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Going Small: How Sign Language Interpreters Find Their Footing in 2018

Going Small: How Sign Language Interpreters Find Their Footing in 2018

2018 could be the year we reweave the fabric of the field of sign language interpreting. By understanding the importance of each thread and the care it takes to bind them all together, we may be able to redesign the magnificent whole.

Some years act as demarcation lines  – clearly defining the “before” and “after,” altering the trajectory of how we move forward. In many ways, 2017 appears to be one of those years. While there is a temptation to focus on the forces which have led us here, it is imperative that we look ahead and move forward.

The Year that Was

Fair warning: this is not your usual end-of-year rah-rah retrospective. If you were hoping for rainbows and butterflies, you won’t find them here. If you care deeply about the field of sign language interpreting (and we think you do), we hope you’ll read on.

For the field of sign language interpreting, 2017 provided further evidence that the systems and methods which sustained us in the past are not delivering in predictable, traditional ways. Old models and outdated ways of thinking are being challenged but success is harder to come by in the current environment. On social media platforms, there is an undercurrent of discontent which sometimes rises precipitously. We have seen sign language interpreters exit the field when we desperately need more people to join us. The reality is that we are facing critical issues that are not easily or quickly resolved.

Maybe for some of you, life is good. Maybe you are wondering what all the ruckus is about. If you zoom in and start asking questions, you might be surprised at what you learn.  

Zooming In

What we have seen in our travels around the field is that there is growing interest in serious conversations about power, privilege and other social justice issues as evidenced at the RID LEAD Together conference and other discussions around the field. We know that people are interested in and concerned about the position of Deaf Interpreters in the field and have seen the formation of the National Deaf Interpreter organization in response. We have continued to see people struggle for recognition and acceptance in the field. The use of VRI continues to be a source of contention – some see the benefits when used properly while others experience cognitive dissonance based on the lived experiences of Deaf people who have little choice in how services are provided to them. We see strong passion and drive – people want to find resolutions, but appear to feel ill-equipped to take action.

A Possible Antidote

We know resolution won’t come easy.

We don’t believe anyone one person has the answer.

However, we do believe we can find answers and create solutions through the taking of small, deliberate steps forward. From our view, it is in actively enrolling in our local communities, our local ITPs, our local leadership to illuminate the path forward.

Working locally may appear to be slow, but it is worthwhile. Each step forward is progress in the work to retell the story of the sign language interpreter. Each small act moves us forward. In the end, we will find our footing. We will survive the storm by zooming in. By going local. By going small. All of this because it’s worth it.

Each of us is equipped to do something to build our community. We just need to decide to do it and take a small step forward.

This is what it means to be a local citizen. Local is the place where your participation truly matters. Everybody can do something.

You never know where it might lead you.

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What Did 2016 Teach Sign Language Interpreters About Success in 2017?

What 2016 Taught Sign Language Interpreters about Success in 2017

It is tempting to write 2016 off and move immediately into the new year, but that would mean overlooking some of the profound and fundamental lessons shared by StreetLeverage contributors last year.

While public speaking is one of the most fearful things humans can do, expressing one’s thoughts and perspectives via social media in two languages is probably a close second. Still, StreetLeverage contributors continue to inspire and amaze, bringing new insights and conversations to the table on a regular basis.  If we were to measure the year in the depth and breadth of perspectives shared, 2016 would definitely be setting us up for success in 2017. So, before we bid 2016 adieu, we wanted to highlight a few examples of the generosity and courageousness shown by sign language interpreters and industry stakeholders in the last 12 months.

For Auld Lang Syne

Before we dive into our retrospective, we’d like to express our deepest gratitude to everyone who contributed, in large and small ways, to the StreetLeverage endeavor. Without the writers, readers, volunteers, thought-leaders, videographers, editors, and friends who volunteer their time and efforts to support us, StreetLeverage could not begin to amplify the voice of sign language interpreters or attempt to change the way we understand, practice, and tell the story of the sign language interpreter. For all your work, we say: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

2016’s Nine Building Blocks for Success

1.  Bring Social Consciousness to the Fore

Joseph Hill

As practitioners in the field of communication access, social consciousness is a critical aspect of the work of all signed language interpreters. Joseph Hill’s presentation, Sign Language Interpreters: Practicing with a Socially Conscious Approachat StreetLeverage – Live 2015 provides an avenue for us to start looking at identity and interpreting through a social justice lens. As we continue to delve into the skewed relationship between interpreter demographics and consumer realities, we look to thought leaders to help us find greater understanding and paths to improvement.

2.  Reach Out to Deaf Interpreters

Where’s the Welcome Mat? Opening the Door to Deaf Interpreters

Another evolution in the field of interpreting that continued to manifest itself in 2016 was the reintroduction and strengthening of the presence of Deaf Interpreters in the field. While this evolution is happening, progress is slow and sometimes arduous as Jeremy Rogers explains in his article, Where’s the Welcome Mat? Opening the Door to Deaf Interpreters.

