National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting - 2015

Learning from 2015 National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting

The National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting took place on June 3-6  2015.

Karen Malcolm, Doug Bowen-Bailey, and Judy Shepherd-Kegl

Our blogging team of Karen Malcolm, Doug Bowen-Bailey, and Judy Shepherd-Kegl

Three people helped to document what is taking place through our web site.  Karen Malcolm, Doug Bowen-Bailey, and Judy Shepherd-Kegl shared insights and photos from the workshops and plenary sessions.  Please visit the blog to see their perspectives on the Symposium.

For program information, visit the CATIE Center website.

About this program

The National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting was developed to advance the quality of sign language interpreters who work in healthcare settings, thereby improving the access that deaf and deaf-blind people have to communication regarding their health. The symposium aims to improve understanding of the complex role of interpreters, including the linguistic, cultural, social and ethical challenges inherent in these settings. In addition, the symposium will increase interpreters’ awareness of the barriers faced by individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing when accessing health care and provide strategies for addressing those barriers.

The target audience for this program is experienced interpreters working in healthcare settings.

History of healthcare interpreting at St. Kate’s

In 1983, St. Catherine University started the nation’s first and only interpreter education program with a focus on preparing American Sign Language/English interpreters to work in health care related industries. From 2000-2005 (with federal, state and private grants) St. Kate’s developed a series of educational resources for interpreters on CD and DVD, many of which focused on medical interpreting. In 2003, under a Minnesota state grant, St. Kate’s launched (now to function as a portal of entry for interpreters searching for medical resources.

For more information, visit the CATIE Center website.

two participants having discussion in sign

Reflections on the 2015 Symposium

The Third National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting is now a week in the past and I just wanted to offer some reflections on the experience.

Here’s a few thoughts:

  1. Importance of networking:  National conferences with a specific focus are great opportunities to meet other professionals with similar passions and interests.  More than that, it is a chance to receive the benefits of others intellectual endeavors.  Personally, a number of the presentations (both plenary and breakouts) really left me food for thought that I will be chewing on for the rest of the summer.  I would guess that is probably true for many of the other participants.  Just what ideas resonated with each of us may have differed, but I hope we have all left with new visions for how to carry out our craft.
  2. Example of interpreting team:  The conference interpreting team not only provided a high level Interpreting team discussing with students and recent gradsof access for attendees at the conference.  They also provided a great example of working together and being willing to share their lessons as team with others.  A great moment was lunch on Friday when the interpreting team met with students and others who were interested in hearing their process of working together for the symposium.  This was a great example of what it means to be part of a practice profession and be able to engage in reflective practice.  Thanks to the entire team and Paula Gajewski-Mickelson for coordinating their efforts.
  3. Value of Life-Long Learning:  In the age of CEUs, it is easy to be cynical about workshop opportunities.  So many people attend workshops under the deadlines of CEU cycles that it is hard to feel like continuing education is really meaningful.  At the symposium, I saw lots of evidence of people who were attending because of their passion about their practice and delivering quality services to patients.  I am not naive enough to believe that people weren’t also attending because of
    Participants discussion

    An example of engaged learning at the Symposium
    Photo Credit: Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios

    the need for CEUs, but what was much more apparent to me was the commitment to life-long learning.  In that vein, feel free to join this conversation.

    What did you learn from attending?
    If you didn’t attend, what questions do you have?

    Perhaps those who were there can jump in and share some insights and perspectives.

Jud sitting and eagerly watching a presentation

Panel on Healthcare Interpreting Fellowships

written by Judy Shepherd-Kegl

Panel facilitated by Patty Gordon

Building on the prior Field Induction Model presentation,  a panel of fellows and fellowship supervisors from the Healthcare Interpreting Fellowships that were conducted over the past year (and prior times) met to discuss their experiences in the program and to answer questions from the audience.

The group was led by Patty Gordon and there was an excellent turn out of both fellows and fellowship supervisors, which allowed the audience a varied and deep perspective on the nature of the program.

All the fellows were certified interpreters matched with healthcare interpreting supervisors who did up to 50 hours of hands up work over their fellowship.  It quickly became clear that the actual involvement in the program far exceeded 50 hours and that interaction with the supervisor and talking about the work was as much a part of the experience as direct placements in medical settings.  In addition,  scheduling of on-site experiences, documentation, and supervision were labor intensive, but view by all as well worth the effort.

