing to demonstrate that the work they do is central to the meaning of functional equivalency. Further, that an interpreter’s continued commitment to their craft and profession is fundamental to the interests and success of all VRS stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the FCC’s mistrust of providers; their perception that providers are motivated by self-interest when advocating for interpreters; and the resource challenge historically faced by industry associations to organize and mobilize support, will likely continue to leave sign language interpreters awash in the reform.

Will anyone wade in and extend a hand to the sign language interpreter?

The Truth?

There will be no caped crusader, individual or entity.

Clearly, the FCC’s disposition relative to providers and cost-reduction won’t change quickly enough to position them to help. Industry associations will not suddenly find themselves with lined coffers and new infrastructure to organize and mobilize meaningful support. Sadly, the remaining VRS stakeholders will serve only to amplify the volume of the shouting and cross-direction offered regarding how and where sign language interpreters can find their footing and protect their interests in the reform.

Is there any hope?

Yes.

Survival is Up to Us!

We need to empower ourselves in order to survive!

Given the regulatory and economic environment and the relative progress of the reform, we must be organized, disciplined, and consistent. We need to ensure that the FCC understands the challenged position of the sign language interpreter in the reform and the responsibility they have to the human performance side of the VRS system.

What should we do?

Mobilize. Mobilize! Mobilize!!

In order to be recognized by the FCC, we are left with little choice but to muster our own motility.

How can we do this?

1.    File Public Comment

It is important that every sign language interpreter file comment with the FCC. In my post, FCC VRS Reform Part II: Sign Language Interpreters File Public Comment, I offered detailed instruction on how to post comment to the FCC.  We need to do this more now than ever.

It is important to note that we have until November 14th to file comment on the proposed rate structure—then an opportunity to file again prior to November 29th. Please follow the guidelines and remember that you are submitting comment on a public forum. Post responses from a solution orientation.

Join me in advocating for the future of our collective quality of life by filing comment?

Need talking points? You can find a few here.

2.    Enroll Our Partners

We need to enroll, prod if necessary, all those that share an interest in the functional equivalency of VRS. We need to request that they stand up and take action now. We need to place calls to each and every VRS stakeholders and communicate our expectation that they join in the effort.

Let’s not forget that our Senators and Congressional Representatives are also our partners.  We should be sending them letters as well seeking their support.

We should not assume that anyone is standing with us until they are.

3.    Petitions of Support

It is essential to demonstrate the impact of the reform on everyone touched by VRS. While friends and family members may not be inclined to file public comment, we should encourage them and all our colleagues to sign petitions in support of a rate differential for certified interpreters in order to protect functional equivalency.

Sign and forward this petition of support to get the ball rolling.

4.    Rally at the FCC

While it may be considered a tactic of the past, civil disobedience in the form of a rally would go far in gaining the attention of the FCC. Let’s be prepared to employ this tactic if it becomes necessary to convince the FCC that we do not intend to be a quiet casualty of the reform.

While I am not familiar with what it takes to organize a rally, I am certainly willing to help.  Anyone interested in helping to organize an effort? If yes, you can Facebook me here.

Donate to the effort by clicking here.

5.    Other Tactics

While I think filing public comments and a rally will go far to gain the attention of the FCC, I do think we should reinforce our plight with the FCC by doing the following:

A. Mobile Billboards. Organize an effort to drive billboards past the FCC reminding them to not forget the sign language interpreter in the reform.

Interested in helping to organize and coordinate this effort? If yes, you can Facebook me here.

Donate to the effort by clicking here.

B. Social Media Blitz. Organize an effort to bring VRS stakeholders together to talk about the impact of the proposed rate reduction on functional equivalency and the ability to hire certified interpreters. Publish the interviews widely.

Interested in helping to organize and coordinate an effort? Know a graphic designer or videographer? If yes, you can Facebook me here.

Donate to the effort by clicking here.

6.    Friends of the Sign Language Interpreter—Political Action Fund

In my mind, it is necessary for sign language interpreters to create and contribute to a fund to lobby congress and the FCC. This will position sign language interpreters to have an independent voice that is free from the politics, economic implications, inexperience and mistrust that has to date prevented interpreters from finding their footing.

