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Sign Language Interpreters: Attire Leaves a First & Lasting Impression

We only get one chance to make a first impression. This article explores how interpreter’s attire choices are more than just a reflection of themselves, and provides one question every interpreter should ask before stepping out the door.

Do you mind your ABCs (Appearance, Behavior, and Communication) as you prepare for every assignment? Can you think of an interpreter who has professionally mastered her or his ABCs and the impact that mastery has had on the Deaf community members with whom that interpreter has worked? What about an interpreter who exhibits what are referred to as Toxic Traits?1 These may include a “way of being” that drains the energy in the room, dandruff, bad breath or body odor, hair dyed unnatural colors, cleaning teeth or biting nails in public, entering a room with more bags than your local grocer, loud makeup, dangling or sparkly accessories, wrinkled clothing, bright nails or French manicures, worn out shoes, and/or an appearance that is inappropriate for the given environment. Dare we say that every practitioner out there has a Toxic Trait story to recall? This begs the question: did you say something to the Toxic Trait offender?

[View post in ASL]

We have been conditioned over the years to believe that someone else will handle it: our team will tell us if we cross the line ethically, Deaf people will tell us if they don’t like our clothing or accessories, and RID will manage ethics and punitive measures.  Someone else will tell me if my appearance disempowers the Deaf person(s) in the room.  What if you’re that “someone else”?  Consider this a call to action, to collectively shift our culture to one of appearance accountability: both for ourselves and for one another.

The impetus for this article comes from nationwide conversations with consumers and colleagues.  In 2012, we gave a presentation to 70+ ASL interpreters, designed in response to the trend of interpreters’ appearance and attire selections reflecting poorly upon the Deaf community.  We believe this topic isn’t being taken seriously enough given the consequences it carries. Our hope is that by the end of this article, you’ll understand how the inappropriate appearance choices of sign language interpreters serve to further oppress Deaf people, potentially limiting their workforce participation and mobility.

Why First Impressions Are So Important

It’s no secret that outside of our community, the field of sign language interpreting is not yet fully accepted as a legitimate profession.  We struggle for consistency and predictability in our national testing system, our business practices vary from one practitioner to the next, our ethical code prescribes behaviors instead of enumerating bedrock principles, etc. How many times have you been asked whether or not you’re the Deaf patient/candidate/employee’s relative?  Like it or not, the non-deaf majority sees us more as an extension of Deaf people than as professionals performing a cognitively complex task.

When we presented in 2012, we sought testimonials and perspectives from Deaf consumers and our colleagues to share.  We find what Dennis Cokely had to offer particularly poignant:

“It is certainly undeniable that society in general has become much more casual in dress and “casual Fridays” have, like a virus, crept into the rest of the work week.  I think this has given many interpreters “permission” to dress and act much more casually than I think they should. … The fact of the matter is that interpreters are definitely seen by society at large as aligned with Deaf people and present to help Deaf people; this despite our assertions that we are “neutral” and are there to serve both parties.  Society in general certainly believes that it is Deaf people who need interpreters, not the hearing bankers, lawyers, doctors, sales clerks, teachers, counselors and wait staff Deaf people are interacting with.  Society in general judges Deaf people by the company they keep – and that company is US!!!!”

In 2012, Anna Witter-Merithew shared this perspective in a StreetLeverage.com post (note Anna’s comment on January 18, 2012 at 12:16am): “How we dress does impact on how we are perceived AND how deaf people are perceived. …Dressing according to the system norms is one way to improve how we are perceived in that system.”2  It is fair to say, from Anna and Dennis’ thoughts, from empirical research about impressions, and from our collective observations, that our appearance and behavioral decisions reflect upon Deaf people, for better or worse.

Research tells us that “others immediately form stereotypical associations about you that are frequently emotionally based, and that once those impressions are formed, others’ rational and emotional brains seek to validate those impressions.”3  Studies show that you have as few as six seconds4 when you meet someone to create a lasting impression.  This impression will impact their relationship with you and, more importantly, with the Deaf individual for whose interview/appointment/etc. you’re booked to interpret.  “After the fact, it’s easy for someone to tell whether you are a rarity who actually tends to every detail.  But before you get the opportunity to prove yourself, people will have to draw that conclusion from the way you look, [communicate], and act.  If your hair isn’t combed, your clothes aren’t neat, your shoes aren’t shined and you don’t [communicate] in a logical and orderly fashion, why should they assume your work will reflect any greater care?”5  If they are making these judgments about our work, and our work is Deaf people’s lives, then what reflection does that cast and what’s the ripple effect?

