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UpCycling the CPC: Role Space and the Reasonable Interpreter Standard

UpCycling the CPC

In search of the “Reasonable Interpreter Standard”… Re-thinking the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct with a fresh look at current best practices, recognition of role-space, advocacy and social media ethics.

Hurray! The RID Code of Professional Conduct Review Committee report came out on 6/23/2015! Many of us are eagerly awaiting a revised CPC. After reading through it, I felt inspired to sit down and draft a document which constitutes my approach to the intricacies of ethical practice, both philosophically and pragmatically, in my daily community sign language interpreting work.

[Click to view post in ASL]

This proposed draft is the fruit of fantastic input from a variety of sources (listed below) and also from the sometimes painful juxtaposition of the perceived proper role of a professional interpreter and an outdated CPC. As an interpreter who works for a variety of agencies and entities over a large geographic area, this proposed CPC is more compatible with my collective experiences over the past 26 years as an ASL interpreting practitioner and attempts to address many of the concerns raised in the recent CPC Review Committee report.

Your input and perspectives are invaluable! Share your thoughts on this important topic that has far reaching implications for individual interpreters and the community at large.

Thank you!

Code of Professional Conduct for ASL Interpreters (DRAFT)

Preamble

Interpreting is an art and service profession. Interpreters work to provide access for individuals who do not share a common language or language mode. To demonstrate their commitment to the technical as well as relational components of the work to remove language barriers, respect cultural norms and promote shared communication, RID Certified American Sign Language Interpreters shall adhere to the following professional standards that both guide interpreter conduct and protect the public trust in certified interpreters.

Applicability

All RID Certified Interpreters are bound to comply with this Code of Ethics. Interpreting students and interns are encouraged to adhere to this Code as pre-professionals, in conjunction with supervision by RID Certified interpreters, mentors and instructors.

Tenets

1.  Accurate and Complete Interpretation

Each participant’s source language should be faithfully rendered in a manner that conserves and conveys all meaningful elements of the speaker’s message and intent into the target language. A natural prosody that reflects the tone, style and register of the speaker should be employed. The interpreter shall strive for the highest standards of accuracy to enable the parties to clearly communicate with one another and avoid misunderstandings. The interpreter shall make repairs promptly and discreetly. If at any point an interpreter is unable to fulfill this tenet, the interpreter has a duty to either decline or remove her/himself from the assignment. Sight translation of forms and documents is within the scope of practice. Consecutive, simultaneous, team or relay interpreting with an intermediary interpreter are all valid approaches to this task, and the interpreter shall use professional discernment to request a team interpreter to effectuate communication.

2.  Commitment to Autonomy

The interpreter shall constantly strive to support full autonomy of the participants. While some situations may require the interpreter to make adjustments such as improved positioning, lighting or other logistical considerations, the primary focus will be to facilitate  participant autonomy. The interpreter shall avoid interjecting actively into the conversation or message. Exceptions include utterances which constitute social pleasantries, responding to direct questions, management of the interpreted interaction such as checking in with the parties to ensure the interpretation is clearly conveyed and accessible, clarification of content and professional courtesies.   Interpretation is a group activity creating a shared experience, and the interpreter has a duty to interact in ways that are socially responsive, culturally and linguistically inclusive and also maintain an overarching commitment to participant autonomy.

3.  Confidentiality

Privileged or confidential information acquired in the course of interpreting or preparing for an assignment shall not be disclosed by the interpreter without authorization. Data and records shall be handled using current industry standards including password protected computer files, locked cabinets and shredding of obsolete documents. HIPAA laws or any other federal, state or local laws governing information management shall be adhered to strictly. Interpreters work in a variety of settings for a variety of entities. Case studies, which are representative of repeated occurrences within interpreted interactions over time, can be shared with peers for the purpose of analysis and professional development in the same manner that other professionals conduct continuing education with the goal of improved service outcomes. Interpreters may make public comment on public information.

4.  Professional Demeanor

Interpreters shall conduct themselves in a professional manner that engenders respect for all parties. This applies to standards of dress which are conducive to a visually accessible interpretation. For most interactions business casual is appropriate. Identification such as a badge is recommended to assist the parties in readily identifying the working interpreter.  Examples of professional conduct include prompt confirmation of availability, fulfillment of confirmed assignments and punctuality. The interpreter shall maintain appropriate professional boundaries and separate personal from work interactions out of respect for all parties. Social media shall be used judiciously with consideration for all parties with particular attention to maintenance of standards of confidentiality. Obtain permission from all parties before posting shared experiences on social media or online.

5. Collegiality

Interpreters shall strive to work effectively, professionally and in good faith with all colleagues, mentoring partners, interpreting interns and students. Team interpreters shall caucus as needed before, during and post-assignment to ensure an optimal interpretation. Colleagues shall be approached directly, privately, one-on-one, to address any concerns or breaches of ethical conduct. Filing of grievances shall be made only after all other standard conflict resolution methods have been unsuccessful. Every effort shall be made to maintain open, accountable and positive relationships with peers that support full communication access for all parties.

6.  Preparation

Interpreters shall make all necessary efforts to prepare adequately for assignments. This includes obtaining preparation materials such as speeches, meeting agendas, documents, textbooks, police reports, etc., that will promote the most complete and accurate interpretation.

7.  Conflicts of Interest and Role-Space

Interpreters shall avoid conflicts of interest and dual roles which result in diminished capacity to devote full attention to the task of interpreting. The concept of a conflict of interest is well established, and interpreters shall adhere to norms of conflict of interest avoidance, both perceived and actual. Unanticipated conflicts of interest shall be disclosed to the parties promptly. Complete neutrality, or the absence of vested interest is not achievable.  Interpreters are dedicated to effective communication for all parties. However, interpreters can commit to fully participate in the role-space of interpreter to facilitate communication in order to support the parties in reaching their mutual goals of shared exchange.

8.  Professional Development

Interpreters shall maintain RID certification, completing required CEUs within each cycle, and also engage in supplemental continuing education, mentoring, pro-bono work, etc., to promote the furtherance of knowledge and skills within a framework of social justice. Membership and participation in professional organizations is strongly encouraged.

9.  Advocacy and Resource Referral

Interpreters are in a unique position as functional bi-cultural bilinguals. Interpreters shall provide referrals to available and appropriate community resources to support equal access. Interpreters may engage in advocacy services in settings that are separate from the interpreting function and that fall within standards of acceptable professional conduct and do not constitute a conflict of interest.

10.  Functional Maintenance

Interpreting is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. Interpreters shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that all members of the interpreting team have adequate supports, including breaks, to promote health and longevity in the interpreting field. Interpreters shall decline or discontinue assignments if working conditions are not safe, healthy or conducive to interpreting.

11.  Business Practices

Interpreters shall adhere to the highest standards of ethical business practices which include but are not limited to accurate invoicing, charging reasonable fees for services rendered which constitute a livable wage, payment of taxes, maintenance of licenses and professional liability insurance, etc. Interpreters shall engage in pro-bono interpreting. Interpreters shall refrain from using confidential interpreted information for personal, monetary or professional gain or for the benefit or gain of personal or professional affiliations or entities. Interpreters shall avoid interpreting in settings which involve payment terms that are inconsistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other federal or state law or local statute prohibiting discrimination.

12.  RID ED: K-12

RID Certified ED: K-12 interpreters shall adhere to the most current version of the EIPA Guidelines of Professional Conduct for Educational Interpreters when working in K-12 educational settings.

13.  Court Certified Interpreters

Legal interpreters have an additional level of ethical accountability to the courts and judicial system. Interpreters qualified to work in legal settings by either federal or state regulations or by virtue of RID legal credentialing shall prioritize the applicable court interpreter oath and timely access to due process. Legal interpreters shall strive to comply with current best practices and make statements on the record, requests, disclosures and recommendations that represent current best practices for legal interpreters.

14.  Adherence to Federal, State and Local Law

Interpreters shall abide by all federal, state and local laws which supersede this Code of Professional Conduct.   Interpreters shall fulfill all mandatory reporting duties and respond to subpoenas.

Reasonable Interpreter Standard

No illustrative behaviors are included. All tenets shall be considered using the reasonable professional interpreter standard. If an action, engaged in repeatedly, would promote:

  1. increased autonomy of the parties
  2. effective communication exchanges
  3. encourage public trust in the interpreter’s services

by actions taken in good faith effort adherence to these core tenets, the behavior should characterize that of a reasonable professional interpreter. For further assistance, please contact the RID Ethics Committee.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Forget about dream vacations…What is your dream CPC?
  2. How do you want to see social media addressed collectively?
  3. Why is a succinct CPC preferable to a 5 page test-prep document?

 

References:

Llewellyn-Jones, P. & R.G. Lee (2014) Redefining the Role of the Community interpreter: The concept of role-space. Carlton-le-Moorland, UK: SLI Press.

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.

EIPA: Guidelines for Professional Conduct

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q (2011). Context-based ethical reasoning in interpreting: A demand control schema perspective. Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 5(1), 155-182.

 

Collegial Assistance:

Thank you to Xenia Woods, along with the Street Leverage staff, for their willingness to review and provide feedback and edits on this submission! Thank you also to Mr. Ed Alletto for his insightful legal trainings and gentle but direct prompting.

Footnotes:

Q:  Why aren’t there any definitions?
A: Unnecessary as this applies to the RID Certified Interpreters.