Is someone familiar with setting up this type of thing? I have some ideas, but experience would speed up the effort. Interested in organizing, coordinating, and/or donating to the effort? If yes, Facebook me here.

Interested in donating to the effort? Facebook me and I will provide updates if we can get something set up.

Let’s Be Careful

While this is in fact a survival activity, it is important to maintain a level of respect for other VRS stakeholders. By maintaining respect, we are better able to thoughtfully consider how to best achieve our ambitions while maintaining relationships with our partners. It is essential that we remember that this isn’t a zero sum proposition. Each VRS stakeholder can be successful if we remember that every action has a reaction.

In addition to maintaining respect, we would do well to avoid the following:

1.    Knee Jerk Reactions.

We should not give control at the discussion table to anyone but us. Our partners haven’t done well representing our interests at the FCC. It is time for us to marshal our collective genius and do the dirty work we have avoided to date.

2.    Creating Inertia.

Placing the field or ourselves in a position that limits our ability to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing environment.

3.    Avoid Unionization.

We should not unionize. No one can better articulate the impacts of VRS reform without consideration for human performance than the sign language interpreter. Let’s set up a political action fund and do a more effective job without the long-term damage to the ability sign language interpreters have to represent themselves. Not to mention the time period for effective action on VRS rate reform is far too short for such an effort to be successful.

4.    Making it About the Money.

Avoid conversation about this being about money for the sign language interpreter. This is about pushing the FCC to recognize what it takes to offer a functionally equivalent service and the commitment interpreters make to their consumers and careers by pursuing certification.

This is urgent. We are nearly out of time to impact real change.

Let’s avoid engaging in actions that contribute to the erosion of the trust needed for consumers, interpreters, providers, industry associations and the FCC to navigate the reform to positive ends.

Conclusion

While it can be uncomfortable to be faced with the pace of continued change in VRS regulation, let’ not allow our own paralysis to enable the careless treatment of functional equivalency and the devaluation of the credentials and contributions of the sign language interpreter, to go on without adamant opposition.

At the end of the day, our survival in the reform depends on us. If you value your profession, the definition under which you do you work, and the diversity VRS brings sign language interpreting industry, you too have an interest in making your voice heard at the FCC.

While it appears that the FCC is prepared for an acceptable number of casualties in the name of efficiency, will you allow sign language interpreters be found among them?

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4 Obsessions of a Qualified Sign Language Interpreter

Sign Language Interpreter Considering Their Obsessions About the Work

While no two sign language interpreters are identical, there are certain elements of the profession that consume our minds. Brandon Arthur explores four of these preoccupations.

Sign language interpreters come to the profession from a variety of avenues; each possessing a range of life experience that makes their daily work distinct. Though the work from interpreter to interpreter is unique, it occurs to me that there are 4 primary preoccupations shared by qualified practitioners.

Some might consider them obsessions, the non-clinical type of course.

Whether obsessions or preoccupations, qualified sign language interpreters are driven to excellence in their work by 4 dominating thoughts:

1)   Cohesion: It is the role of a sign language interpreter to unite the parties participating in the communication by proactively considering and responding to the specific needs of their consumers, team interpreters, and meeting/event participants and organizers.

The qualified practitioner has fervor for cohesion because they fundamentally understand that a stellar individual performance does not necessarily equate to a job well done. Further, that it is the success of all parties to the communication that ultimately determines if an interpreter has been effective.

2)   Professionalism: It is the duty of a sign language interpreter to ensure they are familiar with both current developments and best practices within the field.

The qualified interpreter is passionate about professionalism because they understand that it is more than a state of mind or verbal declaration. They understand that it is the active pursuit of excellence; one that requires an interpreter to be informed and engaged within the profession and to uphold the social agreements that allow them to do their best work.

3)   Accountability:  It is the ethical obligation of a sign language interpreter to own, in real-time where possible, the inaccuracies found in their work.

The qualified practitioner is resolute in their view that the fear of being viewed to possess an inferior skill-set or to not be invited back to an assignment is insufficient reason to compromise the trust needed to do their work. They summarily avoid this temptation and accept that their best work is not error free and compensate accordingly.