This program is unique in recruiting certified and relatively seasoned interpreters into a field induction experience.  To allow for this, the CATIE Center paid these interpreting fellows to compensate for the loss of interpreting income while participating in the program.  Supervisors on site volunteered their time and when asked their reasons for participating, a common theme was the hopes of attracting more interpreters into their areas both discipline-wise and geographically.  It was also clear that the supervisors as well as the fellows benefited greatly from this rich experience.

Issues of sustainability beyond these grant-funded experiences will be a challenge. The grant to the regional center has been extended for a year and they are currently deciding whether to place another cohort or focus on wrapping up activities over that year.  They are looking for sites to consider taking up the project or modeling experience on this project.  All the materials, forms for documentation and design are being made publicly available.

The fellows each reported out about their experiences. The site placements and experiences at each site were very different from one another, but every fellow was clearly satisfied with their experience.   The range of experiences was less than hoped overall, with many reporting that they would like to have seen a cochlear implant or participated in a birth, but in retrospect, they felt that the encounters they did experience were a good match for their level of expertise and allowed them to focus on process rather than be overwhelmed with activities that were new and less tractable.

In the cases where both the fellow and fellowship supervisor were present, the relationship that had built between them was clearly evident. One outcome of the experience reported by supervisors was an increased ability to discuss in depth and in insightful ways the assignments they shared.  In addition, the fellows reported increase comfort in the healthcare setting, increased confidence in their skills, and a sense of increased permission to themselves to advocate tactfully for what they need while interpreting in these settings.  They are better able to communicate as peers with healthcare professionals and they feel they have a better understanding of the values and goals of the healthcare personnel they work with.

Some fellows relocated to the sites they worked at, but many were moving deeper into the medical realm within agencies and organization at which they were already working, but with full supervision in their work by a qualified supervisor. All reported that they were never working without supervision. In a field where teaming is not common, this was a highly prized aspect of the program.  Unfortunately, none of the sites offered opportunities to team with Deaf interpreters.

In terms of the sites, it seems that recruiting fellows is more likely in states like Minnesota where there are strong restrictions on credentials to work in healthcare settings.  One excellent placement site failed to have a fellow apply and this was the one site in a state with less stringent restrictions.    The Field-Induction Model required an infrastructure and complex paperwork at each individual site to implement. It also required a sizeable amount of networking and organization on the part of the fellows, but overall the experience was well-worth it.  The field of medical interpreting is indebted to the Catie Center for breaking new ground in this important area of professional development.

Karen Malcolm working on computer

Hijacked by Your Amygdala

by Karen Malcolm

Brain anatomy with amygdala highlightedArlyn Anderson presented a workshop on the final day of the symposium that left the participants with hearts and minds opened. Entitled “Amygdala Hijack: A Crash Course in Managing Strong Emotions in Critical Settings”, she achieved her goal of “shining a light on the work we do”. She noted the importance of staying in touch with our purpose and the meaning of our work, and our lives, and commented that we get used to setting ourselves aside while interpreting, which can start to affect our lives, and make them smaller.   Arlyn presented information on the neuroplasticity of the brain, and how the amygdala is on the lookout for threat; it’s the emotional brain, and reacts first. There is a 12 second surge of emotion, but it has a shelf life, and if we can recognize it, and know that it will pass, we will be better able to make decisions from a more reasoned place.

She guided us through an exercise called silent witness that was profoundly moving for many of us, and really validated the many times we are emotionally affected by our work. I won’t try to describe it because I urge you to seek her out when she is presenting and experience her work first hand.

On a final note, she offered two possible times for free online follow up sessions for participants. How generous!

Check out her work at

Common Values in Healthcare slide

Developing Moral Sensibility and Moral Sensitivity

In her two follow-up sessions to the keynote, Robyn Dean helped participants think about how we, as a field, can develop our capacity as practice professionals for ethical decision-making.  The framework she shared comes from James Rest who shares these four components of moral development:

  • Moral sensitivity (interpreting the situation)
  • Moral judgment (decision making skills)
  • Moral motivation (value conflict, non-moral distractions)
  • Moral implementation (logistical, timeliness)

In her thesis, she explains more of the research and data she collected on the level of interpreters scales on the Defining Issues Tests which assesses what tacit moral schemas underlie a person’s decisions.  (According to her data, sign langauge interpreters fared at half the level of moral philosophers who were at the top, and much closer to senior high school students than average adults.)  Her suggestion is not that a particular cohort was ill-prepared, but that our field is ill-prepared to help practitioners move to having post-conventional schema in ethics.

