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6 Presentations That Will Make You a Better Sign Language Interpreter

6 Presentations That Will Make You a Better Sign Language Interpreter

Sign language interpreters constantly strive to be better practitioners. Often it is a flash of perspective that gives context to the challenges they face and assists them in moving along their path to actualization.


Let’s admit it, being a sign language interpreter can be tough. Sometimes a little sprinkle of perspective can contextualize the challenges we face as practitioners. From language fluency to connecting with the community, from confronting social justice issues and inaccurate assumptions to maintaining our integrity and leaving a legacy, these flashes of insight can lead us to becoming the interpreters we aspire to be. What follows are sprinkles of goodness that will, in fact, make you a better sign language interpreter.

1.  Dennis Cokely | Sign Language Interpreters: The Importance of the Day Before

Dennis Cokely

In his StreetLeverage – Live | Atlanta presentation, Sign Language Interpreters: The Importance of the Day Before, Dennis Cokely discusses the dangers of unchallenged assumptions and the “one thing” sign language interpreters must always remember in order to render more effective, meaningful, and culturally appropriate interpretations.

View the ASL, English and PPT here.

2.  Deb Russell | Sign Language Interpreters: Discover & Recover an Enduring Legacy

Debra Russell

Deb Russell’s StreetLeverage – Live | Atlanta presentation, Sign Language Interpreters: Discover & Recover an Enduring Legacy, recognizes the importance of uncovering and acknowledging the contributions and traits of leaders who have significantly impacted the field of interpreting. In order to move forward, we must first understand where we have come from.

View the ASL, English, and PPT here.

3.  Betty Colonomos | Sign Language Interpreters: Fostering Integrity

Betty Colonomos

In her presentation, Sign Language Interpreters: Fostering Integrity, from StreetLeverage – Live | Atlanta, Betty Colonomos defines integrity and highlights the critical need for accountability in the field of sign language interpreting.

View the ASL, English and PPT here.

4.  Doug Bowen Bailey | Transforming Perspectives: The Power of One-to-One Conversations For Sign Language Interpreters

doug bowen bailey

Doug Bowen-Bailey’s StreetLeverage – Live | Austin presentation, Transforming Perspectives: The Power of One-to-One Conversations for Sign Language Interpreters, explores the concept of one-to-one conversations as a means of connecting with the Deaf community and other interpreters.

View the ASL, English, and PPT here.

5.  Trudy Suggs | Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter

Trudy Suggs - Deaf Disempowerment and Today's Interpreter

Trudy Suggs’ StreetLeverage – Live | Baltimore presentation, Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter, powerfully explores both financial and situational disempowerment within the Deaf Community.

View the ASL, English and PPT here. 

6.  MJ Bienvenu | Bilingualism: Are Sign Language Interpreters Bilinguals?

MJ Bienvenu - StreetLeverage - Live 2015

MJ Bienvenu’s StreetLeverage – Live | Austin presentation, Bilingualism: Are Sign Language Interpreters Bilingual?, explores the deeper questions involved in determining whether sign language interpreters are, in fact, bilingual.

View the ASL, English and PPT here.

The Whole is More than the Sum of its Parts

While these presentations represent a small part of the wisdom and insight shared at StreetLeverage – Live events, we hope this retrospective provides you with some tools, ideas and information to support your journey to becoming the sign language interpreter you’ve imagined yourself to be.

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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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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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StreetLeverage – Live 2014 Speaker Line-up

MJ Bienvenu

StreeLeverage - Live 2014 Speaker Line-upStreetLeverage - Live 2014 Speaker Line-upDecember 19, 2013:

We are excited to announce that we have largely finalized our speaker line-up for StreetLeverage – Live 2014 in Austin, TX May 1-4, 2014.

For the third year in a row we’ve scoured the field to spotlight those daring the field of sign language interpreting to think differently.

Join these thought leaders for a weekend of discussion and critical thinking about how we understand, practice and tell the story of the sign language interpreter?


Read speaker bios and more by clicking here.

Connect with these speakers on FaceBook by clicking on their name. Carolyn BallMj BienvenuDoug Bowen-BaileyEileen Forestal, Tom Humphries, Robert G. LeeCarla MathersGina A. OlivaStacey McIntosh Storme, and Chris Wagner.