4)    Connectedness: It is the responsibility of a sign language interpreter to recognize that they are part of a larger system of stakeholders.

The qualified interpreter is highly conscious that their actions have an impact on the interpreter that was there both before and after them, and that their actions do have an impact on the broader system of industry stakeholders. Further, they utilize this connectedness to better position themselves to partner with stakeholders to achieve excellence in their work.

A Framework

These obsessions create a framework for an approach to the work that allows a sign language interpreter to cope with the anxiety of confronting new environments, circumstances, and information day in and day out.

Further, it increases the capacity of an interpreter to earn the social currency needed to make adjustments in work environments and achieve consensus among consumers and meeting participants. This is key to their delivering truly remarkable work.

Achieving Excellence

Over the years I have heard interpreters share that a healthy dose of narcissism is necessary to be successful in the field. While I would agree to a point, I do think that a heightened awareness of the dynamics of their working relationships, the level of accountability taken/accepted for their work, and how they connect to the whole of our profession creates an approach to the work that makes certain sign language interpreters more likely to achieve excellence.

After all, and I believe you would agree, people who have achieved something impressive or have made a significant contribution to anything have done so because of a certain level of obsessiveness. I don’t believe achieving success in the sign language interpreting profession to be any different.

What obsessions makeup your framework for success?

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StreetLeverage-Live: A Water Cooler Upgrade for Sign Language Interpreters

Water Cooler in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession

Water Cooler in the Sign Language Interpreting ProfessionAs most sign language interpreters will readily admit, much of the meaningful dialogue they have on the developments within the field occur at the water coolers of the profession—“small talk” sessions with a colleague.

If you are reading this post, you are likely aware, that it is the plight of StreetLeverage to offer interpreters a platform to elevate these conversations into the broader consciousness of the industry.

Underneath the Imperfection

This isn’t news to anyone, but the work occurring with StreetLeverage to amplify these conversations isn’t a perfect work. If you look, not particularly hard, you will find typos, incorrectly sized images, grammatical mistakes, questionable video quality and the like.

Having said that, if you look beyond the platform and it’s imperfection you will find something special; the authentic desire sign language interpreters have to share and genuinely dialogue to the betterment of their field.

This desire leads people to give freely of their time to write articles and initiate and enrich discussions by adding perspective and experience.

These contributions are remarkable.

StreetLeverage – Live

In an effort to honor this authentic desire and extend the platform available to interpreters to dialogue on topics and ideas relevant to the field, I am please to announce the second phase of StreetLeverage, StreetLeverage – Live.

StreetLeverage – Live is a thought leadership event designed to bring together industry visionaries, leaders, educators, entrepreneurs and practitioners to share ideas that foster proactive thinking and dialogue in order to propel the field of sign language interpreting forward.

How Does it Work?

Main Session

The StreetLeverage – Live main session is modeled after the TED speaker series. Meaning, attendees will be engaged by a series of speakers, topics, and live dialogue in a single primary session.

Concurrent Sessions

Following the main session, speakers will present concurrent sessions. These sessions will be a deeper dive of a speaker’s main session talk.

Inaugural Event

I am excited to share that the inaugural StreetLeverage – Live event is scheduled to occur November 10, 2012.  The event has been embedded within the PCRID annual conference being held November 9 – 11, 2012.  Click here for details.

I would like to offer my appreciation for Josh Hughes and Jennifer Bell, PCRID Conference Chairs, and their vision for the conference. You guys are doing yourselves and PCRID proud!

Progressive Thinkers

Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon 

 

 

 

In addition to the PCRID conference leadership, it’s the progressive perspective of people like (left to right above) Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon on giving back to the sign language interpreting profession that enables game changers like StreetLeverage—Live to get started.  As owners of Access Interpreting, and as interpreters, they see true value in open dialogue on issues facing the field.

A hearty thanks to each of them for their leadership, generosity and support of the PCRID conference to enable StreetLeverage—Live to become a reality.

In the End

I have no delusion that StreetLeverage – Live will be perfect work either. With that said, it is my hope that it can play a role in redefining and expanding the platform available to sign language interpreters to engage in meaningful dialogue on the issues we face as a field.