Judging a Book By its Cover

There are countless studies done by business, law, and medical schools across the country about the impact of attire on the customer, client, and patient’s perception of the respective professional’s expertise.  In one healthcare study, respondents were shown to overwhelmingly favor physicians in professional attire with a white coat.  Wearing professional dress while providing patient care by physicians may favorably influence trust and confidence-building in the medical encounter.6  In the legal field, the impact of appearance has long been taken seriously and there are consequences when one fails to satisfy the expectation.  “Certainly by becoming a member of the bar, a lawyer does not terminate his membership in the human race, nor does he surrender constitutional rights possessed by private citizens. … However ‘[membership] in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions.’”7  We believe that the nature of our work and invitation into the lives of Deaf people is also a privilege burdened with conditions, including that of adjusting one’s appearance to suit the environment.

We are not suggesting sign language interpreters wear physicians’ white coats to their assignments in healthcare.  What we are suggesting is that working in the interpreting profession, your casual attire may not impact your future success.  Instead, it is more likely that it would impact opportunities for success for the Deaf people with whom we work.  When we’re invited into the lives of Deaf people, we are guests and we should treat those experiences as such.  To dress down as a default undermines the very respect we purport to uphold.

So What? Why This Matters

When was the last time your attire choices could have impacted whether or not the Deaf candidate got the job?  Will you ever know for sure?  Has your desire to express your personality ever overshadowed the Deaf researcher’s presentation to her or his non-deaf colleagues?  How do you know if the way you entered the room impacted the energy – did you add to the tension in the business negotiation?  Or if the Social Security worker thought differently about the Deaf applicant when your colleague wore jeans and boots to the appointment?  How many times has your (or your colleague’s) appearance been a distraction, a deterrent or a detriment?

We will never know the impact of our decisions with certainty… until we ask with an open mind.  In our research, we received numerous counts of impact from Deaf community members.  Once we started asking, the stories were virtually never-ending.  Below is a handful of what was shared.

  1. On a doctor’s impression of this Deaf parent: “I was recently at a doctor’s appointment for my daughter.  The interpreter walked in with a loud, low-cut top.  She had long nails and WILD hair…I had to keep asking her to repeat whatever she said – I was severely distracted by the amount of skin she showed.  I wonder what the doctor thought of me, having to ask her to repeat herself so many times…”
  2. A Deaf professional and her/his strategy for requests: “I mostly prefer that interpreters look neat and well put together…there have been occasions when I am in a situation where impressions are important and I will not use certain interpreters because their attire/presentation CAN impact the perception of me and my expertise.”
  3. On accessories, from a Deaf instructor: “It’s very rare for me to make an issue of their clothing choice of the day, but if it really irks me, I would approach the interpreter after the interpreting job is finished.  I can’t make the interpreter to go back home and change; it’s rather late and so I must accept the choice of clothing.  But with accessories, I can ask.”
  4. From a Deaf professional: “I was invited to serve on a panel and dressed in a suit and high heels, as did the other panelists.  My interpreter showed up in shorts, late, standing her tennis racket on the side of the panel table while she interpreted.  I was so embarrassed…”
  5. On the desire to express oneself: “You want to wear a tongue ring, lip ring, nose ring, etc.?  Take it out, go to the job, and then when you’re done, put it back in.  Draw the most attention to your work, not yourself.  It may bug the hell out of you because you want to express yourself, but you’re hired to work for a situation, and you don’t make the rules.”
  6. On trying to open the conversation: “Once an interpreter showed up wearing a low-cut dress and when I asked her about her choice she responded with an attitude that I wasn’t the one hiring her.  I asked her if they found out, what she’d do without them and she replied that she’d just find another job.  Then I asked her what she’d do without me, and she was suddenly at a loss for words.”

These behaviors are noticed by interpreter coordinators as well.  Here are a couple of their thoughts:

  1. “I am careful about who I do and do not hire to work in certain situations, based on what I know certain interpreters to wear.  My clients cannot afford to have the interpreter draw positive or negative attention – the work is too sensitive to allow for inappropriate first impressions.”
  2. “I have had people show up to an assignment in t-shirts and jeans and it MUST be addressed.   Sadly, I now have a clause in my booking email: ‘All assignments are considered business register, please dress professionally.’”

What do these behaviors say about our respect for consumers and their lives, our profession, and ourselves?  What does it say that interpreter coordinators need to manage our attire choices?  And so we ask, when is the last time you asked, with an open-mind, your team and/or the Deaf individual(s) about your appearance or attire choices?