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StreetLeverage – Live 2014 in Austin, TX

StreetLeverage - Live 2014 | Austin

StreetLeverage - Live 2014 | AustinMarch 10, 2013:

StreetLeverage is excited to announce that it will be hosting StreetLeverage – Live 2014 in Austin, TX.

May 1 – 4, 2014 will be a 3 1/2 day convergence of thought leaders from around the sign language interpreting industry to foster idea sharing, dialogue, and proactive thinking in order to propel the field forward.

You can find some of the early event info below:


Austin Marriott  North
2600 La Frontera Blvd
Round Rock, TX 78681

To book online, click here. If you have trouble, call Marriott at 800.865.0546.

Nightly Rate

A room block has been reserved at a rate of $159.00 (single or double occupancy) for event attendees. This rate, subject to availability, will be extended to attendees through April 20, 2014. Please note that in-room Internet and onsite parking are complimentary.

We encourage attendees that are traveling from out of the area, and even those local, to take advantage of the convenience of staying in the event hotel.

The Program

The StreetLeverage – Live 2014 program of events is still being finalized. Click these links to view our speaker line-upschedule and sponsors.

2014 Registration Fees

Thank you for your interest in attending StreetLeverage – Live. The registration fee only covers conference admittance and does not include hotel accommodation, travel, transportation or any other charges. Please find a schedule of the 2014 registration fees by clicking here.

Refund Policy

There will be no penalty for cancellations received on or before the date 21 days prior to the first day of StreetLeverage – Live. The full amount paid minus a $40 processing fee will be refunded.

A cancellation fee of 50% of registration costs will be applied for cancellations received between 20 through 10 days before the event.

No refund will be issued for cancellations received less than 10 days before the first day of the event.

All cancellations must be sent in writing via e-mail to Brandon Arthur. Please email cancellations and expect confirmation within four business days.

StreetLeverage is not responsible for problems beyond our control (i.e. weather, traffic, etc). No refunds will be given in these situations. The final determination on refunds rests with Brandon Arthur.


For directions click here.  A hired car to or from the airport is approximately $50.00 (one way).

The hotel suggests using Ace Taxi. 512.244.1133 |


For local dining options click here (note, there is an onsite Starbucks).

Continuing Education                                                                                                                                     RID CMP Logo

StreetLeverage – Live has access to both an approved BEI and RID CMP Sponsor for Continuing Education Activities. Earn up to 2.3 Professional and General Studies CEUs at the Little/None and Some Content Knowledge levels.

* Only registered attendees submitting documentation and evaluation are eligible to receive CEU credit.

Please contact Brandon Arthur for inquires on specific onsite policies related to earning CEU credit.

Language Pledge

The official language of StreetLeverage – Live is American Sign Language (ASL). To that end, all program sessions and activities at StreetLeverage – Live  will be delivered in ASL. No English interpretation will be provided.

Photo Release

Attendees need to be aware that there will be photographers and videographers present during StreetLeverage – Live. By attending the event, attendees consent to be photographed and recorded. StreetLeverage will do its best to honor attendee requests to not be included in the photo and video coverage. Requests to be excluded, where possible, from the photo and video coverage must be made in writing. Requests must be received not less than 10 business days prior to the event and include a current photo. All requests should be sent to Brandon Arthur.

Event Cancellation

Should StreetLeverage have to cancel StreetLeverage – Live, attendees may choose to receive a 100% refund or to transfer their registration to the next StreetLeverage event. Registered attendees will be notified of the conference cancellation by StreetLeverage via the email submitted during the registration process.

Special Accommodations

Please email Brandon Arthur to inquire about special accommodation policies.

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A Salute to Big Thinking Sign Language Interpreters

StreetLeverage-Live - Thought Leadership Event

StreetLeverage-Live - Thought Leadership EventWhat do projectile vomiting, cancelled and delayed flights, and an unrelenting Nor’easter have in common? StreetLeverage—Live. As anyone who has organized a live event will tell you, there are always unforeseen challenges that arise and StreetLeverage—Live had its fair share. Despite these challenges, the event was a success.

Talent Salute

I salute Nigel Howard, Trudy Suggs, Lynette Taylor, and Wing Butler, the inaugural speakers of StreetLeverage—Live, for their commitment to the field and its next evolution, the courage to openly share their big ideas, and the considerable effort made to effectively pack these ideas into a concise 20-ish minute talk. No small task to be sure. These independent thinkers are people who require more of themselves, those around them, and of the status quo.