Q: Why not include the section about “representing qualifications accurately”?
A: Because it is already illegal to misrepresent yourself and this CPC only applies to RID Certified Interpreters

Q:  Why not address VRI/VRS?
A: Unnecessary as this applies to RID Certified interpreters regardless of venue.  Employment requirements are separate from a Code of Professional Conduct, which applies to members of a professional group.

Q:  Why not more illustrative behaviors?
A:  A CPC should be succinct.  This covers the core tenets and should be interpreted using the reasonable interpreter standard, which this version makes more explicit and should strengthen the application of this CPC.   It is not possible to list all applicable illustrative behaviors. It is possible to provide ethical principles with guidelines for making determinations that will result in ethical conduct.  See Model Code of Professional Responsibility for Interpreters in the Judiciary for an example of this format.

Q: Why not discuss the Demand Control Schema?
A: In my opinion, DCS is a is a tool used to manage the interpreting interactions, but is not appropriate in a CPC. Individuals can engage in behaviors that do not match up with the CPC, and then state a need to use certain controls because of demands that are the result of earlier poor choices that could have been avoided. The CPC should stand above the DCS, which then can be used to comply with the CPC. [Edit 8/6/15.]

Q: Why not include a separate tenet for medical interpreters?
A: This may be necessary at a future date if a separate medical certification is added by RID.  At the moment this CPC along with HIPAA laws and contracting terms provide sufficient ethical guidance. (For example: no unsupervised access to clients, and stepping out of exam rooms when patients need additional privacy.)

Q: Why not make this binding for students/interns?
A:  The CPC can only be binding for certified members, who can participate in grievance procedures, be sanctioned and have their professional certifications suspended or revoked. Students may, for example, have a course requirement to adhere to the CPC in order to participate in an internship placement, but do not have a professional duty to adhere to the CPC until achieving certified status.  The number of non-RID certified interpreters working in the field continues to decline, as states adopt requirements for licensure that are predicated upon RID certification. The onus is on the RID Certified interpreter to guide the student/intern to adhere to the CPC.  See the ABA Model Rules for Professional Conduct Rule 5.3 for an example of this supervisory relationship.

 

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Sign Language Interpreter for Hire: Ethics of Direct-Pay ADA Violations

Sign Language Interpreter for Hire: Ethics of Direct-Pay ADA Violations

Proposal to standardize RID Certified ASL interpreter response to surcharges to Deaf/Hard of Hearing or Deafblind clients for auxiliary aids by places of public accommodation in compliance with ADA law.

[Click to view post in ASL]

What motivates interpreters to continue in this field for decades? Lately, I have been reflecting on how integral and motivating social justice is to an ongoing passion for interpreting. Long days, solo days…days when you really do a good job and days when there is much room for improvement.

With both hands on the ruby frame of social justice, I would like to posit a question to our sign language interpreting community, in the hopes of challenging tacit understanding and stimulating dialogue that leads to change at the national RID-NAD CPC level.

(Note: The scenario below is offered as a case study, and is not representative of any particular encounter.)

The Scenario

You arrive to interpret for a client in a court-ordered setting. The per-session rates for the one-on-one and group meetings are posted on the treatment center lobby wall.  The client informs you upon arrival that the cost was excessive, more than double the rate paid by the general public, and had to be made in cash. You respond by offering to interpret for the client and office staff to sort out the perplexing payment issue. The office staff confirms that payments include a substantial surcharge for the interpreting costs including the agency referral fee and cannot be adjusted.  In sinking “Oh no…” shock, you interpret the remainder of the appointment and are left to drive home and ponder what actions can be taken as a RID certified sign language interpreter with a duty to conduct your practice in an ethical manner. A vision of Anna Witter-Merithew gently invoking the mantra “Do No Harm” comes to mind. Your considerations are within the framework of an ADA violation that is unwelcomed by the D/HH/DB client who vehemently does not want to be paying more than the general public for a public accommodation service.

How is an RID certified interpreter to respond?

(Note: the scenario below is offered as a case study, and is not representative of any particular encounter.)

Interpreter A – Response

My job is to interpret. The payment situation is not my issue to address. While I may not agree with it, it is between the D/HH/DB person and the treatment center to work out the financial details. I can encourage the person to contact the local advocacy agency, provide information on the ADA and resources such as the NAD website, and provide contact information for the state Administrative Office of the Courts. To withdraw from the situation would be presumptuous and a demonstration of audism because I would be taking away the D/HH/DB person’s right to pay for services, which would be condescending, a form of advocacy, an interjection of my personal opinion, and inappropriate. I cite the CPC…tenets 2.5, 2.6 and 3.3 as the basis of my ethical decision making process. I continue to interpret weekly meetings for many months, until the treatment is completed, receiving payment for my interpreting services via paychecks from an interpreter referral agency. I am confident other RID certified sign language interpreters would respond similarly.

2.5          Refrain from providing counsel, advice, or personal opinions.

2.6          Judiciously provide information or referral regarding available interpreting or community resources without infringing upon consumers’ rights.

3.3          Avoid performing dual or conflicting roles in interdisciplinary (e.g. educational or mental health teams) or other settings.

Interpreter B – Response

It is unethical for me to collect a paycheck that includes payment in violation of the federal ADA laws prohibiting discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities. I contact the interpreter referral agency and inform them I cannot continue to interpret because the D/HH/DB person is paying out of pocket for interpreting costs in violation of federal ADA law, and it is unethical for me to continue interpreting under the CPC as an RID certified sign language interpreter. I emphasize that when payments are confirmed to be ADA compliant, I will be happy to resume interpreting, but cannot in good conscience accept payment and so must reluctantly withdraw my services. I recognize this puts the D/HH/DB person in a difficult situation, but see my continued interpreting as complicit in discriminatory practices. I approach the board of the local interpreter referral agency and ask them to put a policy in place, if one does not already exist, that requires ADA compliant payment arrangements consistent with federal law, in order to protect sign language interpreters from being replaced and in support of the right to equal access for the Deaf community. I provide a slate of resources to the Deaf client, including state laws regulating court-ordered treatment.  I cite the CPC including tenets 2.6, 3.7, 4.4, 6.3, 6.5, 6.8, 7.2 and Applicability B. I am confident other RID certified sign language interpreters will respond similarly.

2.6          Judiciously provide information or referral regarding available interpreting or community resources without infringing upon consumer’s rights.

3.7          Disclose to parties involved any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

4.4          Facilitate communication access and equality, and support the full interaction and independence of consumers.

6.3          Promote conditions that are conducive to effective communication, inform the parties involved if such conditions do not exist, and seek appropriate remedies.

6.5          Reserve the option to decline or discontinue assignments if working conditions are not safe, healthy or conducive to interpreting.

6.8          Charge fair and reasonable fees for the performance of interpreting services and arrange for payment in a professional and judicious manner.

7.2          Keep abreast of laws, policies, rules, and regulations that affect the profession.

Applicability B: Federal, state or other statutes or regulations may supersede this Code of Professional Conduct. When there is a conflict between this code and local, state, or federal laws and regulations, the interpreter obeys the rule of law.

ADA law: CFR 28 Section 36.301(c) Charges. A public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as provision of auxiliary aids, barrier removal, alternatives to barrier removal, and reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act or this part.

Sign Language Interpreter for Hire: Accepting Self-pay Terms

While this is a sample case study, it is not an isolated scenario. Most sign language interpreters, at some point in their career, will be approached by a D/HH/DB client wanting to direct-pay, and will need to make a determination to accept or decline those payment terms. For example, an interpreter may accept direct payment for a private family event such as a bridal shower or family reunion, but decline payment for a funeral, offering to interpret pro-bono. Neither of those situations are “places of public accommodation” under the ADA. However, there are situations that are blatant ADA violations. For example, an interpreter may decline to interpret for a driver’s education course as a direct-pay situation, knowing that the private driving instructional school has the duty to provide auxiliary aids including sign language interpreting services for education access, and is repeatedly discriminating by expecting the Deaf person to “bring a friend” to interpret the 8 week course. Or perhaps an attorney refuses to provide a sign language interpreter in a civil case, insisting that the Deaf witness self-hire an interpreter directly or depend on family members to interpret in order to participate alongside co-petitioners.

Profiting From Discrimination

Is it appropriate for one RID certified interpreter to recognize discriminatory practices and decline to participate, only to be replaced by other RID certified interpreters who believe it is outside the scope of practice for an interpreter to take a stand against direct discrimination from which the interpreter profits? What about referral agency responsibility to support equal access for the Deaf Community and ethical business practices of sub-contracting interpreters? Shouldn’t sign language interpreters and referral agencies be the first to recognize and reject profit from overtly discriminatory practices, modeling the daily efforts to educate the public on the requirements of the ADA law and equal access?

Input from an Attorney Interpreter Ally

Daryl Crouse is a well-respected, dedicated sign language interpreter and practicing attorney in Long Beach, California. He graciously agreed to provide his perspective on this issue. Here is an excerpt from his response:

I appreciate my colleagues’ initiative of this much needed discussion. Her work adds to and improves the profession. I believe we agree: it is wrong for a public accommodation to coerce a Deaf person into paying for our service in circumvention of the law.

Such that the Deaf person is coerced into paying for interpreting services; the Department of Justice has stated unequivocally a “public accommodation cannot coerce or attempt to persuade another adult to provide effective communication for the individual with a disability.”1 Thus, an ally would not stand silently while someone is coerced against their will to do something. Similarly, an ally takes their cue from others, careful to stand with and not in front of.

