Allyship and Centering Deaf People, Interpreting

What’s the Value of Trilingual Interpreters?

Melissa Elmira Yingst wrote on Facebook about a recent oppressive experience with an interpreting agency in El Paso, Texas. The post is set to public so anyone with Facebook can see the full post. A summary: she and Socorro Garcia are organizing a conference for Chicana/Latina and Indigenous womxn at the University of Texas El Paso. They requested interpreters who were trilingual. Given the space’s commitment to womxn of Chicana/Latina/Indigenia identities, they expected interpreters who would be themselves Chicana/Latina/Indigenia. That didn’t happen. They got a white male and a white female. Upon asking the agency some questions about this assignment, the agency responded with:

“When these services were requested and approved, we were not aware there was a preference to provide only female trilingual interpreters for the conference. Please keep in mind there is a very high demand for interpreters in the El Paso area, and therefore for this conference we had limited options in terms of gender and ethnicity…………

As a final note, the interpreters that have been assigned to the Summer Institute all must comply with ethical requirements to interpreter all language and gestures verbatim. Therefore, gender and ethnicity should not be factors that would diminish the quality or quantity of the communication.”

This last line from the agency is “hearingsplaining”. A not-so-rare moment when hearing people asserts a knowledge about the deaf person’s experience/needs/wants over the objections of the deaf person themselves.

A deaf person told you this would affect and diminish the quality of their interpreted product.

A deaf person told you this would diminish the quality of their experience.

That should be enough. Further explanation not necessary. We know.

But if we must.

Here we go.

The first reason is a little more academic. Extralinguistic knowledge. Extralinguistic knowledge is beyond fluency in language. It involves cultural and contextual knowledge that supports the interpretation process. Interpreters who do not have the cultural or linguistic extralinguistic knowledge will not deliver the same quality of product as interpreters with that knowledge. The interpreters’ whiteness inevitably will obscure, erasure, or displace indigenous and nonwhite knowledges being shared due to this absence of extralinguistic knowledge. More so when the interpreter has not actively worked on unpacking their biases or engaged in extensive crosscultural learning.

Safe Spaces. Safe spaces are places where we can be our authentic selves. Places where we can be vulnerable. Where we can vent. Resist. Celebrate our power and beauty in face of hegemonies that argue otherwise. When people from those systems of power are present in the room, that changes the dynamic. Intentionally or not. I can’t imagine women being comfortable discussing experiences of sexual violence meditated through the voices of a man. Talking about the violence of whiteness through a white-accented voice. Yeah, no. Not happening.

Language Affects Belonging. Language is also something that brings us home. To each other, to our cultural and heritage homelands, even if we are not geographically there, the language is with us. Sinking into the comfortable warmth of the rhythms of your native language(s) while conferencing with others like you is a slice of heaven. (For me, NAD conferences, for example). For people to feel belonging in a space, they need to see and feel their native languages being used.

Language and Culture are intertwined. How can you separate the two? Some things just don’t translate from language to language and retain its cultural meaning, its humor, its wisdom.

The quality of experience will be significantly diminished if the interpreters don’t have the cross cultural and linguistic knowledges to navigate Latina/Chicana/Indigena cultural spaces.

Allyship and Centering Deaf People, Disability Justice, Disempowerment, Interpreting, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Uncategorized

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf hits U.S. News

The RID Situation has brought the question “are ASL interpreters Allies or Oppressors?” to the mainstream. The U.S. News published an article by Natalie Delgado and S. Jordan Wright. I found it to be simply and clearly written. Some more context and proper attribution to lead their readers to more discussions on the issue, especially Holcomb and Martin’s new book Deaf Eyes on Interpreting, would have been more beneficial for educating readers not familiar with the discourse about deaf people, power, privilege, and interpreting.

Allyship and Centering Deaf People, Disability Justice, General Posts, Interpreting, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

Community Organizations Speak Up

Proud of Rhode Island Association of the Deaf and Rhode Island RID for partnering together to pass a vote of no-confidence in the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf organization. See the video here.

Deaf Women United condemned the RID for their recent history of sexism and audism. Proud of DWU for standing behind our community of Deaf Women.

The NAD conference was wild. The discussions about the new association for ASL interpreters was hot. The best line of all? “welcoming interpreters home.”

Melvin Walker was right. The on-ramping to the interpreting profession used to be centered in the Deaf community. But not anymore. We need to fix that. His words, but hey, a broken clock is right twice a day.

We need to fix that by opening up our own space for sign language interpreters.

Howard Rosenblum, the executive director of the NAD, showed some fierceness in his responses to the discussion. He was right that the details should be left up to the NAD. We can and will figure out how to make this work. Let us tidy up the living room, throw the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, hide the laundry then you can all come over for pie and coffee.

I’m all in. I have a ton of ideas for the AASLI. Some of which includes economic justice for deaf people (more work for Deaf Interpreters), disability justice (of course), and racial justice (can’t have one without the other). Stay tuned.

Oh. And RID’s response to NAD’s demand letter. One word for you: insipid.

I don’t see the words “we are sorry” anywhere in there. Do you?

I have a lot more to dissect. I’ll be back after I recover from the last week. See you soon.


Allyship and Centering Deaf People, Disability Justice, Interpreting, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

National Association of the Deaf on Interpreting Code of Professional Conduct

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) published their thoughts on the need for updates to the interpreting code of professional conduct. You can read it here.

