The Support of an Agency

by Brenda Nicodemus

Translation by Brenda Nicodemus

I can remember one particular incident where I realized the importance of having the support of an interpreting agency. I went to an assignment between a Deaf person and an opthamologist, that is, a doctor who specializes in serious eye problems. The Deaf person had never had an interpreter go with him to this doctor, but things had become more serious in his condition so he wanted an interpreter there to make sure the information was clear.

But the doctor was clearly surprised to see an interpreter there and said to the Deaf person, “You and I have never needed an interpreter before and always got along fine. You lipread me and when it didn’t work out, we just wrote back and forth.” The Deaf person obviously didn’t want to insult the doctor and clearly felt uncomfortable. The Deaf person kept looking at me as if to say, “What should I do?” I didn’t say anything and just kept interpreting. Throughout the appointment the doctor continued to try to get the Deaf person to look at him and the Deaf person continued to steal glances at me as I interpreted. As the appointment came to a close, the doctor said again, “You don’t need an interpreter for our next appointment, right? We’ll do it like we’ve done it all along, with just you and I.” It was an awkward situation.

After the Deaf person and I left the office, the Deaf person said, “Gosh, I didn’t know what to do or how to respond to that situation.” I also felt a little unsure of how to respond because I didn’t want to criticize the doctor or get into the ADA, but I did tell the Deaf person that he had a right to an interpreter when going to a doctor. I also recommended that he contact the agency for further discussion and perhaps get a Deaf advocate to support him. The Deaf person agreed to do that and did make the call later.

That day I realized how much I appreciated the support of the agency so that interpreters don’t have to try to do it all!