I saw a post on facebook through Facundo Element; they suggest a fantastic idea: a website to evaluate ASL interpreters and interpreting agencies.
I think this is a fantastic idea because, unfortunately, when it comes
to interpreters, we aren't the consumers. The consumers are the colleges
or employer who pays for the interpreter. The agency creates a contract
with those employers, and interpreters show up to work with the Deaf
client. But how much say do Deaf clients have in who they work with?
What happens when the interpreter isn't doing too well?
Theoretically, a student ought to be able to complain and tell their
college or employer the interpreter's not qualified. Theoretically, you
ought to be able to change that interpreter. Practically, however,
agencies etc. create contracts with specific services. Often they look
for the cheapest possible, and don't want to give this cheapness up.
I remember in college earning my BA I was called into a provost's office
and asked to teach other students fingerspelling. They were having
problems finding interpreters for chemistry. I protested, successfully,
but I was so amazed they'd stoop so low to save a few bucks. (Imagine
taking organic chemistry and having lectures.... spelled.)
Another time, ten years or so later while getting my Master's in New York, two interpreters I worked with sadly told me they'd have to stop. They were amazing,
highly qualified, but their agency hadn't paid them for two solid
months. I complained to the administration, but the hiring of those interpreters was subject to contract with the specific agency. I might have been able to steer them to a reputable agency who treated both clients and interpreters well, but we both lost that opportunity.
The point is there's a missing link in the consumer chain. I think it's
time for Deaf people to reclaim their power: we need some medium for
evaluating interpreters and especially their agencies. A professional
website with professional, polite but honest reviews could make this
happen, and go some way to repairing the missing link.