I agree with everything the NAD said in that update. Interpreters need to stop stealing jobs from Deaf people. Interpreters need to defer to Deaf people as authorities on Deaf lives. Interpreters need to stop profiting off ASL while Deaf people continue to be marginalized.

There’s something that repeats through the NAD publication. Divide. Divide between deaf, hard-of-hearing, and interpreting communities. That divide is there. That divide is very real. I feel that divide as do many of my friends.

Even Melvin Walker mentioned that in his response to the controversy surrounding their CEO pick. He acknowledged that this divide must end. He acknowledged that the on-ramp to the interpreting profession is less and less from the Deaf community.

The question is How do We Fix this Divide? The logical next question is Who is responsible for doing this work?


Children of Deaf Adults (Coda; Codas), Disability Justice, Disempowerment, Interpreting, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

This Makes Me Feel Sick

The former executive director of the RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) and Coda Anna Witter Merithew has earned blood money by testifying against deaf people’s rights to access. Interpreting is a very important part of those human rights of Deaf people.

I provide court depositions from ONE case (There are many more- do your research! Let’s work together to find more). Reading them make me feel sick. It is hard. I can only read a little at a time. Good luck with them.

Anna Witter Merithew’s legal depositions are here.

Another one here on AWM’s actions.

Oh. Here’s one more.

Three together.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, whoever you appoint as your CEO is given a lot of authority by Society as an expert. He has EXPERT status by virtue of being your CEO and he wins the sympathy, boo-boo pity card too, because his parents are deaf.

You can deny all you want, but society is ableist and audist. They will always go to the hearing expert. They will go to the CEO of the organization that “represents” Deaf people’s interests. And the cherry on the top? He’s a Coda. So we will assume he would never do anything to hurt deaf people. Codas don’t hurt deaf people, ever! Gosh. (Sarcasm here my friends). Looky at Anna Witter Merithew. There is a special place in hell for people like her.

So Melvin, your message where you used your Deaf parents as an example to us that you would never hurt Deaf people? Actions talk. Your actions showed. By the way you talked about Sheneman in your response to our concerns. You got work to do before Deaf people can trust you.

Is Joey going to do this kind of shit too? Or will the Board Muzzle Him?

Or does RID agree with Anna’s actions and think it’s okay for the RID leadership to work with the system to deprive Deaf people of access and belonging?

Kelby Brick says a lot of pretty fuzzy things about the RID.

Before, I thought we should reform. Before, I thought the RID had a chance to redeem themselves.

But after the way they handled Joey’s announcement and put down Sheneman in the process, I think the place needs to burn to the ground.


Then a Phoenix should rise out of the ashes. Will the NAD get back in the gatekeeping game?

Or should Deaf communities, who know what works best locally, do their own thing on the local/state level to dump RID certification requirements for interpreters to work and come up with local/state licenses or other screening procedures? I have thoughts on this. Stay tuned.


Allyship and Centering Deaf People, Disability Justice, Interpreting

Volunteer Interpreters

Signal boosting for RAICES. In addition to the below listed spoken languages, don’t forget we also have a need for trilingual and non-ASL sign languages interpreters. Deaf people migrate to the U.S. too.

IMMEDIATE: RAICES needs volunteer translators who speak Meso-American indigenous languages—zapotec, nahuatl, mam, k’iche’, maya, mixe, mixtec. Translators don’t need to be in Texas, or even in the US. They can translate remotely.
Please spread

RAICES is the largest immigration legal services non-profit in TX, focusing on under-served immigrant children, families and refugees.

Allyship and Centering Deaf People, Disability Justice, Interpreting, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

What Now for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf?

People are talking about what to do now that RID has announced Joey Trapani was indeed their choice for CEO. We have established and agreed that this choice is a terrible one.

What are we going to do about it? I’m happy to see many people are discussing the issue and actions to challenge this absurdly poor decision.

Some people are saying Sheneman should be invited to be CEO after repudiating Joey Trapani. I disagree. That ship has sailed. This is bigger than Sheneman. Bigger than one person.

Bringing Sheneman in won’t address the fundamental problem.

The problem is lack of equity and representation in the interpreting field and the RID for deaf people.

For the RID:

We must have a RID board that is majority Deaf, majority women, majority BIPOC (black indigenous people of color).

The board must represent the intersectional realities of Deaf communities in the U.S.

The board must have representation of Deaf people that are not Deaf interpreters.

The board must have audism-specific implicit bias training. The board must have overall power and privilege trainings that includes sexism and gendered bias. Believe me, you, it’s there.

The hearing board members must work on processes, policies, and attitudes that make sure deaf members of the board don’t feel oppressed or marginalized due to either being deaf or being a deaf person with intersectional marginalized identities.

Hiring committees should reflect the diversity the RID wants to have in the applicant pool.

Hiring committee and the board should have ASL-fluent Deaf external consultants and observers who are experts on inequity and anti-discrimination issues.

Melvin Walker said some terrible paternalistic and audist things in his two official statements since we raised concerns about the RID CEO process rejecting a qualified Deaf Woman for the third time in a row. He owes those three women and our community an apology on behalf of the RID board.

As for the interpreting field in general? Stay tuned. I have more thoughts on that subject.