If you have suggestions on how to improve StreetLeverage – Live, or streetleverage.com for that matter, I welcome your feedback.

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Do Sign Language Interpreters Have a Right to a Consumer’s Attention?

Woman questioning whether sign language interpreters have the right to the attention of their consumers

Telling the “right” story is an art sign language interpreters must master to successfully navigate their career. Generosity and the ability to read a room are also important for positive outcomes.

At times it can be very difficult to be a sign language interpreter. We put our reputations on the line each and every day we raise our hands to work. We navigate new environments and new subject matter on a regular basis. We suffer vicariously as a result of inhumane acts. Worse, we do all of this with extremely limited amounts of information.

The resulting—often intense—occupational self-interest, leaves us vulnerable to the notion that people understand why what we do is important, the reason certain practices are critical to our work, and the effort it takes to be a good interpreter.

The Danger

The challenge with this assumption is that it may lead us to the perception that we have the right to the attention of our consumers and the purchaser of our services. Simply, we have the right—or responsibility as the case may be—to prevail upon those we encounter on the job that challenge our practices or take an opposing view of a particular situation in an effort to help them, “get it.”

While we are often victorious in these moments of tactical “education,” the damage found in the aftermath can be significant. These moments can result in the disenfranchisement of our consumers, marginalization of the interests of those who purchase our services, and our succumbing to one or more of The Three Temptations of a Sign Language Interpreter. None of which is good for us individually or collectively as a profession.

An Alternative

If we were to step back and consider the notion that the purchasers of our service are indifferent, though they provide it, to the importance of the work we do as sign language interpreters, does it change our perspective to the right we have to their attention? Or, how we go about earning that attention?

If we consider that the consumers of our service may have little to no interest in the effort it takes to become a professional, qualified, credentialed sign language interpreter, does that change our perspective about right we have to their attention or how we go about earning it?

If as a sign language interpreter, we are faced with indifference, a lack of interest, or a worldview that doesn’t resonate with ours, what do we do to earn the social currency necessary to perform our work?

Tell the Right Story

The answer to this question can be found in an example that exists in every sign language interpreting community around the globe.

In each local interpreting community there is an interpreter who isn’t particularly amazing, they might even be considered below average. Interestingly though they seem to always have work and consumers and purchasers of our service love them. Additionally, these communities also have an interpreter who is incredibly talented and clearly above average when compared to their peers. Yet, they struggle to piece opportunities together.

The difference?

The first likely brings generosity and humility to their work. They understand that the consumers and purchasers of their service don’t owe them attention. In response, this interpreter chooses to tell a story through their approach to and interactions about the work. They tell a story that resonates with those they come in contact with and is considerate of their point of view.

The latter likely brings a perspective that they are owed attention as a result of the investment they have made in their skillset and career. Their story is a story of entitlement. One where the slant goes unchecked, as suggested in Do You Resemble the Sign Language Interpreter in Your Head?

Determine What’s Important

As sign language interpreters, we are good at deciphering meaning. We need to use this skill to determine what’s important to those we serve and those that engage our services. We can do this by evaluating our answers to the following questions:

1.  How is my work and occupational self-interest perceived by those I serve and those who engage my services?

2.  How can my work today best assist consumers and purchasers in accomplishing their ends? How can I demonstrate my understanding of that?

3.  From the consumer and purchaser’s point of view, what adds the most value by my being present today? How can I amplify that?

4.  Whose agenda is the most important in the room? Why? How can I support that agenda?

5.  How can I approach my work to extend ample generosity, demonstrate an appropriate level of humility, and show clarity about my role?

By considering the answer to these questions, we place ourselves in the position of the consumer and purchaser. It offers us a perspective that helps us tell a story through our work that resonates with those we come in contact with while on the job.

At the End of the Day

In the end, let’s remember that as sign language interpreters we are not owed the attention necessary to do our work—we need to earn it. Further, that the consumers and purchasers of our service are engaging us for the story we tell. Let’s be sufficiently generous about how we tell it.

How do you know if you are telling the right story?

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Do You Resemble the Sign Language Interpreter in Your Head?

Do You Resemble the Interpreter in Your Head?