3.  Look at Insider Discourse Under a Microscope

Sign Language Interpreter Framing Their Work

Semantics matter. As sign language interpreters, language is our currency. Despite this fact, we don’t always consider the impact language has on perspectives when it comes to the words we use to describe our work. Kelly Decker’s article, What Are We Really Saying? Perceptions of Sign Language Interpreting, showcases some current examples of language we use in our insider discourse that may impact perceptions about the work we do and those with whom we work. With lively conversation, this article lit up our comments board, and we hope it continues to do so.

4.  Inject Humor and Humility into Our Practice

Sharon Neumann Solow

As one of the field’s most beloved teachers and mentors, Sharon Neumann Solow inserts equal parts humor, humility, and straight-forward talk into the conversation in her StreetLeverage – Live 2015 presentation, Genuine Confidence: Why Can’t It Be All About Me?. By sharing personal stories, Sharon’s presentation provides context for looking at confidence versus spotlight-stealing and illustrates why the differences matter.

5.  Support Ethics with Pre-Assignment Considerations

Accept or Decline? Questions Sign Language Interpreters Should Ponder

Job readiness is a topic that comes up in most conversations about sign language interpreting at some point, whether one-on-one or at a conference. Michael Ballard provides a consumer’s perspective on the kind of preparation sign language interpreters could do to help determine their level of preparedness for an assignment in his article, Accept or Decline? Questions Sign Language Interpreters Should Ponder.

6.  Join the Civility Revolution

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

With bullying and trolling in the news constantly, it was refreshing to have a conversation about civil discourse. Providing tools and suggestions for action, Diana MacDougall invited sign language interpreters to join a kinder, gentler conversation and revolution in her article, A Civility Revolution: A Call to Arms for Sign Language Interpreters.

7.  Explore the Realities of the Modern World

Keeping Sign Language Interpreters Safe in a Violent World

In a year where violence of all kinds dominated headlines and conversations around the country and the world, Stephen Holter’s article, Keeping Sign Language Interpreters Safe in a Violent World, struck a chord with readers who also shared some of their own experiences and strategies for staying safe. While we hope no interpreter ever needs to utilize these tips and tools, it’s an important conversation to engage in.

8.  Uncover the Intangible

Wing Butler

In his deeply personal and profound StreetLeverage – Live 2015 presentation, Status Transaction: The “It” Factor in Sign Language Interpreting, Wing Butler shared his thoughts on the “It Factor” for sign language interpreters. In his exploration of the intangible qualities that raise community esteem for one sign language interpreter over another, Wing also gives us a formula for success. Skills are important, but there are other factors that create the elusive “It” interpreter.

9.  Examine Personal Cultural Competence

IGNITE Workbook

Our final selection is a compilation of exemplary work from some of the brilliant minds in our field. Our 2016 workbook, Ignite, is a collection of posts designed to lead sign language interpreters and sign language interpreting students through a process of self-discovery regarding cultural competence. This free-to-download offering is an opportunity to look at a specific topic through a variety of lenses in order to gain a more well-rounded perspective. We hope this inaugural edition will be the first of many such workbooks.

Please Continue to Join Us in 2017 and Beyond

We hope this look back on 2016 will provide you with some valuable takeaways that can be foundations for a successful year ahead. Again, thank you for your support, sharing, comments, viewings, and readership. We hope you will continue to join us here on the blog and register to come meet us in St. Paul, MN for StreetLeverage – Live. Please join us in raising our glasses in a toast to a bright new year. Welcome to 2017!

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StreetLeverage – It’s Our Birthday!

It's a StreetLeverage Birthday!

Time flies when you are having fun! For five years, we have been honored to connect with you about the field we love so much.

5th Anniversary - SL Featured Image 2

It’s been a pleasure engaging with practitioners and stakeholders in the field of sign language interpreting for the past five years. A lot has happened in that time. StreetLeverage contributors and readers have engaged in meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations for which we are grateful. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to meet many new friends, reconnect with others, and attempt to create a space where conversation, self-reflection, and accountability are encouraged.

At StreetLeverage, we also believe in taking the time to celebrate the special moments, special people, and good times. This milestone birthday is one of those moments for us. Thank you for supporting and participating in the StreetLeverage endeavor. Raise a glass with us in celebration!

Here are some fun, unpublished facts to help celebrate our 5 year anniversary.

5th Anniversary of StreetLeverage

We’d love to hear from you! Please take a moment to share some of your own StreetLeverage memories in the comments section below. Here are some questions to start you thinking:

  1. What’s you favorite StreetLeverage moment?
  2. What is your favorite element of StreetLeverage (articles, social media coverage, live stream, LIVE events)?
  3. How many StreetLeverage – Live events have you attended so far? Why do you go?
  4. What StreetLeverage post has impacted you the most?
  5. What topics do you want to see covered by StreetLeverage?
  6. Who would you love to see present at a StreetLeverage – Live event?
  7. What is your favorite StreetLeverage – Live presentation and why?
  8. Who do you wish would write an article for StreetLeverage?
  9. If you wrote an article for StreetLeverage, what would you write about and why?