The way out of this, she suggests, is for us to move our professional values into the place where we have currently posited our metaphors.  Instead of our preoccupation with role (or role-space) or metaphorical models which are designed to describe our actions, we need focus on the professional values which are actions are supposed to carry out and our metaphors are supposed to point to.

To me, this is very hopeful because I think that as we identify our professional values, it can help us to line them up with other professional values – such as healthcare – so that we can be more collaborative find our way to Post-Conventional Schema in our ethical decisions making.  Here’s a listing shared of some professional values:

Values of Interpreting:

  • Accuracy
  • Neutrality
  • Confidentiality
  • Fidelity
  • Respect for consumers & colleagues
  • Professional
  • Autonomy/Agency
    • Positive and negative obligation
  • Self-determinancy
  • Transparency
  • Values of the Context in which the situation takes place

Service Profession’s Values

  • Autonomy
  • Non-maleficence
  • Beneficence
  • Justice

Values in Healthcare

  • diagnosis before treatment
  • patient perception
  • rationing limited resources
  • patient partnership, education, and compliance
  • informed consent
  • not practicing outside of one’s area of expertise
  • teamwork/collaboration

 Certainty and Ambiguity

In developing moral sensitivity, a really important skill that we need to develop is moving from certainty to ambiguity.  In many of the responses in her research, comments demonstrated certainty on the part of the interpreter about the motivations of participants when our work may actually be better served by appreciating the ambiguity and asking more questions in response.

Codes of Ethics

This plays out also in our understandings about the purpose of a code of ethics.  Dean suggests that professional codes are designed to explain the boundaries of ethical behavior. All of the shades of grey of ethical behavior within that boundary isn’t the concern of the code. For me, what this means that the process of putting reflection-in-actoin means being able to work within that grey area with humility and an eye toward upholding our professional values and connecting them with the values of our consumers.

Suggested Resource

A foundational book in healthcare settings is:

Principles of bio-medical ethics: by Beauchamp & Childress.

There was much more that took place in these two sessions – and I look forward to digesting more of it.  I invite you to join in the discussion and use the comment box below to share your questions or thoughts about what happened in here.

Erica Alley standing in front of projection of program description

Masters in Interpreter Studies and Communication Equity

Paula Gajewski Mickelson points to results of program

Paula Gajewski Mickelson lays out program objectives

On one of the lunch breaks, the CATIE Center invited symposium attendees to consider a new Master’s program that they are starting in the summer of 2016.  Erica Alley (pictured above), who will be directing the program, and Paula Gajewski Mickelson explained the new program.  A Masters in Interpreter Studies and Communication Equity (MAISCE), it will be rooted in St. Catherine’s commitment to social justice and equity and will provide an opportunity to:

  • “Strengthen the expertise needed for leadership roles,
  • “Create  new opportunities for specialization,
  • “Enhance understanding of communication equity issues  &
  • “Develop strategies for positive change.”

If you are interested in more information, you can check out this web site.

Strategies for Online Reflective Practice



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On-­Going Discussion

  • Moodle

1-on-1 Connections



Moral Schemas - Tacitly Activated

Keynote on decision-making and ethical reasoning

Robyn Dean’s keynote laid out some structures for our field to move from a descriptive ethics to normative ethics.  She began her talk hoisting her 271 page thesis which she will defend in 3 weeks at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.  She argued that our field can benefit from more structured teaching and thinking about ethics and moral reasoning.  It is not enough to just describe what actions interpreters take (and their consequences) but we need to also compare

In her talk, Dean used three characters from Les Miserables to help illustrate the moral heirarchy that has been identified by other scholars.  She talked about three tacit moral schema developed by James Rest that underlie ethical decision-making.

  • Personal Interest Schema  – justification for actions come from what is best for an individual
  • Maintaining Norms Schema – justification for action comes from following the rules of the status quo
  • Post-Conventional Schema – justification for action comes with a focus on the ideals and the impacts on not only oneself but also on others.

These three schemes are exemplified by Thenardier, Javert, and Jean Valjean.

Thenardier represents Personal Interest Schema.  He is best known as “The Master of the House,” was willing to cheat, lie, steal and kill to get whatever was in his own self-interest.

Javert, the police detective who was a guard in the prison and then hunted Jean Valjean, represents the Maintaining Norms Schema.  Javert is guided by the rules in which he functions.  Robyn conveyed that it is important to not judge Javert too harshly.  He is not a bad character.  He is functioning under the reasonable premise that the rules are designed to create just results.  (I would be curious to see more of James Rest work to see how he takes into account the injustice that is also built into rules and system.  I personally think about the rules of segregation and apartheid that were designed to create a certain justice for people with white skin, but what people of color sometimes referred to as “just us.”) The point, however, to be open to the value of rules is still an important one.