An alternate statement of the illustrative behavior may be: “An interpreter may refuse to accept an assignment when reasonably certain a public accommodation is passing on the cost of interpreting services to Deaf individuals as a surcharge. The interpreter should consult with the Deaf person to confirm their decision to self-pay is made [free of coercion.]” The expected behavior is directly linked to a specific fact. Linking to a specific fact provides clarity and would likely survive an enforcement challenge. Also, a dialogue with the Deaf person as to coercion and not the reason for their choice to self-pay the interpreter respects their right to privacy.

Standardizing Our Response

I would like to propose addressing this issue directly in our NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct, and remove any ambiguity for RID certified sign language interpreters. It would be a very simple fix. Add a Business Practices Illustrative Behavior 6.9  Support ADA compliant payment and remove oneself from assignments in which a consumer is being directly charged for interpreting services in places of public accommodation, in compliance with CFR 28 Section 36.301(c). 

Share your thoughts. What is a professional, ethical response to a known, verified ADA payment violation?  What actions best support a social justice framework and outcomes?

Questions to Consider

1.  Why is it important that as sign language interpreters we standardize our responses? How does this benefit the Deaf Community? The public? The interpreting community?  What harm is done when we do not standardize our responses?
2.  Why is being complicit in discriminatory coercive practices incompatible with RID professional standards?
3.  Under what circumstances would you agree to direct payment arrangements with the D/HH/DB individual or group?

Related StreetLeverage Posts

Social Justice: An Obligation for Sign Language Interpreters?  by David Coyne

Social Justice: A New Model of Practice for Sign Language Interpreters? by David Coyne

Beyond Ethics: Rules Versus Values for Sign Language Interpreters by Amy Meckler

References

1 http://www.ada.gove/regs2010/titleIII_2010_regulations.htm#subpartc (last visited January 15, 2015)

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Interpreting Without a Deaf Interpreter is an RID CPC Violation

Interpreting Without a Deaf Interpreter is an RID CPC Violation

Potentially life-altering situations and settings call for the skills of a Deaf interpreter, however their provision is inconsistent. Kelby Brick suggests that a shift in paradigm and policy is needed to ensure the consistent presence of CDIs.

Crackers or crack cocaine? If a potential Deaf witness used a signed reference to crackers during a police interview, would you immediately understand the meaning? Fortunately, in this situation, the hearing interpreter (who was top-notch) knew enough to team up with a Deaf interpreter who immediately figured out that the witness was not talking about the food cracker but about crack cocaine. Because of the presence of the Deaf-Hearing interpreting team, effective communication occurred.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Unfortunately, thousands of Deaf people experience serious settings and situations without the services of an interpreter team made up of a Deaf interpreter and a hearing team interpreter. This exclusion of the Deaf interpreter results in unnecessary life-altering experiences for Deaf individuals. A new ethical and financial paradigm is needed to ensure the presence of Deaf interpreters in those settings and situations.

Excluding Deaf interpreters in these setting/situations is a violation of the CPC.

Why The Resistance?

It Requires Hearing Interpreter Involvement

Hearing interpreters worry that if they ask for a Deaf team interpreter, they will be perceived as incompetent[i] even though the very best interpreters recognize that even they need Deaf interpreters. Carla Mathers, a renowned practicing attorney and interpreter remarked recently in a StreetLeverage presentation, “My best interpretation, however, will never equal the value, skills and contributions of a Deaf interpreter.”[ii]

These hearing interpreters are also concerned about losing the assignment to a less competent or less ethical interpreter who could perhaps do greater damage. They may also be unaware of settings or situations that mandate the use of a CDI. As a result, they just plow ahead and hope for the best.

The National Consortium of Interpreter Education Center stated that “the initial determination is left to the [hearing] interpreter, it is of critical importance that legal interpreters undertake this analysis and to subordinate any feelings of inadequacy in the event that a deaf interpreter would be able to assist, improve or enhance the quality of the interpretation. The decision to recommend a deaf interpreter is an indication of professionalism, not a sign of incompetence.”[iii][iv]

RID Must Revise their Definition of a CDI

The realities highlighted above make it difficult to implement the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct (CPC), which makes it clear that hearing interpreters need to ensure the presence of a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) in specific settings and situations.  However, CPC Illustrative Behaviors 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.6, 4.1 and 6.3 are all places where one could make a case that the exclusion of Deaf interpreters is a violation.

First and foremost, the current RID Standard Practice Paper “Use of a Certified Deaf Interpreter” must be updated. This version is antiquated and perpetuates the myth that a CDI is needed only in unusual situations where the “communication mode of a deaf consumer is so unique that it cannot be adequately accessed by interpreters who are hearing.” Historically, Deaf interpreters have been involved in all types of communication situations long before the establishment of RID or interpreter training programs, effectively navigating between languages and providing important cultural perspectives and experiences that make an interpretation more accurate.

Systemic Bias

Two of the common reasons for the ongoing systematic failure to include Deaf interpreters in those settings and situations are as follows:

1)      The payer of the services will seek the lowest bidder, or

2)      The hearing interpreter is burdened with decision of whether to bring in a Deaf interpreter and worried about the various possible negative consequences that could result from a request for a Deaf team interpreter.

We recognize that courts, police departments, hospitals and other entities often seek the lowest price structure for interpreters. Bidders of those contracts, whether by interpreting agencies or by free-lance sign language interpreters, are thus incentivized to exclude Deaf interpreters in their proposals in order to win those contracts. [v] As a result, the Deaf consumer frequently suffers and is impacted negatively.

How to Resolve the Problem

Hearing interpreters work in various life-altering situations on a daily basis without the presence of Deaf interpreters. Excluding Deaf interpreters in those settings or situations is a violation of the CPC. The question now is how can we make it easier for ethical interpreters to uphold the CPC in their business practices? A solution is desperately needed here.

We propose a new standard practice paper by the Registry of Interpreters that would require interpreting contracts to automatically establish the presence of Deaf interpreters in specific situations.

The revised standard practice paper should clearly state that it is unethical to place hearing interpreters without deaf interpreters in defined settings. The standard practice paper would also clearly define best practices which would automatically include Deaf interpreters from the onset for any contracts with hospitals, courts, and other legal settings.[vi] The standard practice paper would then tie the CPC into the hearing interpreter’s obligation to automatically require a Deaf interpreter team in those specific settings.

With this new standard practice paper in place, agencies bidding for contracts can confidently include the use of Deaf interpreters in their proposals and point out that competitor proposals without the inclusion of Deaf interpreters are unethical, illegitimate and represent a violation of RID standard practices and also violate the CPC.

This structure will relieve the hearing interpreter of the burden of assessing the linguistic need of the Deaf consumer, the burden of trying to suggest that a Deaf interpreter is necessary and avoid the awkwardness of trying to explain that the presence of a Deaf interpreter does not reflect on the interpreting skills of the hearing interpreter.  With this structure built into the contracts, agencies can more confidently send Deaf interpreters without worrying about the additional expenses.

Pioneering Radical Change

The California court system’s approach to Deaf interpreters is one place to build on for models elsewhere. The Administrative Office of the Courts in California establishes the presumption that a Deaf interpreter is needed for much broader scenarios including dealing with juveniles or dealing with adults with mental health issues. The Courts also state that CDIs are necessary when dealing with a Deaf person who “relies on uniquely deaf experiences that are unfamiliar to the hearing interpreter.”[vii]

This last line recognizes that CDI is necessary in almost all settings and situations. Accordingly, the California Court states that a Deaf interpreter should be

provided in all civil and criminal actions in which the service is needed for effective communication and in which the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual is a party or witness in a case. These include traffic or other infractions, small claims court proceedings, juvenile court proceedings, family court proceedings, hearings to determine mental competency, and court-ordered or court-provided alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration.”[viii]      

The Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre (DHCC) in Southeast Pennsylvania spells out from the onset that a Deaf/hearing interpreting team is automatically used in “major life-altering situations such as legal and mental health assignments.”[ix] DHCC explains further that

“Police and medical emergencies can have life-altering consequences. Therefore, a Deaf/hearing team of interpreters is usually required to ensure accurate, effective communication. This team approach has proven to be the most effective way to handle police and medical emergencies especially when the communication skills of the Deaf person are unknown.”[x]

Instead of being an exception, DHCC’s model should be the rule across the country. The first step needed to make that happen is the revision of the standard practice paper issued by RID. In the meantime, we urge ethical hearing interpreters and interpreter agencies to take the initiative to comply with the CPC and start requiring the automatic presence of Deaf interpreters in “life-altering” situations.[xi] We also invite readers to participate in dialogue to modify the current interpreter model to mandate the presence of Deaf interpreters in order to ensure Deaf individuals have accurate and effective communications in any setting. We also encourage readers to share this article with local interpreting agencies and institutions (such as the court, hospitals and police) to spark conversations on how they can start routinely ensuring the presence of CDIs along with hearing interpreters in those life-altering settings.

The use of CDIs in specific settings and situations should be the standard and normal practice. Just like a general medical practitioner would bring in specialized doctors (a cardiologist, for example) for some common situations, a hearing interpreter should bring in a specialized (Deaf) interpreter in some common situations.  The skilled Deaf interpreter has contextual and cultural competency that far exceeds hearing interpreters’ ability to fully provide cultural and linguistic access to the Deaf user in situations that are typically at high risk for life-altering experiences.

