Research indicates how teaching sign language to babies produces positive results even as they enter into their elementary school years.
Although little research has been done on baby signing, the research that has been conducted is very positive (Goodwyn & Acredolo, 2000). It has been shown that baby signing can be beneficial for cognitive and emotional behaviors in infants (Goodwyn & Acredolo, 2000).
Goodwyn and Acredolo’s study (2000) consisted of 103, 11 month old babies…divided into two groups…the sign training group and the non-intervention group (control group). Results showed that the signing group reached developmental milestones earlier and found that this continued even when they were tested at age 5 compared to other groups. Goodwyn and Acredolo claim from their extensive research over the past 20 years that a child’s IQ can go to “12 points higher” by using sign language in early development (Goodwyn & Acredolo, 2012).
In a research study conducted by Pizer (2007), it was found that baby signing reduced “frustration on the part of the
child, accelerated spoken language development, improved parent-child bonding, and increased IQ” (Pizer, 2007, pg. 390). With the research that is available, baby signing has shown very positive outcomes to language development in children.
The following is posted by The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center of Corpus Christi.
*Children who learn sign language may have more brain capacity later, learn to speak sooner, and do better on future IQ tests. (the Daily Oklahoman, March 1999)
*11-month-olds who learned sign language outscored non-signing peers in language abilities, standard IQ tests and vocabulary comprehension tests after second grade. (the Daily Oklahoman, March 1999)
*An answer to the comment, “if he learns to sign, he’s not going to talk”: Research has shown that babies who learn to communicate with sign language are quicker to speak than their non-signing peers. Signing creates a more verbal environment, because babies initiate conversation about subjects that interest them, and their parents more consciously repeat words. Earlier exposure to successful communication actually drives babies to want to speak sooner. (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 3, 2001)
*Hearing babies speak their first word, on the average, when they’re 13 months old and speak two- or three- word sentences by the time they’re 20 months old. In contrast, some babies can start signing words such as “more” and “milk” at 8 months and can build vocabularies of dozens of signs within months. (the Blade – Toledo, Ohio, September 9, 2001)
So with all of this research, I was wondering if there are any parents out there who have regretted teaching their hearing babies to sign. Actually , there are. They are frustrated that, as their children get older, they prefer to use sign language rather than vocalize. For these babies, sign language is their first form of communication. Speech therapists are often hired to encourage “speaking” and report that speech becomes more prominent as these children socialize with others their age.
Additional information from this research is available at: https://scholarworks.uark.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1019&context=rhrcuht
Recently, after reading a conversation among sign language interpreters, I was reminded of a dramatic episode tucked away in my memory banks. Some memories stick with us long past their expiration date.
In a group discussion, an interpreter asked about signing lyrics to rap songs and hip-hop songs that likely include language deemed taboo by many. Some interpreters felt the question was inappropriate. Some felt a Caucasian interpreter should not be interpreting songs by Black artists. Emotional responses became a bit heated and the interpreter who initially asked the question removed the post. The general consensus seemed to be that Artist’s lyrics should not be censored simply because they are uncomfortable for the interpreter.
Some members argued that the white interpreter was just doing her job, simply parroting someone else’s words—even if that meant occasionally signing things that white people should not say. But other posters eschewed this notion of objectivity, arguing that the role of an interpreter is closer to that of a storyteller, and that in their storytelling, interpreters inevitably filter musicians’ lyrics through the lens of their own experiences.
Definitely a heated debate
Which brings me to a memory of my own…
Travel with me back to the 1980s. My family is gathered around the TV to watch a movie.
Mary Anne, my older sister– Deaf graduate from Gallaudet and working at the University
Mom and Dad – hearing (no sign language communication skills)
Bill, my younger brother – hearing. Working and learning sign language at Gallaudet
And me – hearing (completed sign language classes with Will Stewart at Gallaudet)
The movie? On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda
If you’ve seen the movie, you might recall that Henry Fonda plays the cantankerous Father with very colorful language. I cringed every time he said something that I knew would offend Mom. Bless her heart; Mom could have easily lived in a Norman Rockwell painting.
These were the days before Closed Captioning, so my brother sat next to the TV and started interpreting all of the dialogue for my sister. Things would have gone smoothly had we been watching Mary Poppins.
At one point, Henry Fonda mutters one of his salty comments and my Mom said to my brother “don’t sign that.”