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s time for change.  We do not believe sign language interpreters need to revert to the CSUN smock days.8  We believe that regardless of our attire choices, most interpreters share the same goal of rendering excellent interpreting services that provide communication access for people who do not share a common language.  We also believe that we have allowed ourselves to become complacent when it comes to holding one another and ourselves accountable.

Matt Etemad-Gilbertson wrote an article entitled, “Polite Disregard – Does It Serve Us?” which was originally published in a VRS newsletter.  In it, he eloquently paints the picture of our current state of affairs, which we believe is still relevant today.

“It has been my experience that the interpreting community is filled with caring professional nurturing, thoughtful mentorship and amazingly talented and ethical practitioners of our shared work…it has also been my experience that “polite disregard” rules the day among us on many occasions…  Polite disregard is the fear of not knowing how to share what we’ve seen or heard in the work.  Polite disregard is that moment during or post assignment when our team turns and says “any feedback for me?”  Polite disregard is when you actually have noticed a troubling pattern that you’d like to point out but it’s too hard to say.  In a practice-based profession like interpreting, polite disregard inhibits us from having difficult conversations that ultimately serve to compromise the integrity of the work.”

The only way we will get from where we are, in a state of complacency, to where we would like to shift the field, is by insisting on a culture of mutual accountability where dressing appropriately is the norm.  We need to stop dancing around conversations and collectively commit to embodying a “way of being” that subtly blends in with interpreted encounters, regardless of our personal preferences.  It’s time to step up and ask the hard questions of ourselves first, and then of one another that keep us all accountable.  We propose that before every assignment, sign language interpreters ask themselves:

Do my attire and overall appearance reflect my commitment to appropriately represent the Deaf people with whom I will work, and the environment in which I will work?

If the answer to either of those questions is uncertain, or a clear “no,” then it’s time to go home and change before stepping foot into the lives of Deaf people.  After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

 

References

Dimitrius, J. E. and Mazzarella, M. (2000) Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside.

2 Witter-Merithew, Anna. (January 18, 2012). Response to Sign Language Interpreters: Stepping out of the Shadow of Invisibility. Retrieved from http://www.streetleverage.com/2012/01/sign-language-interpreters-stepping-out-of-the-shadow-of-invisibility/#comments (comment from January 18, 2012 at 12:16am)

3 Dimitrius, J. E. and Mazzarella, M. (2000). Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside. p.76.

4 Winerman, Lea. (March 2005). ‘Thin slices’ of life. Monitor on Psychology, volume 36. Retrieved from  http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar05/slices.aspx

5 Dimitrius, J. E. & Mazzarella, M. (2000). Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside. p.62.

6 Gosling, R. & Standen, R. (1998). Doctors’ dress. British Journal of Psychiatry, 172, 188-189.

7 Keasler, J. (1974, July 31). Tied to be fit? The Miami Newspaper. Retrieved from: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19740731&id=ZdglAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2vMFAAAAIBAJ&pg=847,5108664


8 Solomon, S. (1987, February 26). Deaf Students Follow the Signs in CSUN Classes. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/1987-02-26/news/vw-6030_1_deaf-student

 

BIO

Lena Dumont, Matt Etemad-Gilbertson,  Laura O’Callahan, Kristy Moroney, Jackie Emmart, Will English, and SooJin Chu are the team who created the original First and Lasting Impressions presentation, shared with the Greater Boston community in March 2012. Together, the first six represent 85 years of interpreting experience, and work or have worked in many arenas of the interpreting world including, but not limited to: general community,  K-12 and post-secondary education, healthcare, VRS, business, government, and conferences. SooJin is an independent fashion consultant and an expert in successful dressing that fosters positive first and lasting impressions. They all strongly believe that tailoring an interpreter’s appearance and behavior to a given situation is not only possible, it is essential.

The authors wish to extend their sincere gratitude to Carol-lee Aquiline, for her time and energy invested in the translation of this article. Thank you, Carol-lee!

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Sign Language Interpreters: How to Avoid Being Abandoned at the Microphone

Lone Sign Language Interpreter Holding a Microphone

Even surrounded by a team of interpreters, crucial support can be nowhere to be found. Tiffany Hill deconstructs a situation she experienced while offering perspectives on how to strengthen collective responsibility.