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Me Up!” button (upper left-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Me Up!”

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Is Sign Language Interpreting Ready for an Uber-like Approach?

Is sign language interpreting ready for an Uber-like app?

Traditional models of sign language interpreter referral are going head-to-head with technology as the digital realm’s innovation and sophistication foster the creation of out-of-the-box solutions for providing access. Read this case-in-point.

 

Are sign language interpreters ready to challenge their own ideas about “standard practices”?

Just as VRS and VRI redefined the field of signed language interpretation, coming technologies have the potential to change the trajectory of work in the field. Could alternative methods for finding, assigning, billing for and paying sign language interpreters mean more choices for consumers, practitioners and requestors?

We can already look to CSD’s Vineya, Linguabee, and now, Stratus’ InPerson app, for examples that we are standing on the precipice of evolutionary events in our field. What are the benefits? Are there downsides to exploring new ways to solve old problems? Traditional standards for vetting sign language interpreters, matching them with assignments, teaming, billing and other established methods in sign language interpreter referral seem to be next in the lineup for radical change. Eschew or embrace it – change is coming.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Is Geolocation the New Name of the Game?

On February 26, 2016, HealthCareIT News posted “Stratus Video to Debut Uber-like app for interpreters at HIMSS16.”  According to Stratus Video insiders, the article regarding the release of their InPerson app was a bit premature. The article’s publication, however, prompted Brandon Arthur, founder of StreetLeverage.com, to reach out to Stratus Video for an interview about the app, their strategy for moving forward, and their thoughts on a variety of questions many sign language interpreters posed as they learned about the app’s official release. In a telephone interview, Brandon spoke with Kathryn Jackson, Vice President of Language Operations, joined by Tom Thompson, Executive Director of Stratus InPerson, and Kate Pascucci, Director of Marketing.

Stratus Video has been in the process of developing their InPerson app in response to growing evidence that while VRI (video remote interpreting) can be beneficial in many situations, it is not always the best fit for patients, hospital personnel, or interpreters using signed and/or spoken languages. While they recognize that the avenues used to provide interpreters can be important and impact the success or failure of a given interaction, Stratus believes that “even though the products are exciting, we know we are really providing interpreting services.”

Initially slated to roll out to hospitals and courts, Stratus’ InPerson app is designed as an added support for current, on-demand interpreting services provided via video. Leveraging technology to create a new model for interpreting may reduce costs for medical and other facilities while maintaining market rates of pay for interpreters, according to Tom Thompson.

Stratus believes that by considering the needs of all parties – the patient/consumer of interpreting services, the interpreter, and the requesting entity – the InPerson app, combined with Stratus video services can be a win-win-win. Over the last two years, Stratus met with groups of interpreters and administrators to ensure they were getting the big picture. A successful release of the app could signify a radical change for sign language interpreters in a marketplace that has already been impacted by video technology and other technological advances.

How Does the Stratus InPerson App Work?

Onboarding Interpreters

For interpreting professionals, downloading the app from the Apple iTunes Store or Google Play is free. The first screen allows practitioners to “Register as an Interpreter” and requires interpreters to answer a variety of questions to provide specific information which will be used to determine assignment offerings based on the needs and requirements of the requestor. Once the interpreter’s information is entered, a Stratus team member will contact them to verify the validity of credentials, skill sets, experience, education, etc. When an interpreter is vetted and approved, they will be entered into the network as an independent contractor and can begin accepting assignments sent to them via the app.

Requesting Interpreters

On the provider side, the facility can put out a request for an interpreter via the InPerson app, as well. After determining the language need, the facility provides the time(s) needed, the specific location within the facility, rate(s) of pay, special instructions, and other pertinent information so that the job can be broadcast out to interpreters who meet the criteria for the job. Requestors also have the ability to create groupings based on the practitioner pools they have. If there are preferred interpreters, staff interpreters or interpreters with specialized skill sets, the requests can be filtered accordingly.

Accepting Assignments

Once an interpreter is accepted into the network, they will be able to accept jobs which are broadcast out to them based on the different sets of criteria created by the practitioner and/or the requesting agency. Job assignments are made on a “first come, first serve” basis. If an interpreter meets the criteria and they are available, the rate is appropriate, etc., they can click on “Accept This Job.”

After the interpreter accepts the job, they receive the details and the facility is notified that the job has been assigned, and to whom. The interpreter’s profile will be provided to the facility – they can see a photo of the interpreter so that when they show up, the team knows what the interpreter looks like and has an idea of their level of experience and credentials. The photo also assists when the interpreter arrives so that assigned team members can identify them right away and escort them to the assignment.