Bill looked at Mom and said “what?”
Mom repeated her direction to him and Mary Anne became aware of Mom’s desire to censor the language.
A hush fell over the room.
My sister walked over to the television and turned the volume all the way down. She then said ……
“Fine! We’ll ALL watch it this way!”
This was my first experience with the attempted censoring of information involving my sister. This episode has stuck with me for over 35 years.
Parents will often cover the eyes and/or ears of their children when trying to protect them from seeing / hearing information they feel might cause their child distress. But we were adults. We can cover our own ears or eyes if we choose to, but at some point, at some age, protection becomes enforced censorship and is just wrong … even with the best of intentions.
So, back to the role of interpreters signing the colorful lyrics often found in today’s popular music.
In my research, I came across a site called DEAFinitely Dope, the black-owned, Houston-based interpretation company specifically catering to hip-hop. They now work with Chance the Rapper and can truly show how it’s done.
Interesting Suggested Terminology from our Canadian Neighbors
What are the “proper” terms and definition to be used in regard to deafness?
The Deaf, the deafened, and the hard of hearing are all very distinct groups. Using the proper terminology shows respect for their differences.
A medical/audiological term referring to those people who have little or no functional hearing. May also be used as a collective noun (“the deaf”) to refer to people who are medically deaf but who do not necessarily identify with the Deaf community.
Deaf (with capital D):
A sociological term referring to those individuals who are medically deaf or hard of hearing who identify with and participate in the culture, society, and language of Deaf people, which is based on Sign language. Their preferred mode of communication is Sign.
deafened (Also known as late-deafened):
This is both a medical and a sociological term referring to individuals who have become deaf later in life and who may not be able to identify with either the Deaf or the hard of hearing communities.
hard of hearing:
A person whose hearing loss ranges from mild to profound and whose usual means of communication is speech. It is both a medical and a sociological term.
This term is not acceptable in referring to people with a hearing loss. It should never be used in referring to Deaf people. “Hearing impaired” is a medical condition; it is not a collective noun for people who have varying degrees of hearing loss. It fails to recognize the differences between the Deaf and the hard of hearing communities.
person who is deaf :
Acceptable but overly sensitive substitute for “deaf”.
manual deaf, Signing deaf:
A deaf person whose preferred mode of communication is Sign language.
A deaf person whose preferred mode of communication is verbal and auditory and/or lipreading. An oral deaf person who can both Sign and speak can be considered “Deaf” if he/she is accepted as such by other Deaf persons and uses Sign within the Deaf community.
Unacceptable. A deaf person may choose not to use his/her voice; this does not make him/her a “mute”.
deaf and dumb:
Although it has been used for many years to refer to people who have disabilities in addition to deafness, the preferred terms now are “Deaf with mental disabilities”, “Deaf-blind”, “Deaf with CP”, etc.
The official language of the Deaf community. Should always be capitalized, just as “English” and “French” are capitalized, because all three are legitimate languages.
The proper acronym for the special devices used by deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people to communicate with each other through the telephone system. The French term is ATS.
No longer acceptable as the acronym for special telephone devices. (See the CAD-ASC’s position paper on TTY/TDD.)
TT (Text Telephone):
Used in some European countries and by the Federal Communications Commission of the United States as a substitute term for “TTY”. Not accepted in Canada because it is a hearing-invented term and because the Sign for it is impolite in ASL
I shared my 2019 New Year’s Resolutions (I know…..I know) with a friend and she suggested I share them with others. So here we go. In an effort to promote peace of mind and overall mental, physical, and emotional health, I resolve ( I know….I know ) to:
Acknowledge my inner child … still needing comfort and encouragement. Remember that everyone has an inner child.
Research “happy news” sites and browse the positive stories to balance all of the negative news stories we are subject to every single day.
Keep a gratitude journal … even if it’s only in my head.
Try to find things we have in common ( as opposed to how we differ ) with those I encounter.
Recognize when someone is talking ‘at’ me instead of ‘with’ me and learn to walk away.
Pet as many dogs / cats / horses / all furry things as often as possible.
Go outside at least once a day and breathe.
Find a cause that touches my heart and support it with time and/or money
Find a community. Book club, language, knitting, cooking, astronomy, photography …etc. Too much isolation can be unhealthy.
Realize it’s time. Forgive yourself.
Stop trying to convince myself that changing earlier life choices would have resulted in better circumstances.
