Thoughts on “pre-screening” ITP candidates

The “attitude” of an interpreter toward ASL and Deaf Culture is highly valued by the deaf consumers we serve. Hence, an ASL ITP should teach the attitudes and cultural values that are desired by deaf consumers. Some say that one way to weed out “unsuitable types” from ITP’s and from the interpreting field is to pre-screen candidates to ITP’s to check for personality suitability. I disagree with this. I believe it is prejudiced and discriminating to disallow students to enter an ITP based on some personality inventory delivered and interpreted by people who are not licensed psychologists. For that matter, even if one brought in licensed psychologists to “pre-screen” candidates, I would be offended.

Some people claim that deaf consumers “used to” naturally select interpreters who were suitable and weed out those who are not, but “so much has changed in the last several years” that the deaf culture is no longer fulfilling this function and that it now must be taken up by college faculty. For one thing, where is the evidence that the deaf community no longer weeds out unsuitable interpreters? There are still many processes by which deaf consumers can assert control over who interprets for them. If enough deaf consumers refuse to work with an interpreter, that interpreter will not work. There are grievance processes in place. I would bet that most ITP’s don’t even have the luxury of turning away students because not that many people are clamoring to become ASL interpreters. If you teach in a community that really has that many people who want to become ASL interpreters, why not allow them into the program, teach them what they need to know, send them on their way, and let the free market sort them out?

And another thing: there are so few men in our profession. A recent survey shows that fewer than 10% of ASL interpreters are men. My personal experience in meeting other male interpreters has shown than most of them are either gay or have relatives who are deaf. I have met very few straight men who chose to enter the field even though they were unrelated to anyone deaf. Of course there are some, but I would bet that if a survey were conducted, we would find that they are, in fact, the exception to the rule. Why might that be? I am concerned that, on top of all the factors in this female-dominated profession, the addition of all these attitudinal and personality criteria would serve to drive even more men from the field. For further research: read the study that was already conducted some time ago about the paucity of men in the field, and refresh memory on the factors that deselect men from the field. Conduct a survey of the self-identified sexual preference of male interpreters and correlate it to data that shows whether or not they were related to a deaf person before entering the field.

Inspirations:

  • “Attitude Check: How Do We Measure Students’ Interactional Competencies?” by Rob Hills, with Lynnette Taylor, Stephanie Feyne, Jason Norman, Shelley Lawrence, Tom Holcomb and Jan Fried.
  • “Men Are Pigs” from Deaf Culture Online by Mark Drolsbaugh.
  • Motion to create a committee of CODAs in CIT to recognize the contributions of CODAs to the interpreting field and explore appropriate curricula for the training of CODAs as ASL interpreters, since most of them are already fluent in ASL and Deaf Culture and CODAs may feel alienated by academic approaches that fail to recognize the compentencies they already obtain. Motion by Sherri Hicks, paraphrasing mine. (Motion passed, by the way!)

(Both “Men Are Pigs,” about how few male hearing partners of deaf women learn ASL compared to how many female hearing partners of deaf men learn ASL and why that might be, coupled with Sherri Hicks’ reminder not to alienate CODAs from the ASL interpreting profession, compounded with the panel presentation about measuring students’ interactional compentencies — deep breath — made me think about the importance of not excluding men, or any other group of people, from our field.)

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

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