Notably, the InPerson App does not include patient/client information due to HIPAA rules and other privacy concerns. Thompson stated, “In terms of the platform itself, there is no patient data that comes across our platform…you are never going to find their name or room number, or any information about a patient anywhere in the system.” Interpreters can accept an assignment and then request additional information directly from the requesting entity. If upon further investigation, the interpreter feels they will not be a good match for the job, they can notify the requestor at that time.

Credentialing and Issue Resolution

While Stratus doesn’t have established credentialing requirements, they do follow the requirements of the facilities who utilize their services. Once a facility signs on, Stratus will onboard interpreters based on adherence to client needs. In terms of quality assurance, Thompson emphasized that there is a review process for both the interpreter and the facility which Stratus will oversee on their end. By allowing for a review process, issues can be managed quickly to ensure happy providers and practitioners. In the course of the interview, there was no specific mention of a review process for consumers.

In addition to the review process following each completed assignment, there is an option on the app to “Open an Issue,” which is a more serious type of monitoring. Both sides can open an issue which allows for investigation and pro-active work to resolve problems before they worsen. An issue, according to Stratus, is usually considered a more serious professional issue – the interpreter does not meet the qualifications for the assignment, the interpreter is late or unprofessional, etc. While not stated in the interview, this may be one avenue for consumer input regarding various interpreters.

Billing and Payment

According to Thompson, Stratus recognizes that each location is different in terms of interpreter rates. Bearing that in mind, Stratus doesn’t set the rates, rather they investigate the market and make recommendations to facilities who are signing on to use their service. Thompson was quick to dismiss Uber comparisons by pointing out that Stratus is not looking for a race to the bottom; instead, they are looking to open markets up for interpreters, hospitals, and courtrooms and for those in need of interpreting services, stating, “We have to make sure that it works for everybody, or it’s not going to work.”

Reportedly, interpreters have responded favorably to the idea that Stratus jobs are paid regularly in two-week intervals whether the requesting entity has paid Stratus for services or not. This kind of revenue stability is attractive to interpreters who often work with variable payment schedules and have to spend much of their time chasing revenue.

Questions Linger

Whether you are an early adopter or reluctant latecomer, the technology this new app represents and the marketing strategies explored are, without a doubt, the wave of the future in many industries. For a high-touch, high context, specialized field like sign language interpreting where tradition and change go head-to-head on a regular basis, it is imperative that we explore all angles. Could one of these new technologies lead to better solutions? Questions linger regarding long-standing, hard-won standards of practice, ownership of quality standards, interpreter/consumer matches, inclusion of the linguistic minority cultures served, the use of CDIs, the “first come, first hired” methodology, etc.

Here are some of the most common questions/concerns posed when the Stratus InPerson App press release first came out. Most are not specific to the particular company/app but address the more global issues sign language interpreter referral has been facing for some time.

Confidentiality

As one of the most fundamental, foundational values of the Deaf and interpreting communities, confidentiality is always one of the most critical concepts to address.

As previously mentioned, the InPerson app does not provide patient/client information as one of the ways Stratus can protect the privacy and confidentiality demands from medical and legal entities. Contractors and staff alike are asked to agree to confidentiality standards and are expected to adhere to them. As in traditional coordination, there is a level of inherent trust that interpreters will uphold the ethical standards of the field with avenues to pursue action should there be a need.

Quality Standards

Coordinating sign language interpreters is challenging under the most perfect of circumstances. One possible downside of the model Stratus is using may be in the “first come, first hired” methodology. If requesting entities are determining skill sets/required credentials, who’s to say that the “race to the bottom” isn’t just happening along a different road? This is one of the most common complaints lobbied at spoken language agencies who provide sign language interpreters. The interpreter is still self-identifying that they are qualified for the jobs they take and according to Stratus executives, the hiring entity is determining the quality and caliber of the interpreter hired for each assignment. On the other hand, Stratus InPerson App does allow requesters to select pools of interpreters. If those within the organization understand what they are looking for relative to interpreter quality, this can support and possibly enhance the quality of services currently being provided to consumers through direct contracts or more traditional interpreter referral agencies, particularly where schedulers do not know the interpreters personally.

Meeting Consumer Needs – Cultural, Linguistic, and Other

Another potential sticking point in placing sign language interpreters via an app lies in the lack of consumer information provided, particularly when focused on the medical, mental health and legal systems. These arenas are some of the most high-stakes interpreting possible with potentially life-altering results. Deaf and hard of hearing consumers are already faced with unknown interpreters, lack of practitioner continuity and poor matching based on availability and poor quality control. Coordination by app does not seem to resolve any of these issues, nor does it exacerbate them as this is currently one of the many Everests interpreter coordinators face on a daily basis.

According to the interview, Stratus interpreters who use the InPerson app would be able to do some follow up with the hiring entity to ensure good matches are made and no conflicts of interest arise, however, those same opportunities exist now and are not always utilized. If the requestor does not know the patient/consumer history with an interpreter or the skills needed to interpret accurately and effectively in a specific arena, they may not be able to answer questions if the interpreter asks them.

