How Is This Okay?


It’s been called a “disturbing trend” and sometimes it seems we are watching an ominous wave as it gradually approaches the beach.

A bit of history.

Back in the 1960’s, Deaf students had the choice of either navigating their way through Public / Private schools or attending a School for the Deaf. Let’s face it. A school for hearing children is challenging for Deaf kids. In the 1960’s, there were few sign language interpreters to help facilitate communication between students and teachers. Deaf kids were most likely isolated from their hearing peers , while finding it difficult to participate in sports where instructions were yelled across playing fields. Many deaf adults today … who remember transferring to Schools for the Deaf … describe the incredible experience of this transition. They landed on their own planet with residents who shared similar stories. These kids joined a community instead of feeling ostracized. We can probably all remember how difficult it is to feel  “different” in school. The majority of students want to blend in, instead of standing out.

Deaf Schools slowly began to close. Many parents wanted their children to integrate into schools near their homes. They wanted their kids to thrive in local schools that would allow their children to live at home and not in a State School.

Hello to mainstreaming.

Hello Mr. / Ms.  Educational Sign Language Interpreter.

Hello to a professional hired to bridge communication between the deaf student and teachers and classmates.

Hello to an Interpreter who understands Deaf Culture and boundaries and priorities and remembers they are there for the student.

Standards and qualifications were created to ensure deaf students receive the highest quality service. ADA requirements mandate equal access, but State requirements can vary.

School Districts have their own requirements. Sign Language Interpreters in the classroom are typically needed for the entire school day. Educational Sign Language Interpreters are not Volunteers or Social Workers. They have devoted a great deal of time to learning their skills and obtaining their qualifications. This can get expensive for School Districts. Budgets are tight. What can they do?

School Districts can create new titles and categories.

Instead of hiring Professional and Qualified Sign Language Interpreters, they can request :

  • Teacher’s Assistants who also know ASL
  • Sign Language Assistants or Substitutes
  • Instructional Assistant / Sign Language Interpreter

A recent job posting for a traveling Educational Sign Language Interpreters reads:

Required Qualifications & Experience: Any combination of formal training and relevant documented interpreting experience that demonstrates assurance of the skills appropriate for the level of the assignment(s). Typically, sufficient interpreting training or experience requires graduation from an interpreter training program and/or relevant documented interpreting experience. Special Desired Qualifications: Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) certification or equivalent.

Wait – What?  “Sufficient Experience”? “Relevant documented interpreting experience”?

Salary begins at $16.42 an hour. This just makes me sad…..for the students. These requirements are just not sufficient to ensure the clearest possible communication.

And another:

  • Able to provide accurate interpretation
  • Good understanding of Deaf culture
  • Thorough knowledge of and adherence to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct
  • Three to five years of experience in interpreting (preferred but not required)
  • $21.53 – $27.48 an hour

How did we get here?  How is this okay?  Follow the money people. Everybody’s trying to save a dime, but at whose expense?

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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

View all posts by Evelyn

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