Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reclaim Deaf Power: Interpreters

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.



Bobby Cox said...

Agreed. Did you talk to Adam about FYI, Find Your Interpreter? We actually were on the path to setting up an review website 5-6 years ago :)

ninefingers said...

We've spoken about it. Seems like a tough thing to keep going...

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. So many things happened in my life were disrupted because interpreter(s) were not qualified enough. For example, the high school interpreters were not competent for all of my Biology and Chemistry classes - so, this is what I came up with (after hassling with my school's administration): I tape-recorded my teacher's lectures and my parents listen & write the whole lecture down for me - every single night - five nights a week - for four years!

I realize that interpreters need their jobs, they need to begin somewhere and all that... but we Deafies do need our information! Why should we pay a high price while we're waiting for the interpreters to be proficient?