Finally, the protagonist of Les Miserables, Jean Valjean, served as an example of post-conventional schema, as someone who ended up leaving his life by ideals.  She points out that there are moral reasons why people identify with Valjean as the hero of the story.  His life’s actions help transform the story (situation) into a world that is closer to the ideal.

Robyn Dean at the podiumIn Dean’s research for her Ph.D., she found that in the way that interpreters talked about their rational for decisions, interpreters were predominantly demonstrating Maintaining Norms schema.  Second, was Personal Interest Schema.  The third schema that was demonstrated was the Post-Conventional Schema.

Supporting interpreters to move to Post-Conventional Schema is an important part of our next step as a profession. Here is one of Robyn’s favorite’s quotes:

A central part of the task of professional education …[is] to formulate ‘what we already know,’ that is to capture in explicit form the insights, values, and strategies of action that competent practitioners bring to situations they encounter in practice…”  Argyris & Schon (1974)

In this process, reflective practice in its many forms provide avenues for us to make these moves.  She argues quite persuasively that it is in our best interest to look at how other practice professions use reflective practice.  For example, she shared that in medical professions, they use terms like “supervision” and “clinical supervision” differently than we do, so it contributes to a misunderstanding.  As an example, she suggests that we change from talking about “mentoring” and to “preceptoring.”

The goal of all this is for us to develop the ability to first reflect on our actions and then move into reflection-in-action.  That we develop the neural pathways to have this happen in a more timely manner in our work.  And more than this, as Hartwell suggests, “Change is a process of self-revelation and need the goal of self-knowledge.”

Much more to share here.  (Remember that 271  page thesis that I mentioned in the beginning.)  Definitely worth the time spent in the session, but more so time reflecting and trying to put some of these ideas into action in our own reflection and action.

Julie Simon presenting part of Team Interpreting workshop

Deaf/Hearing Teams in the Healthcare Setting

Facilitated by Nigel Howard and Julie Simon

As a follow up to Nigel Howard’s Plenary Address and Jimmy Beldon’s response, Nigel Howard and Julie Simon presented an afternoon session on the concept of “co-interpreting” in healthcare settings. The term co-interpreting refers to a relationship between Deaf and hearing members of a healthcare team that views the status of each member of the team as equal with the goal of assuring successful communication for their consumers. The choice of the term co-interpreter is parallel to use in legal settings, where lawyers who collaborate on a case refer o each other as co-counsel. As they emphasized throughout, “It’s not about the interpreters! It’s about the communication.”

NIgel Howard presenting

Photo Credit: Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios

The goals of the workshop were to understand the dynamics of interpreting, to understand the importance of shared expectations and understanding, and to understand our own needs within the team.

They started out by looking at the perceptions of Deaf Interpreters from the Deaf Community, from the interpreting community, from the Deaf Interpreter community, and from the medical community. As mentioned in Doug Bowen-Bailey’s blog about Nigel’s plenary lecture, the Canadian use of the term D.I. is different from the U.S. use of this term. For this reason, I will use D.I. for Nigel’s use and for the broader U.S. notion of Deaf Interpreter. While in the U.S. DI refers to any working Deaf interpreter independent of certification status, attainment of D.I. status involves different training and vetting, more comparable to the CDI.

From the Deaf Community

The Deaf community has been resistant to using Deaf interpreters because it’s a new experience, but once they’ve seen how qualified D.I.s work and how effective they are as interpreters in various situations, those resistances have gone away and they are much more receptive to using D.I.s. The D.I. is seen as an effective component of the process when the Deaf-Hearing co-interpreters work as an efficient unit.

From the Interpreting Community

Membership for D.I.s in AVLIC requires documentation of completion of an interpreter training program. There is some resistance by certified and trained interpreters toward D.I.s because they have not completed an ITP program, training etc. They noted that if a Hearing Interpreter resists working with a DI, it is important to figure out why. Nigel also noted that experienced interpreters are most likely to request Deaf co-interpreters, while less experienced interpreters are least likely to do so. For this reason, they recommend that the decision not to use a Deaf interpreter should involve input from a Deaf interpreter. The default should be a D/H team until the co-interpreters together determine there is no need.

From within the D.I. Community

The D.I. community decides who is an appropriate D.I. and the progression of experiences they need to have as they move up in the field. If someone tries to skip a step and jump beyond their competencies the D.I. community feels the responsibility to put the clamps on them.