Avoid buying into everything I read on social media. Fact-check before reacting emotionally.
Remember that everything written or shared on social media remains in digital form forever. There is no such thing as ‘delete’ or ‘undo’ once transmitted.
Never forget. In work and relationships, stay only where you are valued.
Review the best part of my day before falling asleep and then focus only on breathing.
Understand that seeds can be planted, but will rarely change anyone’s mind to your way of thinking. It might happen later, but you will probably never know.
Read more biographies. They highlight how much we have in common across timelines and cultures. They often demonstrate how others have overcome impossible odds.
Pamper myself often with massage, quality food, enjoyable exercise and people who love to laugh.
Be mindful of mother earth. Do whatever I can to honor her and keep her healthy.
Notice when I am envying what appears to be someone else’s perfect life. There’s no such thing.
Thinking back, I recall when my list of 20 resolutions included: lose weight , lose weight, lose weight, find better paying job, and make more money.
Many issues with aging can be frustrating, but we often create a higher quality list of goals.
Still want to lose weight and make more money tho. Some things NEVER change!
Wow…she sure likes to read a lot!
One of my early thoughts while having holiday dinners with my hearing family and one deaf sister.
I give myself a break now. I was only about 7 or 8 years old and it had just become normal to see my sister get up from the table and plop into her favorite reading chair. Always smiling…..such a pretty smile.
I felt sorry for her when she had to return to her Deaf School. Little did I know that she couldn’t wait to get back to a place where others “spoke” her language. Wouldn’t she be homesick? No, she was homesick when she was away from her school.
Years later, it makes so much sense.
My sister declined attending our last family reunion. This was just a few years ago. Trying to keep up, connect and somehow feel a-part-of-it-all seemed like a daunting task and just exhausting. I spoke with a cousin who is now an educator and we talked about how Mary Anne was just left out of so much when we got together for family gatherings. Mom always wanted her to go to church with us too. There was no Interpreter back then. She couldn’t hear the service, join in the readings or the singing…but somehow being there with all of us was deemed a good thing.
At the reunion, my cousin said “Isn’t it amazing. In this day and time, we would have ALL learned sign language.” Probably true, but this made me sad all the same. These family gatherings included lots of stories and jokes and games. She missed so much. What was that like for her??? What were the grown-ups thinking??? I do remember going to Church sponsored classes where we learned to finger spell. Hard to get into much conversational depth using that method.
I know there are many families out there still wrestling with the communication issues, but I believe there is much more awareness today where family members learn sign language to ensure the deaf family member is included. People are taking sign language classes because they love the language or hope to work as a Sign Language Interpreter someday. We see more deaf people on T.V. and we see Interpreters now on many newscasts. People are intrigued.
I wish this awareness had been more prevalent when I was a kid with my sister at our dinner table.
Then again, she was always leaving the table and heading for her chair. I wonder why. I guess she just liked to read a lot.
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.
Deaf people have a legal right to a qualified interpreter. In legal settings, a qualified legal interpreter will have a specific skill set to ensure that the deaf person’s right to be present and participate is not compromised. Legal interpreting requires highly skilled and trained specialists because of the significant consequences to the people involved in the event of a failed communication. A Certified Deaf Interpreter may be included to enhance clarity of communication.
Courtroom interpreting can be very stressful for a Sign Language Interpreter. The stakes are often high. The following are examples of complaints filed and decisions reached involving the Sign Language Interpreter in a legal setting. These come from the records of ONE State Court system.
A judge filed a complaint against an interpreter for behavior exhibited during a sexual assault trial. The complaint alleged that the interpreter was disrespectful and rude to the court and while a victim was testifying, the interpreter approached the stand without permission, thereby frightening the victim.
The Character and Fitness Sub-Committee determined that the interpreter did not intentionally violate any section of the Code of Ethics, however, members did believe the interpreter’s conduct was negligent and lacked proper deference to the judge especially as an officer of the court.
SCR 63.04 Professional Demeanor
A consumer filed a complaint against an interpreter for whom the interpreter provided services for during an examination to determine disability benefits. The complaint alleged that the interpreter offered a personal opinion to the examiner about the consumer’s mental condition which led to a denial of benefits.
The Character and Fitness Sub-Committee lacked jurisdiction to review this complaint because the interpreter was not listed on the Director of State Court’s roster. A copy of the complaint was provided to the interpreter.