When reviewing our day, our month or our career, it can be tempting to play back the highlights and fast-forward past the less-comfortable scenes. In this article, Brandon Arthur explores the importance of fact-checking our own narratives and embracing the whole story.

Its part of the human experience to tell ourselves a story about the kind of person we are and why we choose to do what we do. This innate storytelling tendency extends to the professional personas we build as sign language interpreters. Have you ever paused to question if you actually resemble the sign language interpreter that you narrate you are in your head?

The Slant

While it’s not a stretch to believe that most of the stories washing over us are being told in support of a particular point of view, it is far more challenging to consider the presence of a slant in the very story we tell ourselves. Particularly, when it may result in a mental throwdown over what we believe the caliber and impact of our work is and what it may actually be. Aaron Brace’s article, The Duality of the Sign Language Interpreter, explores this epic internal struggle.

With that said, I think most would acknowledge that a slant, likely more than one, exists in the story we narrate to ourselves as sign language interpreters. I’m not suggesting that we deliberately weave untrue stories about our work to our consumers and ourselves. Rather, that presence of the slant drives us to only narrate the highlights, even the flattering, and leave the rest in the “not news worthy” pile.

Clearly, with the discretion and autonomy, as highlighted by Anna Witter-Merithew in her article, Sign Language Interpreters: Stepping Out of the Shadow of Invisibility, we have as sign language interpreters, to believe we are the sum our highlight reel is problematic.

Impaired Self-Awareness

In my mind, the most problematic aspect of the presence of a slant in our professional narrative is its ability to impair self-awareness. As any seasoned interpreter can attest, an appropriate level of self-awareness is critical to finding success in the sign language interpreting profession. If we operate while suffering from an impaired awareness of self, we risk exposing our consumers and colleagues to deficits in our ability to:

1)    Appropriately acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations.

You’ve seen it. Damage done. Enough said.

2)    Remain conscious of our biases.

It is easy, when lacking an appropriate level of self-awareness, to allow our preconceptions to infiltrate our interpretation and skew the meaning and intent of an intended communication.

3)    Earn social currency.

Operating without an appropriate level of self-awareness challenges even the best of us to authentically connect with consumers and meeting participants. This prevents us from efficiently navigating unfamiliar environments in order to effectively to our work.

If as sign language interpreters we are operating with these deficits, we position ourselves to make mistakes in our work and ultimately erode the trust needed to successfully deliver an experience worthy of our consumer’s confidence.

Embrace the Slant to Succeed

It occurs to me that in order for us to successfully overcome the slant, we need to embrace it. By embracing it, I am suggesting that we use what we know about it to our advantage.

What do we know? We know the slant enjoys opining on accomplishment. We know if mistakes must be mentioned, it likes them minimized. We know the slant views vulnerability as a public relation nightmare. How do we harness its incessant narcissism to our advantage?

Reframe. Reframe. Reframe.

We need to reframe our failures, shortcomings, and moments of vulnerability so they are “news worthy.” We can do this by viewing:

1)    Daily failures as learning opportunities.

After all, the hero in every story learns important lessons along the way. Let’s recognize the value of these lessons, be honest about needing them, and acknowledge they are to our betterment.

2)    Vulnerability as strength training.

By using moments of vulnerability as an opportunity to genuinely engage our consumers and colleagues to draw on their experience and expertise, we will find sage advice and a connection to something much greater than ourselves—the forward progress of the profession.

3)    Revision as an opportunity.

As the narrator, each of us has the ability and opportunity to rewrite the narrative in our heads—in whole or in part. We should always remind ourselves that we may not have the ability to control the outcome, but we can control how we respond to it.

By choosing to reframe our failures, shortcomings and vulnerabilities we expand the series of “news worthy” events used to define who we are and why we do what we do. In a profession that requires a high level of self-awareness, this is definitely to our advantage.

BTW, the slant finds all of this “news worthy.”

Authenticity Matters

In the end, the type of story we narrate to ourselves as sign language interpreters has a significant impact on the work that we do. While it is not likely that we will ever resemble the sign language interpreter we narrate we are in our heads, we should aspire to resemble an interpreter that is not the measure of their highlight reel, but one who can authentically connect with their consumers and colleagues and deliver an experience worthy of their confidence.