I am facing a panel of 6 people in front of an audience of 200 attendees. The event is about to commence. I have a lone microphone in my hand and an empty chair beside me. As I settle into position I look around for my team and realize that I am alone. I cannot locate the other two members of the interpreting team for the event, let alone the ‘second pair of eyes’ that were promised to me.

Right as the facilitator takes the stage, I see the other interpreters get into place to interpret for the audience behind me. “Great—I think—as soon as the panelists start, someone will come right over.” The Deaf panelist thought the same as I had assured all involved that the team was locked and loaded and ready to go. Sparing some of the logistical tidbits, I will say that what happens next is the very opposite of what I committed and of what had been committed to me, the very opposite of what had been instilled in me in my professional upbringing: I was not part of a team.

All Alone

As I sit in my chair with the microphone I try to get the attention of my fellow interpreters. I wave my hand and the Deaf panelist tries to make eye contact with them from the stage…nothing. It never happens. For the next 45 minutes no one comes to my aid. After the panel and speakers finish, I make my way out of the conference. As I exit, one of the interpreters sees me and says, “great job” while throwing me a thumbs up and a wink.

Fortunately, the above series of events are not what I typically experience from my hard working colleagues. I do, however, need to go on record by saying, sadly, this was not the first time that I have been an eye witness to, or the recipient of the stated behaviors, which leads me to beg the question: Whose team are we on anyway?

The Pre-Conference

What events transpired prior to me sitting there alone with the mic in my hand? Let’s rewind the morning.

I was informed with short notice that I would be voicing for a Deaf panel participant during a local conference. I was afforded no opportunity to prepare myself, as the speaker, with whom I work regularly, had yet to even form an outline of their own thoughts and points for their remarks.

Of course the idea of walking in cold to any situation can immediately ignite the nerves. And although I was engaged to be the primary voice interpreter for this panelist, I anticipated the event organizer requesting interpreters for the general audience, as there was a high expectation of several Deaf attendees to be present. Proactively I arrived as early as possible to get the lay of the land and pre-conference with the other interpreters.

Social Agreement

Right away I was greeted by the requestor and made as many decisions as I could without the presence of the Deaf panelist. I was also told the other interpreters for the event had already arrived and I was introduced to one of the two of them. I felt an immediate sense of camaraderie flood over me at the relief of having a ‘team’ on hand. Not just one, we were potentially a team of three. Actually, when you include the Deaf panelist, I was really to be one of a four-member team.

My professional switch flipped into the ‘on’ position. I wanted to first put my ‘team’ at ease informing her that I work with this person regularly and would handle the voicing, however, I would really appreciate another pair of eyes next to me. I was met with lots of head nods and affirmations of support. I explicitly spelled out what I needed from my team and I was assured I was going to receive it. After all, these were the assigned interpreters for the conference. The whole conference was their responsibility, right?

In the end, I felt comfortable that the arrangements had been settled and we all knew our roles.

Collective Responsibility

Reflecting on the events of that morning returns my focus to the basics with an intense need to open up a dialogue about where we are and where we are headed as a group of professionals. As sign language interpreters, we enlist ourselves to demonstrate professional courtesies to our clients and consumers, but what about to our professional counterparts, our co-workers, our fellow partners, and team members?

Part of the reason I pose this question, is because it was posed to me. At the conclusion of it all, the Deaf panelist wanted to know what had happened. Why was I not viewed as a member of the team? Why didn’t the interpreters feel the same professional responsibility toward me as I did towards them?

If we were there with the same purpose, with the same roles, and with the same goal, should we not have all been working together to provide continuity and integrity of message for all? Should it not be automatic that when we are present in multiples we forge an automatic alliance? What would have happened if I had not done a ‘good job’? After all, was not the success of the ‘team’ dependent upon the success of my production and how I worked with the Deaf panelist? Not one of us functioned independently of each other, rather, interdependently. Isn’t that how we should prefer to work, knowing our arsenal includes not only our tool bag, but those of a network?

The 3 Point Replay

Some things are innate, others have to be taught and nurtured until they become second nature. In my view, Professionalism, by way of teamwork, is one of those things. We need to understand its definition and its connectivity to those with whom we work. We also need to be aware of the social and cultural implications it has in and around the community when we fail to grasp the concept.

While I appreciated the one interpreter expressing her opinion that I did a good job, as I consider the events of that morning, I would like to offer 3 things that I believe could have changed the dynamics of the assignment and led to a better outcome:

  1. With the need to reassure my team of my familiarity with the panelist, it is possible I projected a certain level of over-confidence, which may have given the impression that I needed less support than what I actually stated.
  2. As the assigned conference interpreters, there was a need to be alert to all aspects of the event, whether or not serving as the primary interpreter for a certain portion.
  3. Post-conference would have allowed us, as a team, to retrace which missteps led to our communication breakdown and which steps to take going forward as not to repeat any mishaps on our part.