From the Medical Community

The medical community is beginning to recognize the role of D.I.s in providing comprehensive access in healthcare. Julie noted that when she started there was Legal, Educational and Community interpreting—medical was part of community and not really recognized as a specialization. That has been changing. There are several large medical centers with staff interpreters who regularly call in D.I.s—Vancouver, Boston, etc. And, I can add Portland, ME as well.

After addressing perspectives on Deaf interpreters, Nigel and Julie went on to discuss the professional behavior and roles of co-interpreters.

What are the roles of the co-interpreters?

Co-interpreters need to figure out how to work as a unit. It is a slow process of becoming a well-oiled team. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is not the case that each member of the team works in isolation without monitoring or input from the other. There are even times when one or the other member of the team is not needed to complete the interpretation. For example, in cases of sight translation, the translation need not go through both. The D.I. might do the sight translation directly. The team may use an open process model of interpreting where at times the hearing interpreter may interpret directly to the consumer. The entire teaming relationship focuses on how best to handle the communication. There is no room for egos. The basis of the co-interpreter teaming relationship is trust.

To function as a unit, the team must build a connection. Nigel prefers to know for every assignment who the co-interpreter is. He prefers to meet before. For example, at the upcoming World Federation of the Deaf Congress in Istanbul, Nigel knows every member of the extended team he will be working with, but he still wants to informally meet and connect with them before working together. As with any teaming, interpreters have differing approaches and may or may not be a viable match for each other.

What are the responsibilities of the 2 interpreters?

The role of the D.I. as an interpreter is the same as that of a hearing interpreter. In Nigel’s opinion the D.I. is bound by the same code as the hearing interpreter, with the same roles and responsibilities. The D.I.’s role is not more flexible.

What’s the difference between an advocate and an interpreter?

Despite having two hats, one as a member of the Deaf Community and the other as an interpreter, the D.I. needs to inhibit any tendency to advocate.

In terms of the team, personal and professional conduct reflect back equally on both members of the team. Relevant factors to consider are maturity, boundaries, and accountability. Boundaries involve working together to do the job without being an advocate, a cheerleader or any other inappropriate role. The co-interpreters need to monitor each other in this regard. They need to listen to each other and work together to achieve message equivalence. In terms of accountability, they need to monitor each other. While the D.I. is interpreting, the co-interpreter monitors and if something is off, they offer a correction and vice versa.

Nigel and Julie noted that trust is critical. If the co-interpreters start out trusting each other, then the consumers will trust them. If the team is collectively confident, then consumers will trust what they are doing. Tentativeness or lack of confidence in each other can be seen as a lack of competency. But there are necessary checks and corrections as well.


Team interpreting is the utilization of two or more interpreters who support each other to meet the needs of a particular communication situation (RID Standard Practice Paper, Team Interpreting, Team interpreting refers to two or more interpreters working together, not just physically, but intellectually (Stewart, Schein, % Cartwritght, 1998, P. 107).

Co-interpreting considerations include communication with the co-interpreter before, during and after the assignment. If there isn’t time, it is important to make time to communicate over Skype or some other means later. Nigel made the point that “You did a good job” is not the kind of post processing he is looking for. It is more important for the team to discuss with each other individual decisions each of them made and focus on the reason they made these choices—the why. Only in this way can they get of deeper understanding of each other’s process.

Everyone varies in how and in what chunks they give and receive feeds. Understanding each other’s styles is critical. Nigel characterized this as learning to dance with each other. Process and logistical dynamics is also a team effort. Nigel raised the example of he D.I. conveying the information in “Take two pills and hour before each meal up to 6 pills a day.” The hearing consumers may become impatient or concerned as he expands the question to “So, what time do you usually eat breakfast. Ok, 8 a.m.? Then take two of the pills at 7 a.m. And, what time do you typically eat lunch? Okay, noon? Then take two pills at 11 a.m., etc.” Often when this back and forth is happening in the interpretation of what seems like a simple question to the hearing consumer, the hearing co-interpreter will escort interpret and explain the process to them.

Co-interpreters need to make many decisions individually and together. Both personal and professional considerations come to bear on the decision to accept an assignment. Nigel cautioned interpreters to self-reflect on their readiness to take on given assignment based upon skill-level, background knowledge, and a variety of other factors. The members of the team have accountability to the consumers prior to accepting the assignment and through to the conclusion of the assignment. There are also joint decisions that need to be made. The team needs to work together to diagnose any problems that arise, consider all the perspectives, consider possible solutions and the possible ramifications of decisions made. They need to discuss approach and how to handle the issues in a professional manner. Professional and personal aspects of he decisions need to be considered.