The National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC) has published a document, Deaf Interpreters in Court: An Accommodation that is More than Reasonable, that provides various citations where “deaf interpreters have proven their worth.”[xii] The evidence in this document and other documents cited here regarding the need for Deaf interpreters in specific settings and situations is overwhelming.

NCIEC has already outlined best practices for interpretation in court and legal settings, stating that deaf interpreters should be present in all court and legal settings and situations involving a deaf party, especially if deaf minors are involved.[xiii] This should go without saying:

Deaf interpreters should automatically be called for legal or medical situations. 

Who Can Help and What Can They Do?

Interpreter agencies and hearing sign language interpreters need to be insistent in requiring the presence of Deaf interpreters in specific settings and situations.  Interpreters (and agencies) need to turn down contracts that would put Hearing interpreters in the role of enabling oppression of Deaf individuals through their failure to ensure effective communications.  The signing community also needs to work with institutions such as medical providers, courts and police departments to ensure that they require the presence of Deaf interpreters every time a sign language interpreter is requested.  We also need make it clear within the interpreter community that the presence of a hearing interpreter without a Deaf interpreter team is tantamount to exploitation of the Deaf individual for the pecuniary or personal gain of the hearing interpreter.  To initiate this conversation with agencies and hiring parties, all interpreters, Deaf and Hearing, and consumers are encouraged to share this article with others.

 Conclusion

The interpreting profession has grown exponentially since the enactment of various civil rights laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1974.  We should not, however, confuse the growth of the interpreting profession with the assumption that Deaf people are receiving effective communications.  As ethical interpreters, each of us has an obligation to “render the message faithfully by conveying the content and spirit of what is being communicated, using language most readily understood by consumers.”[xiv] In many situations and settings, doing so requires the presence of a Deaf interpreter team. We also should require interpreting agencies and hiring parties to ensure the presence of Deaf interpreters as well. We can all do more. It’s the right thing to do.

What steps will you take in your community to initiate this conversation?

 

Co-Author, Jimmy Beldon, CDI, M.A., has been a professional involved in the interpreting field on many levels. Jimmy is the co-owner of Keystone Interpreting Solution, a consulting and interpreter referral business. He currently teaches in the Interpreter Training Program at St. Catherine University in St   Paul, Minnesota. A renowned interpreter in the court system, Jimmy is a former Vice-President of the National Registry of Interpreters (RID) and the current Vice-President of the National Conference of Interpreter Trainer (CIT).

 

References

[i] The resistance to bringing into a Deaf Interpreter has been well documented. For example, Tiffany J. Burns, CI/CT writes in “Who needs a Deaf Interpreter? I do” (Views, November 1999) that I have noticed paranoia among many hearing interpreters, that in asking for a Deaf interpreter, they will appear unqualified or incompetent. I cannot stress enough what a misconception that is.”

[ii] “Perception Conflicts: The Role of Sign Language Interpreters in Court,” Carla Mathers, Esq., CSC, SC:L. StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin.

[iii] “Deaf Interpreters in Court: An accommodation that is more than reasonable,” prepared by Carla Mathers, Esq., CSC, SC:L. The National Consortium of InterpreterEducationCenter, March 2009.

[iv] It is relevant to quote Carla Mather here from her Street Leverage presentation: A Deaf interpreter possesses the skills and innate understanding of the language and Deaf experience which allows them to use language that is most accessible to the Deaf party, to apply expansion of concepts appropriately in order to ensure the communication is clear and accurately conveys the intended meaning. By ensuring that Deaf interpreters are involved in courtroom interpreting, we reduce the oppressive nature of the environment and we ensure that the support and advocacy needed are available to the Deaf parties involved. In addition to the linguistic expertise a Deaf interpreter brings to the courtroom, they are also often able to navigate the strict conventions and rules of the court. The Deaf interpreter may be able to provide perspectives and explanations regarding the seemingly oppressive court system that will allow the Deaf party to understand the system and its rules more clearly. At the very least, a Deaf interpreter may make navigating the systemic conflicts more palatable.”

[v] Octavian Robinson discusses, for example, that courts sells “contracts to the lowest bidder and sacrificing quality and more important, justice. The lowest bidding agency does not assure certified or competent interpreters. This creates a situation where a deaf person’s legal right, regardless of guilt, to a fair trial is compromised.” Robinson also explains that the penny pinching results in the exclusion of CDIs and thus causes Deaf people to lose out in the justice system. See http://blog.deafpolitics.org/2011/06/failure-to-act-for-change.html

[vi] In those rare cases where it is found that a Deaf interpreter is not needed, the Deaf interpreter can then be excused.

[vii] “Recommended Guidelines for the Use of Deaf Intermediary Interpreters,” Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts. 2010.

[viii] Ibid.

[x] www.DHCC.org. DHCC explains, “four interpreters (two hearing and two Deaf) are on-call every evening, weekend and holiday. This way, we are prepared for multiple emergencies. A Deaf/hearing team – one interpreter who is Deaf and one interpreter who is hearing – ensures that we are prepared for any level of communication.”

[xi] While a lot of the citations here focus on legal settings, DHCC is correct here in saying that CDIs are necessary in other life-altering situations. This would include, among others, health settings and any settings involving juveniles.

[xii] “Deaf Interpreters in Court: An accommodation that is more than reasonable,” prepared by Carla Mathers, Esq., CSC, SC:L. The National Consortium of InterpreterEducationCenter, March 2009.

[xiii] “Best Practices American Sign Language and English Interpretation within Court and Legal Settings,” by Kellie Stewart, Anna Witter-Merithew and Margaret Cobb, Legal Interpreting Workgroup Members. The National Consortium of InterpreterEducationCenter, March 2009.

[xiv] NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct.

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Beyond Ethics: Rules Versus Values for Sign Language Interpreters

Beyond Ethics: Rules Versus Values for Sign Language Interpreters

Ethical dilemmas rarely have a one-size-fits-all solution. Amy Meckler explores the benefits of a values-based approach to ethical decision making for sign language interpreters.

When asked to consider an ethical quandary, most interpreters will give the same answer: “It depends.” Every situation is unique—a never-before-faced combination of demands and controls situated in a specific setting, among specific consumers and negotiated, possibly, between two or more sign language interpreters. While the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct provides guidance, it rarely can give a definitive answer to the question of what actions should be taken in any specific situation.

[View post in ASL]

No written code meant to guide ethical behavior could encompass every situation. What standard, then, do we use to make decisions in the moment, or to examine our behavior in retrospect, and that of our colleagues?

Consider this situation: During a medical appointment, the hearing nurse says, while examining the patient’s ears, “This is kind of pointless, since he’s deaf.  Wait, don’t interpret that.” What do we do? I, and I’m sure many of my colleagues, do interpret that whole statement, and everything else that we hear during the assignment.

Now consider this situation: During a medical appointment, as the nurse walks into the examination room the Deaf patient says, “Oh, not this nurse. She’s never very nice to me. Wait, don’t voice that.” What do we do here?  I, and I’m sure many of my colleagues, do not voice that statement. Why not? The CPC never distinguishes between Deaf and hearing consumers in its tenets; each directive regarding consumers is assumed to apply to all consumers, Deaf and hearing. And yet, I feel that both actions, though they seem conflicting, are the correct ethical responses to each respective situation. Clearly, the CPC is not enough to evaluate our decisions. Adhering to the CPC is necessary, but not sufficient, to truly conduct ourselves in an ethical manner.

The Values of Our Profession

We must ask ourselves, what values do we hold that undergird our work as sign language interpreters? How does our work as interpreters help create the better world we envision? How we determine our ethical duty in any instance must be filtered through these values. The decisions we make must reflect our higher sense of how we serve the greater good with our work.

The values of our profession are expressed in the philosophy and mission statements put forth by RID, and each individual practitioner has her or his own intuition of what values underlie their decisions. It is a worthwhile exercise to articulate what values you uphold as an interpreter. As I considered this question, I came up with this list:

  • Justice
  • Self-determination
  • Transparency
  • Using hearing privilege to benefit those who are marginalized,
  • Never being silent or immobile in the face of audism.

These are the values I strive to uphold with my work. When ethical issues arise for which the Code of Professional Conduct offers no clear guidance, I filter my possible actions through the values I hold, and make decisions that support justice, that resist audist assumptions and actions, and allow the Deaf consumer to make his or her own choices. While value-based ethical decision making is no guarantee of a practice that always leads to complication-free results, without second guessing in retrospect, it is a good basis for justifiable actions and offers direction where no other directive exists.

Value-based Ethical Decision Making

Let’s reconsider the scenarios I posed earlier. While the CPC sees no difference between a Deaf and a hearing consumer, using a values-based approach to these situations can explain why they feel different to me and many of my colleagues. When a hearing nurse speaks in front of a Deaf patient expecting the interpreter not to relay her statement, she is reflecting an audist society, where Deaf people are barred from accessing information on a daily basis, even information spoken right in front of them. When a Deaf patient signs privately to the sign language interpreter, he is building trust between him and the only other person who speaks his language in the room. Are the two consumers being treated exactly the same? No. But are both being treated justly? I believe so.