One question interpreters posted online after reading the initial press release was, “How can the Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual participate in the hiring of the interpreter? Is there an avenue for that?” No mention was made of this path in our interview with Stratus. If consumer preferences could be captured, how would that work? What would it have to look like for buy-in from the Deaf and Interpreting communities?

Teaming/Use of CDIs

When questioned about the use of teaming or the utilization of CDIs when needed, Stratus representatives were supportive of the professional decision-making of the interpreter. Kathryn Jackson stated, “They can, and should, share their professional opinions with the administrators, and make those requests. And certainly we’ve always supported that – the idea of teaming, the idea of getting CDIs…for the interpreter to do their most effective work.” Again, this is not that different from current standards in jobs which are booked for under one hour. If interpreters find themselves in circumstances where they need a team or the expertise of a CDI, they must advocate for that in the moment, which may or may not happen, and may or may not be successful.

Standards for Pay

Stratus reports that they will go into a market to research current pay rates for interpreters as opposed to researching agency mark-ups which might allow for undercutting. Once a recommended standard rate of pay is determined, this is communicated to the hiring entities to maximize fill rates. Basically, Stratus does the homework to find out what rates interpreters will accept for specific types of work and then transparently charges an administrative fee of $15/hour to facilitate the assignment of interpreters via the app. In theory, the volume of work increases, the middle man (agency) is eliminated thus resulting in lower rates for the requestors, more work for the interpreters and a steady stream of income for Stratus.

While the plan outlined by Stratus makes sense on paper, how does it really work if an entity decides to pay something other than the recommended rate? Obviously, fill rates are on the minds of coordinators, but what happens to the consumer if the hourly rate paid to interpreters is the highest priority? What are the mechanisms that would prevent a vendor from going for the lowest rate as a matter of course?

An additional concern is the vastness of the task. The amount of work required to act as an insider in every market is exhaustive and requires feet on the ground talking to interpreters, hospitals, and other contracting entities. While this methodology sounds like it could have some positive outcomes, how long will it last? If those involved in the process of information-gathering are spread too thin, will their work to facilitate an average rate remain on point? If this model of business becomes unsustainable, what comes next?

Calling All Stakeholders: Dialogue is Key

Our interview with Stratus Video provided valuable insight into their process and perspectives on finding alternatives to traditional interpreter referral and the increasingly utilized VRI solution. Their app works to bridge the gap between the two in the face of evidence that one size does not fit all. Stratus’ research on market needs, local sign language interpreter rates and the leveraging of geolocation technology all point towards new horizons in the business of sign language interpreter provision. While technology like Stratus’ InPerson app challenges our views on vetting, contracting, billing, and other aspects of service provision, it also creates opportunities for dialogue. As Jackson sagely stated, “Anytime there’s something new, there is always going to be a bit of fear, and it’s okay…I think it’s healthy to always have debate; I think it’s healthy to challenge ourselves, and it’s always good to get together in a room and talk about stuff.”  

To be sure, the explosion of technology in the last decade has altered the course of both the practice and the business of sign language interpreting. Whether one eschews or embraces it, this redefinition brings an opportunity for stakeholders to come to the table and consider the impact of new technologies and methodologies on the work sign language interpreters do in support of the Deaf Community.

Questions for consideration:

  1.  How does “referral by app” impact patients and practitioners? Are there hidden human or financial costs/benefits?
  2. Can this type of technology support traditional interpreter provision? Are there ways to combine traditional referral techniques with apps which enhance speed and may lower costs?
  3. How can practitioners, consumers, and vendors work together to ensure that these types of technological advances explore all perspectives and possibilities?
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StreetLeverage: The 2015 Posts that Moved Us

Best of StreetLeverage 2015

 

As a way to welcome 2016, we handpicked 10 posts that inspired reflection, demonstrated courageous thinking, or generated spirited conversation. It is our guess that you were moved by some of these 2015 gems as well. If you missed one, take a moment to enjoy the goodness. * Posts not listed in any particular order.

1.  Sign Language Interpreters and the “F” Word

Sign Language Interpreters and the 'F' Word

One Headline We Wish We had Created Ourselves

Provocative headline aside, Jackie Emmart brings forward the art of asking for and receiving feedback. While the jury is still out on whether “feedback” is a four-letter word or not, it’s a topic that isn’t going away.

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2. Recognizing Polite Indifference: Sign Language Interpreters & Power

 Polite Indifference

A Personal Story that Resonated

Michele Vincent’s willingness to open up about a work experience gone sideways in order to share her own journey of self-discovery and shine a light on an important issue had staying power for many.

Read More…

3. Missing Narratives in Interpreter Education

Erica West Oyedele at StreetLeverage - X

A Post We Thought Worthy of Even More Attention

Looking back in our history and comparing the statistics shared in Erica West Oyedele’s StreetLeverage – X presentation, not much has changed in the demographics of the profession. Hopefully, as we extend our vision and open our hearts to truly understand, we can invite and support interpreters from underrepresented groups which, in turn, supports the Deaf community in all its diversity.