Jimmy Beldon responded to the plenary talk with a series of thought provoking questions of his own as well as many others from the audience and a lively discussion ensued. Topics included the issue of being an advocate versus being an ally, protocols for team interaction, and numerous scenarios. We benefited from many examples of modeling of team interactions by Nigel and Julie.

Contact Info

Nigel Howard presenting with a profile view

Expanding the model of Deaf Interpreters in Healthcare Settings

Nigel Howard started off Thursday afternoon helping us all to think about how our understanding of interpreting in

Nigel Howard speaking at podium

Photo Credit: Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios

healthcare can be expanded by including Deaf Interpreters as a part of the team.  (A note on terminology – Nigel frequently used DI which as a category in his home nation of Canada who undergone training to reach a certain level of skill – which is more equivalent to how we use CDI in the United States.)

Using DIs has a number of multiple benefits:

  • Demographics:  the largest group of Deaf people came about during the baby boom as as they age into their 70’s and 80’s, the potential for more idiosyncratic language grows;
  • Deaf Epistemology:  because of lived experience and language use, Deaf people are not simply hearing people who can’t hear.  They process information differently, have a different way of looking at and understanding the world, and so this means that Deaf Interpreters bring another worldview to the situation which strengthens an interpreting teams ability to deal with what might come in a healthcare appointment;  Nigel shared alot about how enculturation and acculturation work – and the ways that interpreters can make best use of those concepts.  If you are interested in more on this topic, check out his keynote from the 2014 CIT Conference in Portland, Oregon.
  • Bringing a sense of ease to a Deaf patient in an alien environment.  Medical facilities can frequently be very institutional feeling and for a Deaf person, having another Deaf person there can make what can be quite emotionally challenging a little more manageable.  Nigel expressed how a DIs presence can simply help patients breathe a little easier and be more able to be a participant in their care.
  • Ability to let go of the English.  Often hearing interpreters will feel that an English medical term may be more of a priority than sometimes the concept which it represents.  DIs can focus in on getting the concept through first and then providing the English term to attach it to.  It is one of those subtle things how hearing a word can influence the thinking and choices of hearing interpreters.  DIs provide a balance to that.  Nigel also gave a number of examples of how important it is to take the generic English a doctor might say, such as “Your heart valve is not functioning properly,” and change it into a more visual specific explanation of what that actually looks at.  (If you want to see an example of Nigel talking about some of those concepts, you can check out the sample of Body Language, an online module that was developed with support from the CATIE Center.)  Nigel stressed that DIs have the same goal as the physician or the hearing interpreter, but just might have a different path for achieving it.
  • Nigel referred to the importance of co-interpreting with a hearing and Deaf interpreter.  He addressed this more in a workshop session he led with Julie Simon.  Read more about that here.
  • Both Nigel, and Jimmy Beldon who was helping to facilitate the discussion, stressed how important it is for hearing interpreters to use this notion of co-interpreting/teaming when it comes to making decisions about when to have a DI present at an appointment.  Nigel stressed that his preference would be to have a DI as a default so the DI could also be part of the process in determining whether or not a deaf interpreter is really beneficial.

In the discussion, there were several questions related to how hearing and deaf interpreters can work effectively as a team.  One of the challenges brought up was that there has been experiences that hearing interpreters don’t feel like they can provide feedback or correction to Deaf interpreters.  It might be for a variety of reasons:  hearing interpreters don’t feel like they should be commenting on a Deaf person’s ASL, DIs might not be open to the feedback, etc.  Nigel and Jimmy both stressed how important it is to have that give and take.  That both interpreters should be able to give and receive feedback from each other.

Jimmy went on to share how critical it is that there is funding for both training for interpreters, but then even more importantly, mentoring.  Too often, programs are short term and don’t have the ongoing support of a mentoring component so DIs aren’t able to really grow professionally and sustain themselves.

It was a really rich two hours and I could go on and on.  Clearly, there are still a lot of challenges.  Not nearly enough qualified DIs to be available at all appointments that could benefit from them.  Not enough programs that really work for DIs to train.  But the good thing is that a number of projects are supporting a growth in the quality and quantity of DIs.  Jimmy shared about the NCIEC Deaf Interpreting curriculum project – which helps establish a foundational competencies for DIs and a curriculum for training them.  You can check those out at the links on