An advocate filed a complaint on behalf of a victim for whom the interpreter was interpreting. The complaint alleged that the interpreter made the victim feel intimidated through the interpreter’s attitude, actions, and tone of voice which rose to the level of “interrogation.” The complaint further alleged this interpreter misinterpreted the time of the incident and used the same interrogatory manner with a different litigant in a separate hearing.
Without more evidence or corroboration by an additional witness, the allegation of unprofessional conduct and accuracy against the interpreter could not be substantiated. No significant ethical breach was determined.
SCR 63.01 Accuracy and Completeness; 63.04 Professional Demeanor
Two interpreters filed separate complaints against another interpreter for allegedly violating various canons such as scope of practice by engaging in duties that exceed what is appropriate for interpreters; professional demeanor as it relates to team interpreting, double-booking, and double-billing; and accuracy and completeness regarding grammar and questionable terms used by the interpreter in the non-English language.
None of the allegations against the interpreter could be substantiated therefore no significant ethical breaches were determined. Interpreter was directed to read a practice paper on Team Interpreting developed by the National Association or Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and was encouraged to work with other colleagues to foster a professional and collegial environment.
SCR 63.01 Accuracy and Completeness; SCR 63.04 Professional Demeanor; SCR 63.07 Scope of Practice
Party filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly breaching confidentiality regarding information obtained during an interpreting assignment and for not disclosing the interpreter’s familiarity with the parties and family members.
No merit was found regarding the breach of confidentiality allegation. A review of the court transcript determined that the interpreter did violate the Code of Ethics by not disclosing to the court on the record the interpreter’s familiarity with the parties. Interpreter was required to retake the Ethics portion of orientation.
SCR 63.03 Impartiality and Avoidance of Conflict of Interest
Advocate filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly providing an opinion to the pro se party receiving interpreter services that may have been construed as legal advice.
Conduct of the interpreter did not rise to the level of an ethical breach, however, interpreter may have overstepped role by providing information to the court directly as opposed to interpreting what the speakers were saying.
SCR 63.07 Scope of Practice
LEP party filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly remaining silent and not providing information to the party.
No significant ethical breaches by the interpreter. It is likely party was confused by the interpreter’s role and expected more guidance to be provided when the interpreter was abiding by the Code of Ethics.
SCR 63.07 Scope of Practice
Interpreter filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly summarizing statements of LEP party’s testimony, not seeking clarification with unfamiliar terms, and speaking in the third person.
Upon review of an audio recording of the proceedings, enough evidence was produced to determine a finding that significant ethical breaches were committed by interpreter. Revocation of interpreter’s certification was imposed and stayed. Interpreter was required to re-take sessions on Code of Ethics and small group discussion at an interpreter orientation, re-reading the SCR 63.01 and 63.08 along with the accompanying comments. The district court administrator who works in the courts where the interpreter is frequently assigned should randomly monitor the interpreter’s performance during proceedings.
SCR 63.01 Accuracy and Completeness; SCR 63.08 Reporting Impediments to Performance
Attorney filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly leaving an out-of-court assignment without notice to the attorney and for questionable billing practices and unprofessional conduct.
No significant ethical breaches were committed by interpreter. While there is concern about unprofessional conduct of an interpreter who apparently left an assignment without notice, there appeared to be pre-existing issues concerning payment to interpreter by attorney. Not enough verifiable evidence regarding questionably billing practices was produced by complainant.
SCR 63.04 Professional Demeanor
Attorney filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly commenting about the language abilities of the litigant which may have caused a negative chain of events for the attorney’s client.
No significant ethical breaches by the interpreter but more likely a misunderstanding by the recipient of the information (in this case the judicial assistant) whereby the interpreter’s statement was conveyed inaccurately to the judge. Interpreter was reminded, however, that the interpreter’s job is to interpret and not to provide comments on the language abilities of the parties and the need for an interpreter. Determining the need for an interpreter is the responsibility of the court.
SCR 63.07 Scope of Practice
Interpreter filed complaint against another interpreter for alleging complainant was misrepresenting qualifications.
No merit was found in this complaint.
SCR 63.02 Representation of Qualifications
Interpreter filed complaint against another interpreter for allegedly accepting an assignment for a sign language case where interpreter was not qualified to do so.