Suggestions on how to keep the slant in check?

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Sign Language Interpreters: A Big StreetLeverage Thank You!

On the first anniversary of StreetLeverage, Brandon Arthur reflects on the past 12 months and takes a moment to thank all who make StreetLeverage possible.

It is surreal to me that this month marks the 12th month that StreetLeverage has been working to amplify the voice of the sign language interpreter. As my mind races in review of the last year, I find myself incredibly grateful for the many people who have encouraged, supported, and contributed to this labor of love.

Readers & Subscribers

To the thousands of you who visit the site each month, thank you. Remaining worthy of your continued attention is the driving force behind the effort to curate and publish quality pieces each week. Your engagement and interest in republishing pieces to your personal networks is amazing. Again, thank you. You are the reason the site exists.

I am keenly interested in your feedback on how to improve the StreetLeverage effort. If you have suggestions on topics, authors, posts and/or how the site can be improved, please send along your feedback. You can do that now by clicking here.

Authors

To you courageous souls who have shared your perspectives and insights, thank you. Your 40+ contributions have created a flashpoint of opportunity for readers to be introspective about the important work that they do and the profession and industry to which they belong. It is in your personal accomplishment and a willingness to share that places StreetLeverage among the most visited blogs on sign language interpreting.

Again, thank you for your remarkable contributions.

For those interested in contributing, I welcome the opportunity to discuss possibilities. If you would consider contributing, please contact me by clicking here.

My Family

To my best friend and life partner, Tara, thank you. Without your encouragement StreetLeverage would still be just a concept rolling around in my head. Your unwavering support makes it all possible. Thank you for sacrificing countless hours over the past year as I have attended to the work of sourcing, editing, publishing, and promoting pieces each week. You are far more than I deserve.

Lessons Learned

In a world where the competition for attention is fierce, I am truly grateful for the many people who have taken an interest in StreetLeverage over the past 12 months. Curating the site has been filled with significant learning, the most important of which is that the attention of subscribers and readers is earned. I have also learned that providence will step in to assist if you take the first step.

I look forward to continuing to curate a discussion worthy of your attention.

Again, to everyone who has contributed to the success of StreetLeverage to date, thank you.

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Failure to Innovate: A Deathblow for Sign Language Interpreting Agencies

How do sign language interpreting agencies survive and thrive in a market where opportunities abound for individual practitioners? Brandon Arthur emphasizes the need for, and understanding of, innovation as it applies to the agency-interpreter partnership.

Is it still an advantage for sign language interpreters to trade a higher hourly rate in exchange for the “benefits” of being represented by an agency? Particularly, given the world is chock-full of affordable DIY (do it yourself) business and connection tools.

While the answer to this question will differ from interpreter to interpreter, the value of this exchange of rate for representation is measured by the currency of convenience. Simply, does working with an agency make it easier for a sign language interpreter to do their work? If yes, good trade. If no, zippy.

Let’s get to the point.

If convenience is the primary factor for a sign language interpreter in determining whether a relationship with an agency is valuable or not, why aren’t agency owners and operators consumed with innovating convenience into their practices and business models? It would make good sense, no? Is it that they don’t care?

The truth? Implementing innovation is yeoman’s work.

There is a Difference

There is an important distinction between the acts of assembling practical, even clever, solutions to a problem and the act of implementing that solution. Assembling—easier. Implementing—harder.

Why is implementing harder? Humans.

3 Inhibitors of Agency Innovation

Unfortunately, it is people that make implementing new solutions to existing challenges difficult. Agency owners and operators—yes, they are people too—unintentionally get in their own way, and the forward progress of their agencies as a result of being trapped by three primary innovation inhibitors. 

Inhibitor One: Perfection is Attainable

All too often agency owners/operators fall victim to perfectionism. They become obsessed with a process or protocol being followed exactly right. In order for convenience innovation to occur and be implemented effectively, it is essential for agency owners and operators to acknowledge innovation is an iterative process.

Unfortunately, perfectionist tendencies frustrate innovation by suggesting that any iterative process of improvement falls short of the ideal and is therefore unworthy of the effort. This results in agency owners and operators stalling in their attempt to innovate.