Nigel, Trudy, Lynnette and Wing, you guys killed it! Nicely done.

A Recap

Nigel HowardNigel Howard

Nigel presented, Deaf Interpreters: The State of Inclusion. His talk explored some of the perceptions that challenge better integration of deaf interpreters into the field and into daily practice. Most notably, the perception that ASL-English interpreters have that requesting to work with a deaf interpreter is an indication of an inferior skill-set.

Additionally, he highlighted that the definitions ASL-English and deaf interpreters hold of each other, correct or not, is the basis of their effectiveness working together and that both have equal responsibility for the processing of information and outcome of the communication.

Finally, Nigel offered that there is a need to broaden the view of how and why deaf interpreters are used in order to improve their inclusion and contribution to the field.

Trudy SuggsTrudy Suggs

Trudy presented, Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter. Her talk examined how the choices sign language interpreters make while delivering communication access can, and often do, contribute to the economic and situational disempowerment of deaf people.

Trudy offered that interpreters can avoid stripping power from those they work with, and the broader Deaf community, by remembering who are the owners of the communication. Further, that it is essential to defer to these owners and Deaf community representatives rather than speak on their behalf. Additionally, that true empowerment begins when a consciousness is achieved that results in the referring of opportunity to back to the Deaf community.

Finally, she offered that anything less than full and mutual respect, regardless of the situation and/or opportunity at stake, is a failure to support true empowerment.

Lynnette TaylorLynnette Taylor

Lynette presented, Modern Questor: Connecting the Past to the Future of the Field. Her talk explored, how the dwindling numbers of deaf-centric service agencies and shared gathering places for the Deaf community and sign language interpreters is impacting the sign language interpreting field.

Lynnette offered that the elimination of these agencies and places of gathering is resulting in the disappearance of the stories and storytellers that serve to connect the two communities—and practitioners to each other—through a common understanding of the struggles and sacrifices known, victories achieved, and destination aimed for.

Finally, she suggested that without this common bond and shared understanding of history, sign language interpreters are left adrift—powerless against the definitions imposed upon them and their work. 

Wing ButlerWing Butler

Wing presented, Onsite Sign Language Interpreters Face Extinction. His talk examined the legislation and technology developments of the 90’s that defined the values of the “Onsite Era” and how these values are now being replaced by the values of a “Virtual Presence Era.”

He offered that some of the key values of the Onsite Era that are being replaced are, a relational approach to the work, interpreters are service professionals, quality means certified, specialty skill-sets and individual representation are valuable, and success is achieved through reciprocity.

Wing suggested that the iterative realignment of these values leaves sign language interpreters vulnerable to a number of dangerous pitfalls. Pitfalls that can be avoided by working to protect the value of certification, collaborating with industry partners, preparing the leaders of the future, and leveraging technology to create a learning culture within the field.

A Giant Thank You 

Access Interpreting

I would like to thank Access Interpreting for being the Thought Leadership Sponsor of the PCRID conference. Their leadership and support was directly responsible for making the inaugural StreetLeverage–Live event possible.Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon


Lyle, Brad, and Ryan, thanks for your vision and generosity in giving back to the field. asdfasdf



I would like to offer my thanks to the PCRID conference co-chairs, Josh Hughes and Jennifer Bell and the PCRID Board for their support of StreetLeverage and live thought leadership at the conference. You all did a great job.


Thanks to the many people who actively participated in the event. It was your engagement and shared insight that multiplied, exponentially, the value of the speakers sharing their ideas and perspectives.

The Takeaway 

What quickly became obvious during the event is that there is an interest in openly discussing the developments and forces at play within the field in a live, real-time environment.

Let us collectively consider how we can personally work to include our deaf interpreter counterparts, avoid disempowering those we serve, find ways to share our collective stories, and avoid the pitfalls before us as our field continues to evolve.

Be on the lookout, as videos for each of the talks will be individually released on in future.

Have a question for Nigel, Trudy, Lynnette, and/or Wing? Ask away!

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

Water Cooler in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession

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

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

Underneath the Imperfection

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

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

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

These contributions are remarkable.

StreetLeverage – Live

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

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

How Does it Work?

Main Session

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

Concurrent Sessions

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

Inaugural Event

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

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

Progressive Thinkers

Lyle Vold, Brad Leon, and Ryan Leon 




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

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

In the End

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

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