Enough evidence was presented to substantiate complainant’s claim that interpreter accepted an assignment in which interpreter did not hold the requisite linguistic competency for the job. Interpreter held no credentials from any agency or entity to qualify interpreter as a sign language interpreter but did hold credentials as a certified Spanish interpreter. Interpreter was strongly discouraged from accepting any assignments for sign language interpretation in any court in Wisconsin. This finding did not affect interpreter’s certification status for Spanish.
SCR 63.02 Representation of Qualifications
Interpreter filed complaint against another interpreter for allegedly using threatening remarks; for interfering in a confidential conversation between attorney and client in a crowded hallway; and for a general lack of professionalism towards colleagues.
No significant ethical breaches had been committed by interpreter. No corroboration of either interpreter’s story was presented so both interpreters’ versions of the situation were plausible. In a busy hallway, the expectation of privacy may be compromised. The motivation for filing the complaint was questioned since it was interpreter against interpreter. Interpreters may be asked to work together in the future and should be mindful if this incident affects their ability to do so, either interpreter must not take assignment.
SCR 63.04 Professional Demeanor;
SCR 63.05 Confidentiality; SCR 63.08 Assessing and Reporting Impediments to Performance
Consumer filed complaint against interpreter for allegedly giving out legal advice regarding presentation of witnesses at an injunction hearing; and for making consumer change her reply by refusing to interpret what consumer said during hearing.
Enough evidence was presented to substantiate consumer’s complaint and interpreter’s explanations were not credible. Interpreter was removed from roster for a 12-month period and required to attend Code of Ethics lecture and small group discussion at court interpreter orientation training.
SCR 63.01 Accuracy and Completeness;
SCR 63.07 Scope of Practice
Interpreter for petitioner (who was also a relative of petitioner) filed a complaint against interpreter for allegedly trying to dissuade party from filing petition during a private conversation held prior to harassment injunction hearing; and for trying to influence testimony of petitioner by using hand gestures.
No significant ethical breaches had been committed by interpreter but more likely a misunderstanding. Interpreter should be mindful of conversing with parties without a third party present and for using hand gestures to indicate “slow down” during interpretation. Motivation for filing complaint was also questioned since it was interpreter against interpreter.
SCR 63.07 Scope of Practice;
SCR 63.03 Impartiality and Conflict of Interest
It’s always a nice surprise when communities recognize the need to communicate with ALL of their citizens. Kudos to the Little Rock Police Department for taking steps to learn ASL and even make classes available to the rest of the community. This article comes from LATV news in Little Rock.
In recent years the Little Rock Police Department has made efforts to hire more Spanish-speaking officers in order to bridge the language barrier with the city’s growing Hispanic population. Now there’s a group of LRPD officers looking to make communication easier with the city’s deaf population.
Lieutenant Tracey Campbell said she couldn’t possibly understand how deaf or hard of hearing Little Rock residents must feel during interactions with police when there’s a lack of understanding between the two.
“I was working at the Deaf School graduation a couple of months ago, and just like all graduations the kids are so excited to be graduating,” said Lt. Campbell. “I had a couple of them that were trying to communicate with me afterward and I didn’t understand any of it, so there was such a feeling of helplessness on my part.”
Campbell’s feeling of helplessness would end up spawning a weekly American Sign Language class at the Arkansas School for the Deaf to help ease communication between officers and the hundreds of people in Little Rock who identify as deaf.
“I think this is very important and very needed for people in general to be able to communicate with deaf people,” said Eddie Schmeckenbecher, teacher at the Arkansas School for the Deaf.
“The more people we have that know sign language, the better the communication is with the Deaf. Frustration is minimized on both sides. It’s just better communication to help make things run smoothly.”
“We have everywhere from a Captain down to civilian employees and many, many police officers that are learning sign language,” said Laura Martin with LRPD.
Nearly 40 uniformed officers along with ten civilian employees have signed up to the take the course, including some of the department’s already bilingual officers.
“I speak Spanish and English,” said Officer Jonathan Tolentino. “So with this I’m hoping to kind of add to that and be able to help in my community and be able to better communicate with everybody.”
Arkansas School for the Deaf officials say because of the LRPD program’s success, they hope to replicate the program to offer to other Arkansas law enforcement. The school also offers community ASL classes.
Hopefully , this is a trend that will continue and spread to other Police Departments where they recognize the need for clear communication when interacting with their Deaf citizens.
