in interpreting, profession

When we resign ourselves to acceptance, do we desensitise ourselves to what is happening on the ground?

Have Interpreters resigned themselves to accept and even expect that level of access provided to the Deaf community, that they have trained to serve, to be as poor as it is in this current day?
I am not naive to the fact that the situation we find ourselves in today with ‘signers’ turning up to jobs parading themselves as Interpreters is anything new; it has been going on decades. However we are in 2012. We now have over 700 Registered Sign Language Interpreters (RSLIs) on the NRCPD register and many more Trainee (TI) and Junior Trainee Interpreters (JTIs) quickly following in their footsteps. Is it acceptable that at medical appointments people are still forced to accept ‘signers’ or worse still, use their parents, friends, children?
When the first video was published on Facebook from ASLI’s Professional & Consumers Working Group, urging the Deaf community to come forward with their stories of poor access to Healthcare, it did cause a stir in the Deaf community, but it wasn’t enough for people to come forward. It was perhaps that the Deaf community were just ‘used to’ the level of access they were being provided. Probably because in the areas where there is poor service, it is what they have received for years and so this has become expected. People have perhaps become resigned to their fate.
I believe that Interpreters may have resigned themselves to the same fate. We have become so used to hearing all these stories intermittently through our everyday working lives that we have become hardened to them. This may be a form of self-preservation, professional preservation even, but what does it achieve? The ‘signers’ are still out there, still taking on work, still causing upset and mayhem when they are unable to cope with the level of Sign Language or English used; and they are parading themselves as members of our profession. I’m sure we all agree that they are clearly not professional otherwise they would know and understand their limits and not take on such work in the first place.
But what are we doing about it? There are a few who are standing up to defend the profession, a few working on standards and awareness in an effort to prevent such harm, but a handful of 700 is hardly going to make waves. The ripples can only reach so far. If everyone sticks their head in the sand, or carries on thinking all is well because someone else is already fighting the cause, then we are not going to get very far.
We all need to do our bit, wear our NRCPD badges to EVERY job, even those regular bookings in that office we’ve been working in for years. Remind clients of the standard they should be expecting, so the next time they have a medical appointment they know to look out for the badge. It may even be an awareness exercise if someone had no knowledge of registration of Interpreters in the first place and just ‘liked your signing’; the excuse most often heard from ‘signers’ parading themselves as ‘good Interpreters’.
What will it take for the profession to unite and stand up for ourselves? Mistakes happen, they have been occurring for years. Are we not a large enough group of professionals now to make more noise about it and stand up for ourselves, the people we serve and prevent any more of a reduction in access and standards for the Deaf community?
Bibi Lacey-Davidson
Chair of the Professional & Consumers Working Group, ASLI

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  1. When I first read this I was on a train. I found myself shouting out, ‘Yes exactly!’ much to the surprise of my fellow passengers. As interpreters we may have children to look after, busy lives, we may be the only person earning in our household or we may have given up a lot of our time previously in roles as volunteers.
    Regardless, there are many more that could be doing something that don’t for reasons which do not include the ones as good as the above. Or worse, want something done but are reluctant to take the responsibility to start something themselves. The there are just the apathetic. Professional protection is an interesting concept and one I would like to see discussed further. I think this would perhaps fall under the phrase ‘burnt out’.
    Either way there are things we can all do such as wearing our badges and talking about it as you say: to EVERY job. Word of mouth, face-to-face… whatever you call it it is the easiest way to disseminate information throughout a community.
    Your blogpost, I think, captures the essence of what may be happening in the interpreting community and you are right to call for us to stand up and unite. If we don’t do more now, it will certainly be too late.

  2. I’d like to add to the point of carry ID cards for any internationally readers spoken language interpreters and translators of this blogging site.
    There are also other regulatory organisations that sign language interpreters join that issue ID cards that help interpreter consumers verify their professional status, for example, further north, the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) and here in England, The Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI).
    I’m sure these professional interpreters will carry their ID cards with them too when on assignments.

  3. This thread has made me much more aware of the importance of wearing my badge. Even if it is just a conversation starter and an opportunity to discreetly campaign for standards to be met. Good reminder. I’ve just put my badge on!