Read More…

4.  Station Meditation: VRS, Compassion and Sign Language Interpreters

Station Meditation: VRS, Compassion and Sign Language Interpreters

A Positive Outlook on VRS Interpreting

While not as uncommon as one might think, it was refreshing to read a post about VRS that displayed some of the positive aspects of interpreting in video relay. Judi Webb’s long-term experience as a video interpreter shows that longevity in VRS is possible with the right attitude and practice.

Read More…

5. Do Sign Language Interpreter “Accents” Compromise Comprehension?

Carol Padden

A Post that Made Me Conscious of My “Accent” In a Good Way

Carol Padden’s StreetLeverage – Live presentation on sign language interpreter accent will likely resonate for many readers, particularly non-native second language learners. Rather than perpetuating signing errors and disfluent language use, this is an opportunity for interpreters to reflect on their own accent and how they might remedy some of the issues with a little concentrated effort.

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6.  Self-Awareness: How Sign Language Interpreters Acknowledge Privilege and Oppression

Stacey Storme - StreetLeverage - Live 2015 Talk

I Wanted to Call the Presenter So We Could Have Coffee and Talk

Powerfully, Stacey Storme reminds sign language interpreters that while the situations we enter into as interpreters have nothing to do with us, “Our work has everything to do with us.” The interpreter is the third context in an interpreted communication and it behooves us never to forget that fact.

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7.  Horizontal Violence: Can Sign Language Interpreters Break the Cycle?

Horizontal Violence: Can Sign Language Interpreters Break the Cycle?

The Most Popular Post This Year

Clearly, many sign language interpreters have had negative experiences with colleagues which could fall into categories like bullying, harassment or intimidation. Kate Block explores how reflective practice might positively impact the interpreting field. It appears that people agree.

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8.  Deaf Interpreters: Shaping the Future of the Sign Language Interpreting Profession

Eileen Forestal - StreetLeverage - Live 2014

A New Paradigm Emerging for Hearing Interpreters

Eileen Forestal’s StreetLeverage – Live presentation explores the dissonance many hearing interpreters feel about working with Deaf Interpreters and encourages practitioners to come to the table open to the possibility that both groups have something to offer as professionals.

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9.  10 Lessons from my First Year as a Freelance Sign Language Interpreter

10 Lessons From My First Year as a Freelance Sign Language Interpreter

There is Encouragement and Positivity in the Field of Interpreting Today

Brittany Quickel’s 10 lessons illustrate the power of self-determination and positivity. Sign language interpreters everywhere can benefit from these simple, but sage, tips.

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10.  National Treasure

Patrick Graybill - StreetLeverage National Treasure 2015

Those Who Inspire

While this wasn’t a post, our 2015 list of goodness would not be complete without one important addition. StreetLeverage was proud to honor Patrick Graybill at StreetLeverage – Live 2015 as the first StreetLeverage – National Treasure honoree.

Read More…

Our Hope

Join us for another year of discovery, vulnerability, and meaningful conversation. We look forward to the magic of the journey that will be 2016.

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The Power of “Thank You”: Sign Language Interpreters and Gratitude

The Power of Thank You: Sign Language Interpreters and Gratitude

Sincere expressions of gratitude positively impact both giver and receiver. Creating an intentional gratitude practice could benefit sign language interpreters and the profession.

 

As the days grow darker with the change of the seasons, there is a sense of despair in many arenas of the sign language interpreting field; rough waters on the national front, a swiftly-changing field of work, expressions of dissatisfaction from those who employ our services the most. It almost feels like the perfect storm. One thought keeps those negative thoughts at bay: could we transform our relationships with the Deaf Community and other sign language interpreters if we expressed our thanks more regularly?

[Click to view post in ASL]

My thoughts here are not original. Brandon Arthur talked about Sign Language Interpreters and the Karma of Gratitude back in 2011. Tammera Richards included the idea in her article, #Doable: How Sign Language Interpreters Restore Relationships with the Deaf Community. If you do a blog search on StreetLeverage, many of the contributors mention gratitude in their articles. It is not a foreign concept, but my sense is that we need to be more intentional, and we need to do more. The darker the time, the more we need the light of our friends and supporters to show us the way.

Upping the Ante

Sometimes, a simple smile, a “hello”, or a friendly wave of acknowledgment when I’m on the phone is enough to make my day. Each of these gestures has made an impact on me, particularly when I might be struggling in some way. When I remember how meaningful it is to receive these expressions of gratitude, it strengthens my resolve to reach out and share them with others.