The above forms part of the recipe to the antidote for counteracting the effects of unbalanced teamwork and contributes to preventing the series of events, which resulted in the unintended isolation of a team member.

In Conclusion

It gives me pleasure to happily state that for the past twelve years, I have been part of a profession where I believe the majority to be team players, partners even, with the same mission on the tips of their fingers and tongues. In fact, many of them have raised and nurtured me with their skills and knowledge, even passing along and bequeathing me their professional genealogy.

But just as two children are raised in the same home with the same parents, with the same rules and expectations, who do not mimic each other, so it goes in the professional arena where no two interpreters reflect the same level or depth of understanding with regards to this concept. It then becomes abundantly clear what the antonym looks like.

I want to challenge myself and each of us to continue to analyze ourselves and our approach to the work we do and how it effects our colleagues.  Teamwork should echo and permeate the very fabric of what we do.

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What Can Groupies Teach Sign Language Interpreters About Social Networking?

Sign Language Interpreters and Social Networking

In a dynamic field it can be hard to keep pace and have deeper engagement in current interpreting issues. In this article, Wing Butler draws parallels between strategies pre- and post- social media and extols the benefits of continued connection to spur change.

Several months ago I watched an edited for TV movie, “Almost Famous”, a story of a young boy on the doorstep of the 70s rock scene, tasked by Rolling Stones magazine to write a gritty behind-the-scenes article of an up and coming fictional band. What ensues is his journey as a “groupie” that captures the essence of the 70’s classic rock movement woven in with a coming of age introduction to the world and the struggle of the young journalist. No doubt history repeats itself, and while our work is a far stretch to musicians in the music industry, I consider many of my sign language interpreter friends “rockstars.”

Before I go on, I have to offer up a confession, I am a StreetLeverage “groupie.” I should also offer up a disclaimer, it was a little over two years ago that Brandon called me with an idea, StreetLeverage.com. If you’re reading this as a result of your interest in the site’s content, then it may seem to you a no brainer to pitch in. Although at the time, in the desert of creativity that nothingness was the unknown. I remember late night discussions about content, strategies, and the regular question—were we the only audience of the site.

With my interpreter toolkit slung over my shoulder and a leap of faith in the vision, I got on the StreetLeverage tour bus and provided a couple articles on my favorite business tool—social media—and a year and a half later presented at the first StreetLeverage – Live event. While this article may seem a selfless plug of something I am passionate about, I believe there are lessons to be learned from my backstage access to the StreetLeverage story.

(Thanks to Brandon for graciously honoring the wager that allowed me to publish this article. Never under-estimate the power of thumb-wrestling.)

Dare to Dream

As you may know, the most recent stop for StreetLeverage was in Indianapolis, IN to provide social media coverage of the 2013 RID national conference. The online access to conference sessions via Facebook, Twitter, video interviews and photo sharing was unprecedented in our field, and better, the offsite and virtual discussions amongst sign language interpreters will echo conference topics long after the conference now ended.

Shortly after the event I was talking with an interpreter friend of mine, a rockstar by the way, unable to attend the national conference. She commented that after watching the StreetLeverage coverage from her social-web streams that she was inspired to be present at the next RID conference and to stand and be counted.

I share this because her comment embodies the entire ambition of StreetLeverage when it dared to dream that a community of reflective practitioners amplified by social media could inspire action within the sign language interpreting industry.

To me, understanding the online path StreetLeverage has taken offers a type and shadow for anyone looking to leverage socially oriented communication to coalesce a group of people around a vision.

Be Intentional

What people may not necessarily be aware of is that StreetLeverage began more intentionally exploring the power of social networking beyond blogging with StreetLeverage-Live 2012 | Baltimore, which offered a new format for professional dialogue and professional development within the sign language interpreting field. StreetLeverage – Live introduced a TED-like presentation format with social media coverage on Facebook and Twitter to complement. The event was followed with the posting of the recorded presentations online for free viewing and sharing.

StreetLeverage expanded its exploration of social networking with StreetLeverage – Live 2013 | Atlanta and the 2013 RID national conference in Indiana by creating a content delivery team to better capture and share intelligent, insightful, and germane content with the broader sign language interpreting industry. StreetLeverage will perpetuate further live and digital dialogue on strengthening and building the industry with StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin May 1 – 4 and other projects underway.