It is essential that agency leadership get comfortable with the idea that it’s always a little messy in the middle.

Inhibitor Two: Denial of Marketplace Realities

Because the work to implement innovation is difficult, agency owners and operators sometimes deny the existence of changing marketplace realities. Conscious, or not, they do this in order to protect the status quo. A few of the marketplace realities that are currently being denied are:

1)    It is easier and cheaper than ever before to start and operate a small business. The Internet and subscription tools make it easy for sign language interpreters to establish a large virtual presence and compete for customers.

2)    Social networks empower sign language interpreters with access to vast amounts of instructional information and serve as gathering places to exchange knowledge, practices, and ideas—all of which make them formidable competitors.

3)    The weak economy is causing under-employment within the sign language interpreting industry, which makes starting a small, privateer business a strong employment option for sign language interpreters.

The denial of marketplace realities, regardless of what they are, challenges any need to depart from the status quo. Unfortunately, it also perpetuates the poo-pooing of any need to rethink how business is getting done. This is particularly true as it relates to creating additional value for the sign language interpreter.

Owners/operators with their heads in the sand are unable to lead (i.e. implement) from the front. Maybe a lesson from a sidewalk-executive is in order? 

Inhibitor Three: A Biased Perspective

Inhibitor three is the most difficult to overcome. Often it is the inaccurate perception of their own work that prevents agency owners/operators from implementing innovation. This biased perspective preoccupies managers with their historical intent of implementing systems and practices and prevents them from critically evaluating if that system truly delivers value for a sign language interpreter.

To overcome this bias, and implement successfully, agency owners and operators have to find the courage necessary to seek answers to hard questions. Questions like, what do interpreters really care about? Is what we are doing effective? What would it take for us to do [insert practice or process] better?

It takes a secure manager to check their bias and critically evaluate their practices. It takes a leader to do that and then successfully implement. 

Tips for Innovating Value

The good news is implementing innovative solutions successfully can be learned. To that end, agency owners/operators need to remember, there will be no proof that the iterative adjustments made will succeed. Innovating is a strategic choice to deliver a better experience. The following may prove helpful when choosing to innovate and working to implement those innovations.

1)    Create with the sign language interpreter in mind. Owners/operators need to take time to observe the behaviors of the interpreters engaging with their agency. Understanding social, professional, cultural and emotional drivers is key to improving their experience. Recognize that both the sign language interpreter and the business can win.

2)    Recognize limitations. When identifying process improvement opportunities, Owner/operators need to work within their agency’s ability to support the change. There is little worse than when an “innovation” makes a challenging process more cumbersome.

3)    Stop asking sign language interpreters what they want. Owners/operators need ask what concerns or bothers them about the business or its practices. Then watch where the interpreter experience suffers and fix it.

4)    Remember, there are no best practices. Because the competition conducts business in a certain way, doesn’t mean a “me too!” approach is in order. Think outside the box!

A Word of Advice

A suggestion to agency owners and operators, when pitching the rate trade for agency representation to a sign language interpreter, don’t position standards as value adds.

I believe sign language interpreters would agree that, online systems, training for CEUs, direct deposit, and reimbursement for professional dues/fees are operating standards, not differentiators.

In my mind, these are not reasons interpreters ultimately choose to align themselves with an agency.

In the End

Agencies who overcome the tangles of implementing innovations will successfully survive—even thrive. Others will find the blow of failing to innovate to be too much and will wither on the vine. At the end of the day, sign language interpreters vote with their feet. Limited number of interpreters, limited success. Yes, it is that simple.

Sign language interpreters are looking for industry entrepreneurs to introduce the next wave of innovation, even social disruption, within the sign language interpreting industry. Who’s going to be?

Sign language interpreters, what innovations would you like to see most within the agencies you work alongside?

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5 Ways Sign Language Interpreters Can Stay Inspired

Feel like your professional practice is running on empty? Brandon Arthur suggests five ways sign language interpreters can refill their tank and find renewed motivation.

How do you sustain the passion for your work as a sign language interpreter? This is a question interpreters’ and those that employ them are asking, particularly during these times of uncertainty and anxiety.