When a Deaf person sits in the room with a hearing nurse and a hearing interpreter, he can either be one Deaf person in the presence of two members of the hearing majority, or he can be one of two ASL users, sitting with a hearing individual who does not sign. I prefer Deaf consumers to feel the latter is true, that they are not alone, that they are not the only people who recognize the power imbalance that inherently exists in a society that arbitrarily grants one group privilege, and disempowers another. The old models of the interpreter as invisible, neutral and uninvolved have been debunked. The antiquated doctrine of decision making based on the standard of “what if I were not there?” is not only outdated, it denies reality. You are there. Your inaction is not a default but a choice. Inaction has an impact and consequences as surely as actions do.

A realistic view of our work, of ethical practice, is sign language interpreters making conscious decisions based on the required ethical standards put forth by NAD and RID in combination with the values that drew us to the Deaf community and the interpreting profession in the first place. As Dave Coyne states in his Street Leverage article, Social Justice: A New Model of Practice for Sign Language Interpreters, “Interpreters must be able to describe what kind of future they want. Can you describe to your neighbors, friends, and Deaf community members your vision? Can you think how behaviors, specific behaviors, may get you to that vision?”

Regularly Re-examine Our Values

Dennis Cokely wrote in his 2000 article, Exploring Ethics: A Case for Revising the Code of Ethics, “As individuals, and certainly as interpreters/transliterators, we face choices that can have profound effects on other people and their lives, choices of how we will or will not act in certain situations. The choices we make, and the actions that follow from those choices, can uphold or deny the dignity of other people, can advocate or violate the rights of other people, and can affirm or disavow the humanity of other people. Given the potential consequences of our choices and resultant actions, it is reasonable to expect that we constantly re-examine those values, principles, and beliefs which underscore and shape the decisions we make and the actions we undertake.”

Fourteen years, and a complete overhaul of the RID Code of Ethics later, Cokely’s words are still true. It’s worth asking yourself: will the action I take uphold or inhibit justice? Will my actions be transparent or shrouded in secrecy inaccessible to my consumers? Will my actions reinforce hearing privilege or help balance the power in the room?

Novice interpreters, experienced interpreters and students of sign language interpreting alike must ask themselves: What is my vision of the world as it should be, and does my work contribute to that vision becoming a reality?

 

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Why Do Qualified Sign Language Interpreters Get Less Work?

Sign Language Interpreter Wondering Why He Doesn't Get More Work

How has the professionalization of interpreting impacted interpreter referral? Kendra Keller takes a hard look at the bypass of traditional entry into the interpreting field and offers ideas to reset and recharge key stakeholders in service provision.

In a recent conversation with Tom Holcomb about certified vs. qualified sign language interpreters, he said something that surprised me. He shared that approximately 90% of the interpreters referred to work with him outside of his professional faculty position and public presentations, were not certified. From inside my bubble of privilege and pursuit of my own credentials and qualifications, this was shocking.

I took a minute and then asked, “What type of appointments?” Tom replied, “Trips to the doctor, consultations about house and home, travel, and school meetings.” Thinking to myself that perhaps I’d been mistaken about the value of certification to Tom and the referral services that sent the interpreters I asked how these appointments had gone.  He said, “I was just glad someone showed up…he presumed that most good interpreters were already busy with other assignments.”

Bypassing Traditional Routes of Entry

We all have experiences where certification does not always equal qualified or ensure quality work.  Tom said that the overall quality of the interpreters was “so-so.”   I suggested to Tom that there were qualified, certified interpreters who were not being referred. To which he responded, “if good interpreters are being passed over and consequently I’m forced to settle for less…I may have a different attitude about what to expect.” The realities we spoke of surprised us both.

Do consumers of our service really expect less?  I think they do.

I believe we can attribute the current state of affairs to many factors—all of which are tied to how we have chosen to meet the demand for the service we provide. As we know the demand for interpreters has skyrocketed. In response, a supply chain was created that has shifted the influx and approval for readiness of sign language interpreters out of the hands of the deaf community, as expressed in Molly Wilson’s vlog “Bypass” (Bypass, Molly Wilson). We have created a detour, a diversion and it is having a powerful impact on all of us. This bypass has excluded necessary and important voices regarding the quality of interpreting services.

How does this bypass practically play out so folks like Tom have experiences that create the experience and perspective that they are required to “settle?”

The Referral Agency 

Since the spring of 2012, we in the northern California area have been holding forums to assess and remediate the impact of spoken language agencies on the quality of interpreting services.  The advent of spoken language agencies taking on the contracts for ASL interpreter referrals combined has created financial struggles for our traditional referral agencies.  Competition is forcing the referral of less expensive interpreters—the non-certified or less experienced.

Through a survey of colleagues throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area, across the board they feel that as their qualifications and experience increase, the amount of work through referral sources has decreased. Sign language agency forums are reporting that they indeed are cutting back on referring the more qualified interpreters (and I include CDIs and DIs here), due to cost and the current threat to the agencies’ economic survival.  Our seasoned interpreters are struggling to find enough freelance work and resorting to other sources of income and employment.

Increased Use of Non-Certified Interpreters

If qualified interpreters are facing a decline in work and non-certified interpreters are being called more frequently, what does that say about the value of experience and certification?  Does it matter if the majority of interpreters who are being referred are not certified? What is the balance of availability and access with qualifications?  While imperfect, the current certifications at both national and state levels are our measure of readiness to begin working as interpreters.

Who are the non-certified and what is the relationship to quality and the definition (legal-ADA- and professional) of qualified? What is the experience of people who use/work with interpreters of quality? What are we doing to learn about, include and support them, or to assess their impact on both the interpreting and Deaf communities?

Interpreter Preparation Programs

When IPPs and ITPs do not include dynamic and responsive curriculum designs, qualified faculty and engage in an active participation of and by the Deaf community, the bypass model is reinforced. IPP students and newer interpreters are being actively recruited by spoken language agencies, sometimes for full time work and often for work in medical settings. Faculty and coordinators have a responsibility to shape a school–to–work expectation of graduates. These students are the most vulnerable to undeveloped professional judgment and the capacity to say “no” when appropriate.

Are the values of fluency and active engagement with the Deaf community being upheld? Are program coordinators and faculty discussing the changing nature of gatekeeping and creating a response in alliance with the Deaf community? Are working interpreters able to respond to increased work demand while maintaining a relationship with the Deaf community? There are many new demands that we must respond to, together.

Credentialed Interpreter

What is the status of highly credentialed interpreters (including CDIs and DIs) in your area? Are the experienced and most qualified interpreters finding work which sustains them?

The obvious impact with less qualified, credentialed interpreters working is that true access to communication is more likely to be denied.

Our Responsibility

As we are being requested to work by a burgeoning number of spoken language referral agencies, online marketplaces, temp agencies, direct contracts and direct referrals from colleagues places more of the responsibility on the individual interpreter to exercise professional judgment in assessing skills and qualifications. For example, are we quick to accept an assignment and slow or neglect to assess our readiness before, during and after the assignment? We need the work. Does that need outweigh the rights of deaf people (and hearing consumers) to effective communication?

How do we Remodel and Rebuild?

Values and Collective Change

As the true cost of the bypasses becomes evident, where does the healing process begin?  Understanding the problem is key, so that we can design the solutions together. In his book, “Introduction to American Deaf Culture”, Tom Holcomb refers to “The Vibrant Deaf Community’, and ‘Solutions for Effective Living’.  I ask us to remember to work together to create vibrant solutions.

Here are some ideas about how to do this:

Safe Spaces. Create places and effective ways to speak out.  I believe it is inherently unhelpful to demonize any one person, group of people, the system, or to claim that experiences that are outliers are the norm. While there is power in speaking out and having a voice, I believe the forum of public or social media, which, while a critical place to have a voice when other avenues are closed or nonexistent, will not necessarily encourage the individual conversations needed for healing and improvement.

Ask Questions. Decide which questions to ask. Are we talking about our competencies, are interpreters literate in the language of qualifications and certification, as well as the factors which make up quality interpretation?

Reflective Practice. Establish a reflective practice, which is a compassionate, critical analysis of our work. Develop a process and language for doing so. Use any of the many ways that already exist: The Etna Project, supervision by trained facilitators, facilitated conversations with all stakeholders in your home communities, the  Demand Control Schema, the northern California project Improving Interpreting Project” (ImprovingInterpretingProject@gmail.com), which provides draft documents for agencies, consumers and interpreters.  Seek out and use your own community’s cultural wealth, especially DCCW, Deaf community cultural wealth.

Through reflective practice, I believe interpreters can and should address these challenges and create effective solutions. To begin, I ask us to think about what motivates the values that we uphold or deprioritize in each decision we make. If we are mostly afraid and functioning on a survival level, how can we create a focus on the greater good, co-create solutions for these changing times?

Values

Here are a few of the values and important factors in my work that I think about and that I think are important for consideration.  What are yours?

Do no harm. Stephanie Feyne, in her article: “Is it Time to Certify Sign Language Interpreter Referral Agencies?” addresses the harm done by agencies:

“Alarmingly, sign language referral agencies are sending increasing numbers of unqualified signers to interpret for Deaf consumers, causing harm to the communities we serve and to the interpreting field…. many of the sign language interpreters on their rosters are self-professed “interpreters,” who have passed no screening or certification exams.”

Encourage. Promote interpreter availability through teaching, mentoring, supervision, teaming, opening the door and welcoming newer interpreters in a way appropriate to their level of professional development.

Contribute. Have standards, opinions, being a critical thinker, while avoiding black and white, right/wrong thinking and judgmental language.