After the Community Forum at the RID National Conference this year, I did something I rarely do. I approached two of the speakers and thanked them for sharing their stories. For me, that session was the most memorable of the whole conference. I was moved to tears by the courage and strength of those who stood on the stage that night. While I usually convince myself that presenters don’t need to hear me tell them how great they are, I couldn’t contain my gratitude. The conversations that ensued were so heartfelt and so meaningful to me; I carry them with me still. Perhaps it was more beneficial for me than for them, I don’t know. What I do know is that when I walked away that night, I was inspired to be braver. To take more opportunities to thank those who inspire, support, teach and inform my work.

Finding New Mindsets

If I am looking for things to complain about, I will find them. If I am looking for things to be grateful for, those will emerge.” Patti Digh, Be Conscious of Your Treasures1

In 2006, one of my favorite authors, Patti Digh, offered a challenge on her blog: “Create a list of 37 people who have helped you and write just one or two sentences that captures the gift they have given you.”2 I took that challenge and the experience was profound. In 2013, she posted an entry in her web series, “your daily rock” titled, “write a thank you note.” In that short missive, she states:

“For four years now, I have written a thank you note every morning. It has changed how I see the world. I look for opportunities to thank, not opportunities to criticize. It is not new skills we need to change our lives–it is new mindsets.”3

The idea of changing mindsets resonates with me personally, and I have been wondering how it could impact our professional community, as well. I hope you will consider exploring a new mindset with me.

A November Challenge: Show Your Gratitude

As the month of November begins, as Thanksgiving approaches, and as many of us await the findings of the RID Risk Assessment, I’d like to challenge StreetLeverage readers to show your gratitude in a focused, purposeful way.

There are a million ways to show your gratitude. Here are some ideas:

  1. Write a thank you note to one person you worked with the day before and send it or give it to them each day in November.
  2. Donate time or money to a local Deaf Community organization in November.
  3. Write gratitude tweets or Facebook status updates to thank people in your community and/or in your work life each day in November.
  4. Invite someone out for coffee, lunch or dinner who may not be aware of their impact on your career. Tell them about it.
  5. Start a gratitude journal for your work life. Remember why you became a sign language interpreter in the first place. Do it every day of November (and beyond, if it helps).

Not convinced? Here is an article about the benefits of gratitude.

Creating Momentum

I hope you will join me in a month of gratitude. I’d love to hear about your experiences, transformations and epiphanies. I know it won’t solve the problems of our field, but it might be a step toward mending or strengthening relationships and partnerships, which may create the momentum to address some of the larger challenges that lay ahead for practitioners and the field in general. Or, it might just make you feel good.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. What do you think would start to occur within the field if we started to tell each other the things we assume others already know?
  2. How might an abundance of gratitude impact how we see our work, our teams, the people who use our services?
  3. What if, in the absence of explicit gratitude based on the work we produce, sign language interpreters expressed gratitude to each other for being a good team, for taking a challenging assignment, for correcting our mistakes, for taking the lead on a day when we weren’t quite feeling it?
  4. How can we meaningfully express our sincere appreciation to Deaf community members for their patience, guidance, feedback, and their willingness to share their language and culture?

References:

  1. Digh, Patti. “Be Conscious of Your Treasures.” Web log post. 37Days. N.p., 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
  2. ibid.
  3. Digh, Patti. “Your Daily Rock: Write a Thank You Note.” Web log post.37Days. N.p., 29 Nov. 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
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#Doable: Creating Safe Spaces for Sign Language Interpreters

Creating Safe Spaces for Sign Language Interpreters

Creating safe spaces for sign language interpreters can satisfy a need for community, connection and cohesion. Jean Miller provides simple steps for creating a safe space in your community.

Throughout my career as a sign language interpreter, I have been fortunate to have the most generous and giving mentors imaginable. I have always had a safe place to land when I needed support or professional advice and have always been given room to grow as a practitioner and professional. While I didn’t set out to create a “pay it forward” opportunity, I realize that was exactly what this adventure had become.

A Deeper Connection

After working as an interpreter service manager for nearly a decade, I missed a deeper connection to interpreting and decided to find ways to reintegrate that part of my work life. Engaging practicing sign language interpreters and student interpreters in conversation, I found that there was a similar need to connect with other interpreters but very few ideas about how to create those opportunities.

At the same time, I noticed novice and student interpreters were finding it difficult to network with experienced interpreters which was leading to limited observation and mentoring opportunities (both formal and informal) and some disenchantment with what was seen as a lack of welcome for them in the field. This is a huge concern.  In Brian Morrison’s article, It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language Interpreter, he discusses the need for all of us to participate in the raising of future sign language interpreters. Finding ways to bridge the gap between the students and the professional interpreters in meaningful and non-threatening ways is daunting, but not impossible. Careful thought and good intentions can take you farther than you know.

In November 2012, after the death of good friend and colleague, Amy Fehrenbacher McFarland, I knew it was time to act. Amy was a warm and welcoming interpreter, mentor and friend. She believed in reciprocity and mentoring and made student and novice sign language interpreters feel welcome in our profession and community. In some small way, I thought that I could find a way to honor her commitment to creating safe spaces for interpreters.  After gathering feedback from friends in the community, I developed a plan and set about implementing it.

