I’m watching the Community Forum – Conversations Today Shaping Our Tomorrow

I’m not at RID 2013 in person, but I’m watching the Community Forum – Conversations Today Shaping Our Tomorrow live streaming at http://rid.org/content/index.cfm/AID/266. I’m live tweeting with others who are there and watching it streaming as well.

That was fun, participating online!

Deaf Heart, confidentiality, vagueness, and transparency

There is currently a discourse within the American Deaf community about the resignation of two Deaf members of the board of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). The members who resigned, Lewis Merkin and Naomi Sheneman, say that the confidentiality agreements they signed when they joined the board prevent them from discussing in detail what happened that they felt they had to resign. They say, vaguely, that they were reprimanded for something they did that was a trifling matter within the norms of Deaf culture, and that, in general, they do not feel the RID board has a Deaf Heart. The resigning members, and others who support embracing the values of Deaf Heart and Native View, demand more Deaf leadership in RID and more transparency from RID.

In an attempt to understand the term Deaf Heart, and to catch up on the conversation regarding Deaf members of the RID board, I sought, watched, and collected a playlist of videos about Deaf Heart on YouTube. I also Googled ‘Deaf Heart’ and read and listed two articles below (actually, I had read one of them when it came out last month, and I’m still not sure I understand). I’m sure this is not the complete discourse on Deaf Heart and the Deaf RID board member resignations; this is just all I was able to find. If you know of any other vlogs or blog posts I should add, please let me know. In the meanwhile, I hope these references help others who want to get the news and listen to the discourse.

Each of these videos touches upon the concepts of Deaf Heart and/or Native View, though none of them defines it. The first video in this playlists seeks clarification from the diverse membership of the Deaf community (including Deaf people, interpreters both hearing and deaf, people with Deaf family members, social service providers, and others) about Deaf Heart. Deanna Donaldson, the author of this first vlog, requests answers to four questions about Deaf Heart, and invites vloggers to make additional comments for up to two minutes. Her invitation goes out to Houston, Texas, but as it is on the World Wide Web it is a good prompt for vloggers everywhere, and I encourage people to post video responses. I would like to see what people have to say about this thing called Deaf Heart.

An observation that might make for another whole blog post is the vagueness in which these vloggers couch their discussion of these confidential issues. Anyone who thinks ASL is not a vague language, or there is no vagueness in ASL, will see that people can in fact use ASL to be vague. I invite those who know ASL — which, by the way, you have to do to be able to watch these videos (sorry) — to note the vague language and tell me what you see.

Related Articles

Certified Medical Interpreter: A title in your future?

Medical interpreting certification: An ASL/English interpreter’s perspective

Medical interpreting is a specialization, or at least it can be. Yet an ASL/English interpreter who interprets in medical settings is not required to hold a specialist certificate. RID doesn’t have one and never did. Recently, though, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI), an independent division of the International Medical Interpreters Association, created a certification called Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI). They already certify English/Spanish interpreters , and have tests for several more spoken languages in the works. Asked about certifying American Sign Language / English interpreters, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters FAQ says “The National Board is consulting with the RID to determine how to include ASL interpreters in this process.” According to their website, the NBCMI began developing the CMI certification way back in 1986. They first awarded certificates in late 2009. As of this writing, there are just under 500 CMI’s in the NBCMI registry.

Is it worth it to specialize in medical interpreting? To become a Certified Medical Interpreter?

I think it depends how much medical interpreting work you can get in your market. If you can get a full-time job interpreting in a hospital, then by all means it behooves you specialize. If you can get a fair amount of medical interpreting work, it is wise to specialize not to the point of excluding other kinds of interpreting work, but at least to focus some of your professional development on taking workshops and independent studies in medical interpreting. You could even seek a mentor who is a skilled medical interpreter. At some point, I believe that altruism is a motive to specializing and becoming certified so you can lead by example and raise the bar in the your interpreting community. Teaching workshops on medical interpreting is another great way to bring up interpreters who want to become better medical interpreters, and in researching and lesson planning, you will learn so much more (I know I always learn when I develop my workshops).

Should the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf partner with Certified Medical Interpreters?

I believe so. It wouldn’t be the first time RID gave “certified” status to members who scored admirably on a test developed by another organization. The Boys Town National Research Hospital developed the Educational Interpreters Performance Assessment (EIPA) for ASL/English interpreters in K-12 settings in 1991. In 2006, The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) began granting the “Ed:K-12” certification to interpreters who had scored 4.0 or higher on the EIPA, whose maximum score is 5.0. It took 15 years for RID to accept the EIPA, but it finally happened.

Granted, the EIPA is an “assessment,” not a “certificate.” Still, the fact that RID set a precedent for certifying interpreters who have scored favorably on other organizations tests tells me that they might be willing to grant something like an SC:Med (“Specialized Certificate: Medical”) to those who have a CMI. Then again, even if they don’t, ASL/English interpreters/transliterators could still claim the CMI an extra credential, and add it behind their name like “Daniel Greene, MA, NIC, CMI.” Why not? Even before RID recognized the EIPA, there were RID certified interpreters who took the EIPA with the commitment to specialize in K-12 educational interpreting, lead by example, and increase the level of competence in not just themselves but the interpreting field. Yes, there were interpreters who only had their EIPA score to tout, and there are still interpreters who only have the RID Ed:K-12, but the point is that they specialize, and employers recognize this.