Take Action. Be aware of and take action to stop and to prevent the horizontal violence, micro-, meso- and macro-aggressions evident and experienced by so many in our field and communities.

Use Whole Language. Uphold and practice the use of whole language, ASL, especially as a non-native language user.

Take off the Blinders. Take off the blinders and ask to know the impact of my privileged status.

Reflective Practice.  Engage in reflective practice to continue professional development and self-assessment.

Professional Literacy. Develop and refine the ability to negotiate both in social and professional settings, which requires one to be literate in the language of professional standards.

Seek Guidance. Seek feedback and guidance from the deaf and coda communities…without making them responsible to manage my interpreting skills or advocate while trying to live their lives.

Accept Change. Sit with the discomfort of change, share the control, and be willing to move through feelings of disorientation before the reconstruction and reorientation into a stronger self.

Collective Change

In this I include agencies (by which I mean sign language, spoken language, temp agencies, VRS agencies, and online marketplaces):

Become involved within your communities for input about interpreting needs and concerns.

Find and work with consultants and mentors who are content experts, native users of ASL, and mentors trained and experienced in mentoring and supervision.

Request/Refer qualified interpreters, including CDIs when needed and appropriate, to provide/receive quality interpreting.

Look to all the stakeholders to guide the process.

Support non-certified interpreters in their process to become certified.  Understand why they are not yet certified.

Work to uphold the value and requirement of certification.

What Should Tom Expect?

If the experience is relief that someone showed up to interpret and that all the good interpreters are busy, how do we get from there to a world where someone who is truly qualified to interpret shows up and the more common experience is that the interpreting went well? Where qualified interpreters, quality interpreters are the expectation—the norm?

If we addressed our bypass practices, what would that look like for each of us? What could we expect?  A few thoughts:

  • To be included in a shared decision making process about communication dynamics and language preferences, to have a voice in the process.
  • To understand what is required to be a part of successfully interpreted communication.
  • To understand that a qualified interpreter means the focus of the communication shifts away from concerns about being understood and being represented accurately, to the actual communication.

Let’s remember what Paddy Ladd suggested in his Deafhood Pedagogies presentation, he cites Dr. Marie Battiste in saying that cognitive imperialism inflicts a soul wound on indigenous peoples… “We all must become critical learners and healers within a wounded space.”  I would apply this to interpreters and the ever more urgent need for self-assessment of our qualifications and quality of our work.

Responsibility begins with being responsive.  Engage.  Begin, resume, or continue the dialogue.  Take the time to ask vital questions of our communities and our selves. Define the problem together.  It is time to ask…and listen to the answers.

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Sign Language Interpreters and the Future of Ethical Practice

Sign Language Interpreter Ethics

At the forefront of quality interpreting is a strong ethical practice. Matthew O’Hara reviews the evolution of the RID CPC and relates how individuals can make a difference in understanding and applying its tenets.

The dawn of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) 2013-2016 Strategic Plan and heightened attention on the RID Ethical Practices System (EPS) has brought the perfect time to examine the ethical landscape of our industry.  As we look back and look ahead, we cannot plot any course without remembering the value system that guides our profession – ethics.  RID founders saw the need to codify a set of ethics that would shape generations of sign language interpreters to come.  The minutes of the June 16, 1964 organizational meeting reveal that developing a code of ethics was the second priority listed, with the first aiming to define the purpose of the organization.

Plotting a Course

As the organization embarks on the next 50 years, there is no better time for the consumer and interpreter communities to reflect on the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct (CPC).  A code of ethics, or Code of Professional Conduct in our case, becomes the stated values that shape our practice and communicate to the public what they can expect of practitioners in the sign language interpreting profession.  As we consider the future of the NAD-RID CPC, we must ask ourselves, where have we been? What roadmap(s) did we use to get where we are?  Where are we headed?  What is our “true north?”

The 2013-2016 Strategic Plan commits our association to the goal of “Strengthen the Ethical Practices System efficiency and consistency in its enforcement of the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct.”   Furthermore, RID members voted at the 2013 Business Meeting to commission a group of NAD and RID members to strengthen the CPC. How do we accomplish these organization-wide goals and measure our success in achieving them?

Tools For Our Journey

When discussing the CPC, we must agree that a sign language interpreter’s ethical code is the cornerstone of our industry’s standards.  Certification means meeting a peer-reviewed measure of one’s knowledge, skills and abilities at the time of examination.  Those certified must agree to follow a set of ethical standards.  These standards are, in turn, the individuals, and the certification body’s promise to the public.  NAD and RID have jointly adopted an ethical code whereby consumers of sign language interpreting services can expect professional conduct consistent with values shared by each organization.

The task for each of us – hearing and Deaf – is to consider the values, and principles that must guide interpreters moving forward.  The sun is a critical component in order to calibrate a compass.  Perhaps the “sun” for our industry is the values, principles, rules and aspirations articulated in a practitioner’s “compass” which is the CPC.

The Program

In evaluating the EPS program, RID has pulled together statistics on the program since the adoption of the current CPC in 2005.  We hope that this data will create a dialogue. Adherence to the CPC is a community-wide priority.

We can analyze the philosophies behind confidentiality, professionalism, respect, and other guiding values.  We can talk about how to apply the CPC in various settings and situations.  However, let us not forget Aristotle’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.  The individual tenets of the CPC are woven together and applied as a whole set of values.  Application of one tenet does not occur in isolation. The authors of the current CPC reminded us that the tenets of the CPC “are to be viewed holistically and as a guide to professional behavior.”

As we consider anew the CPC, and what it might look like in the coming years, we need to ask which parts of the CPC are enforceable and which are not.  Are some concepts of the CPC more aspirational in nature, and if so, what does that mean in practice?  For instance, how does one measure or evaluate “Respect”? We know respect, trust and attitude are highly valued attributes of a sign language interpreter.  That said, do we have a shared meaning of professional respect? Does that behavior look the same to everyone? And finally, how is it properly enforced?  Interpreters ought to have internalized the core values that drive their work. 

Looking Back

Beyond analyzing the ethical landscape of our industry, it is time to take a hard look at the ethics enforcement system, too.  It is not solely about what the EPS can do, but what can each of us do.  How should each of us respond to clear or perceived breaches of the CPC?  We all know that NAD and RID have responsibilities to the public, but we need to challenge ourselves to consider what our personal responsibilities are as individuals – abiding by the intent of the CPC, setting an example, challenging those who stray from the code, and contributing feedback to the CPC review process.

Another area ripe for dialogue is the appropriate consequences for violations. In her article, Sign Language Interpreters: Team Interpreting and its Ethical Consequences, Kelly Decker asked a very important practical question about when we should we avoid teaming with a sign language interpreter who has exhibited unethical behavior?  When do we need to go one step farther and report the ethical misconduct?  At what point should RID remove an interpreter’s certification?  And finally, when does an interpreter deserve to be expelled from the industry?

What Does the Data Show?

Starting in 2013, RID has dedicated more resources to the Ethical Practices System (EPS).   Benefits of this renewed commitment to upholding the ethical standards include more timely case management, enhanced customer service, increased public awareness and education, strengthened policies, and program analysis and statistics, with more to come.

Ethical Practice System complaints about sign language interpretersAs part of the commitment to the EPS program, the EPS staff has begun compiling data to help facilitate informed dialogue. The data compiled here reflects the years following the adoption of the CPC in 2005.

From 2006 to 2012, there were 161 complaints filed with roughly 80% filed by concerned consumers who are Deaf.  With over 16,000 members, should we expect more or fewer complaints filed in over a 6-year period? Why or why not? RID recognizes that countless potential complaints may not have been filed because the complainant may not have been aware of the RID EPS, because they knew that their interpreter was not a member or certified and thus the complaint would not have been processed, the consumer may not have known that video complaints can be filed, or other technical barriers. RID is committed to learning more about these barriers and will distribute a survey on this topic.

It is important to note that the average time it took from filing a complaint to resolution was about 7-8 months.  This time frame is something that needs careful review moving forward.   The integrity of the program must be paramount, including how long cases take to process from start to finish and the resources required.

All complaints are taken seriously and efforts are made to elicit the appropriate information to initiate a formal due process.  The RID staff is taking measures to increase access and awareness and is taking the EPS on the road by presenting to stakeholders wherever resources allow.  Most importantly, RID is listening and is open to constructive feedback for how the EPS can be more accessible.

The Grievance Process

Ethical Practice System - Mediator TeamsRID utilizes a grievance system that includes a punitive component and also encourages communication, mediation, the resolution of conflict with a rebuilding of trust and confidence. This process is designed to be both corrective and educational in nature.

The jewel of the EPS is its mediation program and sincere desire to offer the community legitimate formalized process to come together and discuss allegations of misconduct. If nothing else, the mediators, who are NAD and RID members, assist parties with analyzing the problem themselves. Any agreement must be acceptable to both parties or the complaint is submitted to a panel of adjudicators.

Since the mediation program began in 2000, the mediators have worked mostly in pairs all across the country.  Mediators are assigned to cases much like interpreters are matched with consumers – considering the language, culture, backgrounds, and experience of the mediators and matching such with the parties.

Adjudication

The majority of cases are resolved at mediation. Further study is needed about the types of issues brought forth and resolved during mediation to better inform the effectiveness of the CPC.

With the majority of cases addressed at the mediation level, only a fraction of cases escalate to adjudication.  Since 2006, adjudicators reviewed 18 cases.