Aside from the obvious benefits of immediate access to sharing information and connecting with people on a larger scale, StreetLeverage has intentionally and strategically explored how to use social networking to introduce and connect its vision of change to sign language interpreters.

What I have learned watching all this connecting, amplification, and vision casting is that if people will dare to make a difference and take that challenging first step to share it, others will follow. It is bringing people together to reflect on the field that has made the StreetLeverage story so special.

The positive engagement that StreetLeverage has generated over the last couple of years is proof that using social generosity, connection, and amplification to create a shared vision is applicable to our industry too.

What Has Come into View

Why has StreetLeverage been so successful in bringing people together? To me, it is because there is an understanding four basic principles of social media.

Online Transparency Builds Relationships

The quick one-liner interactions in bits and bytes online may not seem like much, but they can go far in developing trust and engagement. Interacting offers a sense of empathy and understanding, and its only when people feel understood that they will begin to listen to your message.

Strength in Numbers

There are more sign language interpreters “out there” using social media than there are “in here” attending events designed to create change, which should give pause to any organization to prioritize their communication planning. And therein lies one of the greatest benefits, the more an organization communicates “out there” the more likely individuals will join you “in here.”

No Hostages

Crowd sourcing online comments on a particular topic offers a wider cross-section of sign language interpreter disposition, preventing the “one” public comment or the “loudest” to stand as representation of the interpreter masses. Social media provides an outlet to engage those less willing to take the stage or find themselves supporting a more unpopular opinion.

Accountability

The awareness that anyone anywhere could be tweeting, posting and recording your actions or words increases the level of accountability. While it may sound, “big brother-ish,” it incentivizes industry stakeholders, leaders, and practitioners to say what they mean, mean what they say. And yes, opinions will be formed. With everyone only a mobile app away from broadcasting, our virtual community compels action and professional restraint.

The sign language interpreting profession needs people willing to consider that they are accountable for the future of the field. With all the good that social media can do, it behooves every member of the sign language interpreting profession to sharpen the tools in their social media toolkits and strategically add their perspective.

Where can this knowledge and accountability take you?

The Secret Sauce

Not all individuals and organizations are equipped with the social media structures to pull off fantastic social media campaigns like StreetLeverage did with its coverage of the 2013 RID conference. While there is no “one size fits all” solution, with some strategic thinking you and potentially your organization could be broadcasting with transparency and efficiency. Both individuals and organizations within the field are at a distinct advantage because content grows organically from within, and sign language interpreter niche content isn’t crowded, at least for now.

Assuming that one identifies with the benefits of communicating through social media; greater inclusion, accountability and stronger personal and organizational branding, the question is how? At the risk of giving away the StreetLeverage secret sauce here’s how you and your organization can create an online presence to promote greater communication, thus greater engagement to drive real tangible change.

Create a Platform

Start Small

Create your online presence and focus on communicating within one domain. Once you’ve got it down, expand to another social medium.

Set a schedule

Take a few minutes to consider how much time you can spend focused on social media, sketch out a schedule, and stick to it.

Create a Social Media Statement

Create a statement to help you guide your thinking, both as an individual and as an organization, to proactively think through how you would like to make use of social media. How to respond to social media interactions? How to respond to conflict or negative interactions? What should be posted? Finally, what do we want to accomplish with our social networking?

Content, content, content.

Produce quality content quickly, economically and often.

In a world big on ideas and short on implementation, I hope that you are able to take full advantage of social media communication. How do you know its working? Engagement, measured in the amount of shares, likes, re-tweets and comments are a few of the indicators that gauge effectiveness.

United Strong

Like the bands of the 1970s and as StreetLeverage has demonstrated as of late, our community has always been greater than the sum of our parts. But, it’s the consistent functions of individual components that keep us moving forward.

As Stephanie Feyne so eloquently put it in her recent article, Authenticity: The Impact of a Sign Language Interpreter’s Choices, “This means we interpreters have a great deal of power. And we have a tremendous responsibility. The hearing parties are relying upon our language to help form their impressions of whether the Deaf party is genuine and credible (and vice versa).”

While this speaks specifically to the sign language interpreting process (our language choices), the same could be said about our communication choices online. What kind of impression does your social media activity leave? Are you contributing to the betterment of the field?

<Cue John Lennon’s “Imagine”> Grab your online toolkits and I’ll see you at the next sign language interpreter event.

Do you have any online or social networking tips? Share them with us.