Would a CMI for ASL/English interpreters lead to a break with RID?

I seriously doubt it for several reasons:

  1. There is not enough work for most ASL/English interpreters to make a full-time living solely as medical interpreters. They would have to supplement their income with non-medical interpreting jobs, and for non-medical work they would need a generalist certification.
  2. It would not be in RID’s best interest to exclude medical interpreters from the larger ASL/English interpreting field.
  3. RID has already demonstrated a move toward inclusion with the recognition of EIPA and partnerships with the National Alliance of Black Interpreters (NAOBI) and Mano a Mano.

Do you specialize? Would you certify?

I can only speak for my experiences in the San Diego and Phoenix markets. What about where you live? Do you get enough medical interpreting work to specialize to the exclusion of interpreting in other settings? And, even if you couldn’t work solely as a medical interpreter, would you test to become a Certified Medical Interpreter? I would; that’s my position. What’s yours?

Hoy dia me tomé un taller en interpretación trilingüe

Perdóname si no escribo perfectamente el español, pero estoy feliz de que me fui a la Conferencia Estatal de Arizona RID y tomar un curso práctico sobre la interpretación trilingüe — español, inglés, y lenguaje de señas de Norte América. La maestra era Kristi Casanova de Canales, y el día con ella y de los participantes fue muy estimulante. Ella es una maestra muy talentoso. Hemos tenido más tiempo para practicar que en otros talleres que he tomado en el pasado. Era muy paciente cuando yo hable vacilantemente y ella sólo hablaba lo suficiente para enseñarnos. Si usted tiene la oportunidad de tomar uno de sus talleres, usted debe tomarlo!

Me escribió la mayor parte de esto yo mismo pero con la ayuda de Google Translate.

Oh, and I guess I should translate what I meant to say in English! Forgive me if my Spanish isn’t perfect, but I’m so excited about the Arizona RID State Conference I went to today and the workshop I took on trilingual interpreting — interpreting in Spanish, English, and ASL. The presenter was Kristi Casanova de Canales, and the day with her and the participants was very stimulating. Kristi is a talented instructor! We had more time for hands-on practice than I’ve had in other workshops I’ve taken. She was very patient with me and my halting Spanish, and she only lectured enough to teach us. If you get the chance the take one of her workshops, you should!

Interpreting teams being blunt with each other for the sake of consumers

They did not seem to find a need to soften the statements with qualifiers or with the use of questions. As indicated earlier, this may be due to their comfort level with each other.

–Shaw, 1995 p. 265

I read the above statement in an article by Risa Shaw called “A conversation: Written feedback while team interpreting” and it summarized the many examples of respectfully blunt notes the interpreting team wrote to each other. I envy their rapport, that they were able to be so blunt with each other for the sake of their consumers! I felt the same envy when I read the article in the Views last spring by the husband-wife interpreting team and the notes they wrote to each other while teaming (Snyder & Snyder, 2011). I have not had many experiences with no-nonsense, helpful, “just-say-it” note-taking; yes, I have done notes, and it has been helpful, but I don’t think the notes between me and my partners have ever been as dedicated to excellence as these examples are.

Have you had the pleasure of such note-taking with your team interpreters? I would love to read some examples of notes you have written to each other that have had positive affects on the work at hand. Consumers: Have you even been aware of the feedback your interpreting teams are giving each other that is positively or negatively affecting the service you receive? Please leave comments.


Shaw, R. (1995). A conversation: Written feedback while team interpreting. In Elizabeth W. (Ed.) Mapping Our Course: A Collaborative Venture, pp. 245-276. Charlotte, NC: Conference of Interpreter Trainers. Retrieved from http://www.cit-asl.org/members/PDF/Proceedings/CIT%201994.pdf

Snyder, C. & Snyder, N. (2011). Let’s go team! Views 28(2). Alexandria, VA: Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.


Response to RID Invalid NIC Scores Announcement

The gist of my comments, for those who don’t know American Sign Language, is that we should trust the validity of the NIC (National Interpreter Certification) and the RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf). This unfortunate incident of one individual’s corrupt behavior does not invalidate test scores any but 3% of test takers during the time in question; those candidates have already been notified and will have to retest. RID conducted the examination into this matter professionally in every way, and though I was frustrated myself while waiting for my test results for a long time, I now applaud RID for following a stringent protocol and maintaining secrecy about the situation until the investigation was complete. Please, consumers of interpreting services, continue to trust RID. It is a trustworthy organization. And please, fellow interpreters, do not doubt your scores. If you passed at the level you wanted, there is no need to retest. If you failed, you failed. Many of us fail tests the first time. Believe the results, learn what you need to learn to pass the test, and retake it. That’s what I did, and it worked. Again, this is a sad situation, but it has been handled. Let’s not let this get us down. We are good and RID is good. I am proud of us.

P.S. I forgot to include a link to the source announcement. I don’t want to post a link to the RID media page, because that link is constantly changing, so I will refer you to RID Addresses Invalid Rater Scores on National Interpreter Certification Exam — FAQs.