Ethical Practices System - Adjudication Panel CompositionTo date, there has been no formal study on the correlation between failed mediations and violations at adjudication.  This may be a necessary step to assess the effectiveness of the program, examining whether the adjudication phase lacks rigor. Another possibility is that those cases that do not end in mutual agreement at mediation might be where the parties remain at odds and the interpreter is confident that his/her actions were in compliance with the CPC.People have asked why so few violations are published in VIEWS.  Most cases do not go beyond mediation because both parties voluntarily agree to and embrace their resolution to the situation.  While some might prefer to see more sign language interpreters brought before a jury of peers, the philosophy behind the RID mediation program has always been that the parties should be actively engaged in the EPS process, which often starts with mediation.

All adjudication decisions are made solely on the basis of the panels’ judgment.  The panelists are experts in ethical decision-making.  All adjudicators, hearing and Deaf, are seasoned certified members of RID.  The average number of certified years of adjudicators is almost 27 years.

What’s Next?

What’s next is dialogue! How can we ensure the CPC is relevant and reflects the principles and values interpreters and Deaf people consider essential?  How can we effectively and responsibly ensure fidelity to the CPC?  As leaders in our profession, we must look for strategic ways to move forward. It’s imperative that dialogue happen in every direction – peer to peer, amongst the Deaf community, within affiliate chapters, during regional and national conferences.  Be part of the conversation locally, regionally and nationally by any format that works for you – read articles, engage in conversation, share your ideas, and join a committee.  The opportunity is here. Please grab your compass and head for the conversations to come!

 

References

Fant, Lou.  (1990). Silver Threads.  Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.

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Ethical Choices: Educational Sign Language Interpreters as Change Agents

Sign Language Interpreting in Art Class

Educational sign language interpreters often view their role as conduit or machine. Deaf children benefit when interpreters instead become agents of change, advocating for students and following their Deaf hearts.

I have the pleasure and challenge of working with educational sign language interpreters around the country: pleasure because I generally find these interpreters extremely committed to the best interests of students,  challenge because I generally find them frustrated by their work settings. Their experiences resonate with Gina Olivia’s post, Sign Language Interpreters in Mainstream Classrooms: Heartbroken and Gagged, which identifies that interpreters often witness the tragedy of ineffective education for deaf students, yet feel impotent to create change.

While there are plenty of issues in need of fixing related to Deaf education, our challenge as interpreters is to recognize what indeed we do have power over and use that as our classroom leverage to make a difference.

To do this, we need to step out of the shadow of invisibility and realize that, when we are at our best, we bring our full sense of humanity to the work. Part of that humanity is a Deaf heart, as described by Betty Colonomos in Sign Language Interpreters and the Quest for a Deaf Heart. I think of Deaf heart as a commitment to bringing the concerns and values of the larger Deaf community into mainstream settings.

From Machine to Human Being

My introduction to the Deaf community and interpreting came in 1988.  At my summer job, when I was 18, I encountered Deaf people, sign language, and interpreters for the first time. This was after the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet and the Deaf people I met felt empowered to act to change their world.

The message I heard about interpreters was exactly the opposite.  Interpreters, when they were functioning at their best, were invisible.  The “conduit” model reigned supreme.  I remember seeing a t-shirt that boasted: “Interpreting:  Just talk, it happens,” as if interpreters were some type of automaton.

In hindsight, the prevalence of the conduit model makes sense.  Interpreter education was greatly influenced by the ascendency of empowered bicultural and bilingual Deaf leaders who were not in need of help from hearing interpreters. Instead, these leaders simply wanted communication access.

What we have discovered is that, while an interpreter as a conduit has its usefulness, in many situations the results are negative.  In education, they have often been disastrous.  The silver lining is that some of our problems in the educational system are self-imposed and thus within our ability to rectify.

Anna Witter-Merrithew, in two previous posts, illustrates the negative impacts of interpreters functioning with the faulty notion that we can or should be “invisible.”  Further, Anna argues that we must be as concerned about ethical omissions as we are about commissions.  In other words, as professionals, we must practice due diligence in being aware of when our failure to act has negative consequences – just as much as monitoring the impact of our actions.

My article is a reflection on the ways we as a profession have failed to act in the educational system and the ways that we might re-envision our presence in classrooms and in schools to better serve the purposes of the students, the systems we are hired by, and ourselves as human beings interested in providing a meaningful contribution through our work.

Removing the Gag

In working with educational sign language interpreters around the country, I’ve encountered a recurring theme: that interpreters do not function in the role they think they should and regularly feel guilty about it. Frequently, I hear things like:

  • I “add” things to my interpretation because I know the student just won’t understand without it. I know that’s wrong, but it really seems to help. 
  • I sometimes help the hearing students during work time. The classroom teacher appreciates this support, but I know we shouldn’t.

When I respond not by questioning their actions but by asking whether or not their choices led to successful consequences, the interpreters are incredibly relieved to learn there is a framework for understanding their choices as ethical.  Further, I think they begin to see that no one else is asking them to cling to such a restrictive role.

Finding Role-Space

The profession as a whole is heading in this direction. Robyn Dean and Robert Pollard, through the Demand-Control schema, have moved us away from ethics based on the rightness of an action in itself and toward ethics based on the consequences for those involved.  They have also given us a continuum of ethical decision-making with a range of options from conservative to liberal.

In this context, “conservative” means taking a “wait and see” approach and “liberal” means taking a more active approach to addressing the demand.

Building on this, Witter-Merrithew, Johnson, and Nicodemus have begun a conversation about decision latitude and relational autonomy. As practice professionals, we need to take responsibility for making decisions with an understanding of how the systems we work in actually function. In the past, sign language interpreters often acted with disregard for the system and, as Johnson and Witter-Merrithew found, were perceived by others as being uncooperative and detached.  Interpreters may have acted in this manner thinking our codes of ethics and professional conduct required it, but the consequences were negative perceptions of interpreters.

Relational autonomy offers further insight to understand Dean and Pollard’s continuum of ethical behavior. We need to assess the relative autonomy of the people involved in the interaction as a guide for our decision-making. In general, if the participants have a balanced sense of autonomy, more conservative approaches are called for. If the level of autonomy between participants is imbalanced, liberal approaches merit greater consideration.

So, rather than seeking to be invisible, in situations with a power imbalance, interpreters need to seek to be more active and visible. Can you think of a situation where there is a greater power imbalance than when one deaf student is mainstreamed into a school that is totally designed for English-speaking students who cannot sign?

Taking more active approaches fits in with the work of Robert Lee and Peter Llewellyn-Jones, who have offered a new way of understanding our actions as interpreters.  Using three dimensions of interpreting (presentation of self, interaction management, and alignment with participants), they offer a framework for understanding the roles that interpreters inhabit and the way that different situations and different consumers call for different roles.  For interpreters working in schools, we clearly need to find a new role-space to lead to more success.

Interpreters as Change Agents

Part of redefining role-space includes the need to embrace a more active approach. At times, we are many things in the classroom:  interpreter, language model, tutor, aide, and consultant. We also need to be an agent of change within the system as a whole, which is part of what I think it means to have a Deaf heart: recognizing that the system is not designed to serve deaf students and that we cannot simply shrug our shoulders, wave our hands, and collect a paycheck. Instead, we need to take an active role in changing the situation.

Here are some examples of what that can look like:

  • Connect the student to the broader Deaf community.  This can happen by attending community events or, if not possible (as in many rural areas), use video and web resources to let students see there is a Deaf world that they can be a part of.  One interpreter in rural Alaska connected students via video and email with students at the Deaf school in Texas.
  • Enact roles based on the needs of students.  At times, we may need to be tutors or teachers or social guides. One interpreter I know has frequently taken on the task of teaching deaf students how to play games because they weren’t getting those skills any other way. In the shadow of invisibility, we might lament that teachers aren’t doing this and watch the students fail. As an agent of change, we can step forward and support the students in acquiring the requisite skills for success.
  • Facilitate sign language instruction for peers. Deaf kids need the chance to talk directly to their peers. We don’t necessarily have to be the teacher, but we can’t ignore the need. If you’re interested in a resource on this topic, you can check out this free curriculum.
  • Take responsibility for literacy. Educational interpreters need to understand the ways to foster language development in both ASL and English. This means intentionally being a language model through direct communication when appropriate.  It also means understanding the importance of fingerspelling in building English literacy.
  • Advocate for more accessible classrooms.  This includes creating excellent interpretations and making sure videos are captioned, but it goes far beyond that.  Work with teachers to ensure key vocabulary and concepts are visually accessible.  Additionally, support classroom teachers so that having an interpreter in the classroom is a benefit to all the students, rather than an annoyance. Too often, sign language interpreters with their restrictive role have been a thorn in the side of the teacher rather than an added asset in the classroom. Having a teacher who wants the deaf student to be there is a key factor in it being accessible.
  • Be part of a supervision process. Interpreters operate in isolation. As Robyn Dean argues in Ethical Development: A Sign of the Times for Sign Language Interpreters?, supervision that provides a framework for talking about our work is an important part of a practice profession and long overdue. Having a colleague or team to discuss these actions with is critical to ensuring that we maintain our effectiveness. 
  • Be willing to advocate ourselves out of a job.  Some of the best interpreters I know have advocated for students to leave mainstream and go to the Deaf school. While this may seem to be economic suicide for interpreters, I have seen that those professionals who so clearly put the interests of their consumers first end up landing on their feet because an educational system can recognize the value of that type of commitment. They also sleep better at night.