Whether you have found yourself on the receiving end of a salary reduction or are considered an artist in demand by your sign language interpreter peers, each of us experience moments in our career when we need a renewed sense of motivation.

Is the answer simply to reach inside and stir the goo that is responsible for leading us to the field of sign language interpreting? Unfortunately, the issue of reigniting passion is never simple.

How to Keep the Fire Alive

What follows are five considerations when you find yourself in need of an injection of passion for the profession we love and the important work sign language interpreters do.

Frame.  Put your “daily grind” in the right context.

When considering your daily motivation for the work, it is important to consider the context in which you evaluate your contribution. If you were to compare your 45-minute assignment at the local Post Office to working a meeting of international WASLI & WFD collaborators, you might feel as though there isn’t much to be passionate about.

Alternatively, if you put your work into the context of the person you are working with you find a different system of value. To the person at the Post Office, this 45-minute meeting may mean the difference between being able to fund their child’s college education and not. To them, your work may mean the difference. If you lack motivation, one place to find it is in the eyes of those you work with.

How do you endeavor to maintain the proper context for your work?

Create.  Develop meaningful relationships.

The sign language interpreting profession is entirely about relationships. Should you be plagued with low levels of inspiration for the work, ask yourself if you are truly connecting with your interpreter colleagues and the consumers you work in support of.

If you’re failing to consistently making these micro-investments in humanity, make it a point to do so. The time spent building relationships of trust with colleagues and consumers will not only assist you in providing better service in the moment, but will also serve to connect you to like-minded people interested in positive outcomes. Similar to iron sharpening iron, to connect is to inspire.

How do you work to create relationships of trust with your fellow sign language interpreter and the consumers you serve?

Give.  Make the time to give back.

There is tremendous power invoked by the act of giving. As sign language interpreters, the act of giving of our services is unequaled in its ability to reignite the passion we have for the work we do.

By giving, we acknowledge the karma of gratitude in bringing us to this point in our careers. This acknowledgement appropriately puts into context—at least subconsciously—the good fortune and enrichment received daily working as a sign language interpreter. When grateful for our position, we are easily able to overcome the inertia of entitlement and become the inspiration we need.

Why is giving important to you?

Teach.  Find opportunities to pay it forward.

Mentoring relationships, formal or informal, provide developing and seasoned sign language interpreters with a valuable source of support. Regardless of where we are in our professional development, taking the time to act as a mentor is a surefire way to reconnect us with our passion for the profession.

The act of mentoring elicits an awareness of the challenges and temptations we have overcome and the skill building we have invested in to get to this point in our careers. Consciously considering this iterative, transformational process reminds us that the joy is in the journey. By sharing these small victories as mentors, we lend propulsion to individual interpreters and the sign language interpreting profession as a whole. In so doing, we become a body in motion.

In what ways has your mentor, formal or informal, motivated you?

Ponder.  Take time away to gain or regain perspective.

Clearly, life and professional priorities will vary from sign language interpreter to sign language interpreter, but the result of taking time to evaluate and refocus on these priorities will reinvigorate our motivation for the work.

It shouldn’t be a secret that the sign language interpreter who has their priorities calibrated is more effective in their daily work and more adept at surviving a professional shakedown. This clarity helps them identify the symptoms of their waning motivation and quickly act to blunt its progression. The result is that these sign language interpreters maintain higher levels of motivation throughout their careers, which ultimately accounts for greater career satisfaction.

When was the last time you took time away to ponder your priorities? 

Life Manifests What We Think About

Life has a funny way of manifesting what we think about; so if you are feeling uninspired about the work you do as a sign language interpreter, I would encourage you to embrace the 5 considerations offered above. These considerations are intended to adjust our thinking in regard to the daily contributions we make by placing our work in the appropriate context. Further, they are to remind us of the importance of remaining connected to one’s true motivation for the work.

You can do a lot to stay inspired, but when finding yourself unmotivated don’t be too hard on yourself. Expecting to never feel uninspired is not realistic. When feeling uninspired pick one of the 5 considerations above and focus on it until you are comfortable taking on another one. Over time you will find the passion return for the work you love and the community that makes it possible.

What do you do to reignite your passion for the work?