I recently came across an article from Beth Adams in Rochester, NY. In this article, she addresses the issue of health conditions affecting the Deaf and Hearing populations. It seems relevant to share the research findings as they highlight the gaps in “access to information” – – especially for deaf individuals growing up in hearing families – – where sign language is not the primary means of communication.
According to recent studies, Deaf individuals (compared to their hearing peers) are up to seven times more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes.
That’s according to research from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the University of Michigan.
Professor Peter Hauser, director of NTID’s Center on Cognition and Language, recently reported to a UN committee in Geneva, Switzerland about the problem.
Hauser said, through an interpreter, these health disparities are the result of knowledge gaps in the Deaf community.
“Hearing people, normally the more educated they are, the more they also know about health issues. But that’s not true for the Deaf community. There are Deaf individuals with Master’s degrees and PhDs who don’t know as much about health information as their hearing peers.”
Why? Deaf individuals may not be aware of their family’s medical history. Often those conversations happen in spoken English. The same barrier keeps Deaf and hard of hearing people from picking up health information on the radio or TV.
In Rochester, with its high per capita deaf population, Hauser says a lot of doctors are fluent in American Sign Language or understand how to use interpreters, but that’s not necessarily the case in the rest of the country or in other parts of the world. Even in Rochester, he says there is room for improvement.
“I guess part of the reason is high turnover,” Hauser said. “People move to Rochester and then move away. Or they move here and they’re not familiar with the Deaf community. We have to consistently educate people about Deaf individuals and we have to continue educating parents who just found out that their child is deaf.”
Hauser stresses the need for more qualified sign language interpreters with training in health care and more opportunities for Deaf individuals to get training in health care professions. He says it’s also important to train hearing health care providers on how to work with Deaf co-workers, patients, and their family members.
How many Deaf individuals postpone visits to the Doctor because communication is so difficult? How many live in small towns where sign language interpreters are not available?
Thankfully, these questions are being asked and potential solutions are at least being discussed. The train has left the station.
TITLE III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for any business, building or other place that is open to the public to discriminate against people with disabilities. Such places are called “public accommodations” and include restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers.
In order to provide equal access, a public accommodation must provide auxiliary aids and services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing when needed. Examples of auxiliary aids and services include qualified interpreters, note takers, and written materials. The type of auxiliary aid or service provided will depend on what is needed for a specific situation.
EXAMPLES OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
1. H, a person who is deaf, mainly uses sign language to communicate. H stops by a new car showroom to look at the latest models. The car dealer would be able to communicate general information about the cars using brochures, exchanging notes by pen and notepad, or taking turns at a computer terminal keyboard. If H becomes serious about making a purchase, a qualified interpreter may be necessary because buying a car is a complicated process.
2. H goes to his doctor for regular blood pressure and weight check-ups with the nurse. Exchanging notes and using gestures are likely all that is needed for this type of check-up. When H has a mild stroke and returns to his doctor for a full exam and tests, he asks for a sign language interpreter. The doctor should arrange for a qualified interpreter because this type of visit is more complicated.
HOW DO YOU FIND AN INTERPRETER?
The National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) hosts an online database at www.rid.org or call 703.838.0030 (voice) or 703.838.0459 (TTY). You can also seek referrals from your state office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, local chapter of the National Association of the Deaf, or from the person requesting the interpreter. Start looking for an interpreter as soon as the need arises. It can be hard to find a qualified interpreter on short notice. There are agencies who specialize in providing interpreters for the deaf. ( www.signlanguageco.com )
Small businesses can get tax credits for the expense of an interpreter. A small business is one with 30 or fewer employees OR with $1 million or less in gross receipts for the preceding tax year.
Although a sign language interpreter is an extra expense, the business cannot charge this cost to the person who needs the interpreter.
1. A qualified interpreter is one “who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.” An individual does not have to be certified in order to meet this standard. A certified interpreter may not meet this standard in all situations, e.g., where the interpreter is not familiar with the specialized vocabulary involved in the communication at Be aware that State laws may require certified interpreters, superseding the ADA. Be sure to check local laws.
2. There are a number of different sign language systems. The most common systems are American Sign Language and Signed English. People who use a particular system may not communicate well through an interpreter who uses a different system.
3. Family members are not considered appropriate interpreters because of their emotional or personal involvement and because it would be difficult to maintain confidentiality.