The Birth of TerpTalk

WestSide TerpTalk was created in February 2013. It is a three-hour interpreter gathering on the first Saturday morning of the month in our local area. The gathering is “drop in” style and folks can stay as long or as little as they would like. General topics are related to sign language interpreting and the lives of interpreters but anything is fair game. While we don’t have a theme, I try to come prepared to open the conversation if needed. It hasn’t been necessary up to this point. Some months, the ITP students may come with homework or burning questions from their studies, but more often than not, the conversations are lively and free-flowing.

On March 1, 2014, WestSide TerpTalk celebrated a milestone – thirteen months and counting! We have had up to 18 participants with a lovely mix of seasoned sign language interpreters, newer interpreters and students. Interpreters have driven from across the state to attend our little group. Conversations have included interpreting Shakespeare, the recent Wall Street Journal article and response about sign language interpreters, the new NIC news from RID, the FCC summary from Shane Feldman at RID, local business practices and many other topics. Driving away from the event this past Saturday, I realized that my selfish plan to reconnect with my interpreter identity had become something completely different. In my tiny corner of the world, I have been able to put my hand out to help create a safe space for interpreters.

#Doable Action: Creating a Safe Space for Interpreters

If you are looking for opportunities to create safe spaces for interpreters and interpreting students, if you are looking to join the village in raising our future sign language interpreters or if you just want to reconnect with your sign language interpreter self, I hope you will consider creating a discussion group of some kind in your community.

What follows are suggestions for creating a discussion group in your area,

  1. Study the current needs in your community.

There may be other opportunities, but is there a gap? Consider days of the week, time of day, venues, static versus dynamic locations, etc.

WestSide TerpTalk is the opposite of our local IPAHH (Interpreter Professionals at Happy Hour). I didn’t want to take anything away from IPAHH, but there was still a need. For WestSide TerpTalk, we have a static location every time, set in the morning in a non-alcoholic environment. The goal is professional conversation so if a significant other or child is present, they should be prepared to endure shop talk. All are welcome – students, novice interpreters, seasoned interpreters, CDIs, as well as Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members.

  1. Consider venue carefully.

Do they have a minimum per person spending requirement? Do they allow “loitering”? What times of day would be most accommodating for the needs of your group? What is the parking situation? Will it fit the budget of students to well-established interpreters? Is the venue lighted well? Is there loud or live music? Knowing the reasons people aren’t attending other social opportunities helps inform you when creating a new one. Is there an area of town where sign language interpreters live but few events take place?

  1. Consider continuity.

The idea of going to a new place every month is appealing to some people, but for some, consistency is the key. In our busy lives, one less thing to look up or look for can be the determining factor in someone attending. For me, the ever-changing location of IPAHH is a deterrent, even though I acknowledge my desire for social connection with interpreters.

  1. Social Media is your friend.

Getting the word out on Facebook, Twitter or any other popular social media outlet will help increase your success rate. Set a date for the first event and start getting the word out well ahead of time. Include the location’s address every time.

  1. Enlist the local ITP for help.

Find out what their needs are and try to figure out if you can meet some of them. Ask them to post announcements on their events board – students are great at getting the word out about something that will benefit them in their studies and future careers.

  1. Patience is a virtue.

I was fully committed to showing up for WestSide TerpTalk for four months with book/journal/magazine in hand, just in case no one showed up. If, after four months of trying, no one ever showed up, I would know that this wasn’t what our community was looking for. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Thirteen months and going strong!

7. Choose a memorable name.

I don’t love the term “terp” as a general rule, but it came in handy when I was trying to come up with a name for the gathering.  I picked WestSide because we meet on the West side of Portland, Oregon.  TerpTalk was my other selection because I wanted the name to indicate that we were interpreters and we were probably going to talk shop.  Pick a name that suits your community, but make it memorable.  I am finding now, that many folks just call our gathering “TerpTalk”. I’m good with that.

8. Have Fun!

WestSide TerpTalk has allowed me to connect with interpreters I’ve known for a long time but don’t see often, with interpreters new to the area, student interpreters and interpreters I have known by name but had never met until they attended. It’s lively and fun and I find that I always leave with a huge smile on my face.

Final Thoughts

We each have the opportunity to create safe spaces, large and small, in the sign language interpreting community and everywhere. It doesn’t have to be complicated or grandiose. I’m very grateful to be able to have embarked on this journey.  In keeping with Brandon Arthur’s article, Sign Language Interpreters and the Karma of Gratitude, I’d like to take a moment to thank the people who have made WestSide TerpTalk such a success – Lydia Dewey Pickard and Erin Trine for making me think this crazy idea just might work, Portland Community College’s Sign Language Interpreter Program and the students who have faithfully attended since the beginning, and all the professional interpreters who have given their time and energy to supporting this endeavor and the intention behind it.