In the end, this approach to educational interpreting is a stretch from what I learned in my schooling. In other ways, it is a return to our roots.  Both Amy Williamson, in The Cost of Invisibility: Codas and the Sign Language Interpreting Profession, and Dennis Cokely, in Vanquished Native Voices – A Sign Language Interpreter Crisis?, write about the historical importance of codas to our field. That came home to me as I was leading a workshop on this topic and a participant with deaf parents said she felt like she had permission to be a coda again. What I perceived in her comment was that she could bring her Deaf heart into the mainstream. If we do likewise, our flexibility and willingness to act for change will lead to improvements for students, parents, teachers, the systems we work for, and even ourselves.

Other suggestions on how interpreters in educational settings can be change agents?

 

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Sign Language Interpreting: Can Self-Interest Lead to Disregard of Industry Stakeholders?

Sign Language Interpreter Considering Impact of Self-Interest

Despite best intentions to work harmoniously, sign language interpreters can often be caught in difficult circumstances when working with interpreting agencies. Diana MacDougall shares a situation where seeming logistical roadblocks to an interpreting request may have had self-interest at its roots.

As an Interpreter Educator, I like to use real-life scenarios in my classroom, where one of the courses I teach is Professional Ethics for Interpreters. This one is an excellent teaching tool on what effect self-interest—even at the higher levels with established professionals—can have on everyone involved.

To make sure we are all understanding terms used, I will pull from RID’s CPC on the definitions of consumers and colleagues. The first is defined as “[i]ndividuals and entities who are part of the interpreted situation. This includes individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and hearing”. The second is defined as “other interpreters”.

The Scenario

An interpreter had been approached by a Fortune 500 company to interpret an annual appreciation banquet. It is open to the public, and many famous people also attend. Apparently, there were several Deaf staff, as well as the potential for Deaf individuals from the public attending every year, and historically, the company relied on well-intended “signing staff” to interpret this important, high-profile event. One year, some complaints were launched that certified, qualified interpreters were not being hired to interpret. In wanting to meet the needs of the Deaf community and their Deaf staff, the company sought out interviewing for such an interpreter. It was through professional recommendations that the interpreter mentioned at the beginning of this scenario was approached.

This interpreter came with full RID certifications, as well as many years of interpreting experience. After being interviewed, she was offered this yearly event interpreting assignment with this Fortune 500 company, and eventually through the years other events taking place within this company involving their Deaf staff. They have worked collaboratively and professionally for many years now. Deaf staff members have expressed satisfaction, and through word of mouth, more and more Deaf community members were attending the annual event.

Recently, one of the executives made a phone call to the interpreter. He mentioned that their company was going to be “out-sourcing” to an interpreting agency to cut costs for interpreting services, and gave this interpreter the opportunity to get on board with this agency. Since she enjoyed working with this company the few times a year that she did, she agreed to do just that. The executive was thrilled to know this, as he explained that his company would be able to request this same interpreter for their annual event only if her name was on the roster. He informed the interpreter that the agency rep would be calling her to set things up.

Two to three months later, the interpreting agency’s rep finally called the interpreter. The rep explained to this interpreter that “although [the interpreter] may be interpreting the event this year, things were going to be different” from now on, and that she needed to understand that. She listened patiently, and cordially reminded the rep that it was the company that asked her to apply to this agency so that they could request her every year; she had not solicited the interpreting agency. The conversation soon ended, with the interpreter being instructed to submit a full resume to the agency.

Submitting resumes to various agencies is not new in our field; any time we want to work for a new agency, this is standard. Even the RID CPC states in tenet 6.1 under Business Practices: “Interpreters accurately represent qualifications, such as certification, educational background, and experience, and provide documentation when requested”. The interpreter obliged, submitting a comprehensive resume, as well as evidence of her MA degree and RID certifications. Soon she heard from the agency, stating they were impressed with her qualifications and experience. The agency then requested that she submit a tape doing her best interpreting, to make sure she met expectations for this agency. Again, this is also not entirely unheard of. She chose a text and videotaped herself, burned a DVD and mailed it to the agency. Eventually someone emailed her back, and they raved about the DVD, stating it was a “beautiful job”, and the agency was impressed with her skills.

The interpreter was happy to have obliged by the agency’s requests, and felt she was set to meet the requests of the Fortune 500 company that wanted to employ her interpreting skills for their annual event. With her name on this agency’s roster, the company could request her, and all stakeholders’ needs and requests would be met. This would reflect well on RID’s CPC tenet 4.0 Guiding Principle on Respect for Consumers to “honor consumer preferences in selection of interpreters and interpreting dynamics, while recognizing the realities of qualifications, availability, and situation”. This situation seemed to meet everyone’s needs and desires.

However, in a later email from the interpreting agency, they explained that even though the interpreter met all qualifications and had submitted an impressive professional DVD, their original intention was to reserve this annual event for their in-house staff. This assignment, she was told, was considered “a coveted assignment” by the interpreting agency. Since the interpreter did not work regularly for this agency, she would not be selected to be the interpreter for this event anymore. Surprised, the interpreter reminded the agency that it was one of the consumers (hearing) that had requested that her name be placed on the roster specifically so that they could request her for this event. The agency would not relent, stating that it was their decision not to use this interpreter for any interpreting assignments requested at this company. The interpreter responded that she would be happy to interpret in other settings for them, but was disappointed at their decision not to honor the original intent of allowing the Fortune 500 company to request her. It was out of her hands now. There was no further contact between the interpreter and the agency. She figured her run as the interpreter for the company had passed, and that was that.

About two months prior to the annual event of that same year, the company executive called the interpreter asking her what had happened between her and the contracted agency. When the interpreter enquired as to what the executive meant, he stated that when they requested this interpreter for their annual event, the agency had told the company that the interpreter had “refused to work for that agency under any circumstances”. Wanting to remain as professional as possible, and not present the profession in a negative light, the interpreter carefully explained

that she had emails showing how she was willing to work with them, but that it was the agency who had emailed her and explained that they would not be using her for this company in the future. The executive asked for those emails to be forwarded to him.

Although initially the company was able to show the interpreting agency that they had held up their end of the business relationship by doing as they asked to get the interpreter’s name on the roster, and that the agency had not been up front about their true intentions from the beginning, in the end, the company was forced to follow the legal contract signed by everyone. With the interpreter’s name not on the roster, the company could not request her anymore, even though it was their desire to do so. More significantly, on the night of the annual event, it was none other than the owner of this interpreting agency himself who showed up to interpret this “coveted assignment”.

Upon Review

This story caused me to ponder on the ethics around this situation. While actions that occurred may not have, in themselves, been illegal, they may still be considered unethical. Certainly, agencies have a right to hire whomever they choose. But it seems to me that the requests of the hearing consumers in this situation were ignored over the self interests of an agency that wanted to fill this assignment with their own people. RID CPC tenet 3.0 on Conduct reads: “Interpreters…avoid situations that result in conflicting roles or perceived or actual conflicts of interest.” Further, tenet 3.7 counsels interpreters to “disclose to parties involved any actual or perceived conflicts of interest”, and 3.10 says to “refrain from using confidential interpreted information for the benefit of personal or professional affiliations or entities”.

Intentionality

The actions of this agency, from the beginning when truthful intentions were not expressed clearly to the company, to the end where the owner himself took this assignment for his own benefit, revealed a conflict of interest. It appears the agency members intended to keep this assignment for themselves all along. Honesty from the beginning would have prevented the interpreting agency from appearing self-interested, shedding a negative spotlight on the profession of interpreting. Perhaps, the owner could benefit from reading, A Sign Language Interpreter is a Sidewalk Executive?, by Brandon Arthur. This whole situation left a negative opinion in the eyes of the executive company, which was very unhappy with the decision in the end.

Respect

Also, respect for consumers (CPC tenet 4.0), was also not considered in the decision to not add the interpreter’s name to the roster. The executive company, in good faith, proceeded with a contractual agreement with the agency, under the impression that the certified interpreter they preferred would be added to the interpreting roster. That was not honored on the part of the interpreting agency.

Furthermore, respect for colleagues (“other interpreters”) was also not considered in this action. CPC 5.0 states that “interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the profession”, with the Guiding Principle warning RID members that “interpreters…also understand that the manner in which they relate to colleagues reflects upon the profession in general”. Certainly misrepresenting the integrity and character of one of their own was not showing “respect for [a] colleague”. One of the company’s executives felt an obligation to call the interpreter that they had been working with for the last many years to state how disappointed he was about the outcome of this situation, stating that meetings for the annual event planning committee were “very somber over the pettiness of it all”. This is unfortunate, indeed. And it could have been avoided completely.

Ethical Behavior Models

In aiming to teach ethical behavior to interpreting students, how can we instill such ethics as collegiality, civility, as described by Carolyn Ball in her post, What Role Does Civility Play in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession, and professional conduct, along with adhering to the RID Code of Professional Conduct, if the very leaders we want to emulate do not practice them? Even in the 21st Century, people can act in a less than civil or professional manner, not realizing the impact their behavior has on others, or how it reflects negatively on our profession.

In the End

Although this seems like an extreme case, is it? Do you believe this is a rare occurrence, or does our profession still deal with individuals and agencies conducting themselves in this manner? What do you think? How can we, as a profession and as individuals within the profession, move toward preventing this from happening in the future?

Food for thought…