Notice From Uncle Dale: I Need Your Wit and Wisdom… and Thoughts and Prayers.

In the epic Stephen King “Gunslinger” series there is a concept called Ka. It is the guidance force that moves us toward our purpose in life. Fate? Destiny? Maybe both, on steroids.

There is a saying in the universe of the Gunslinger, “Ka is a wheel.” It always rolls back around to a new beginning.

I started this blog in March of 2017 as I was confined to my bed following abdominal surgery. It was kind of a rehabilitation exercise and a way to keep my sanity when it hurt to move my body.

On Thursday, this coming week I go under the knife again, this time for my sinuses. The doctor has been honest with me in that I can expect the first couple of days to be a three ring circus of pain. But my life should be greatly improved shortly thereafter.

For a few days I will look like I talked about fight club.

Ka is a wheel.

Just to give you an idea, this is a normal sinus:

And this is mine:

Not good to say the least!

The whole point of this post is to let you all know The Rules may go silent for a couple of days.

Don’t think I’ve abandoned you.

Keep me in your thoughts.

And send me suggestions for Rules because, to be honest I’m keeping a brave face (no pun intended) but I’m nervous. And when the surgery is done I’m not sure how witty or clever I will be feeling. So I’m asking to borrow some of your wit and wisdom.

We all know you have it! You’ve been pondering Rules of your own.

Someone may even get a tee-shirt out of it!

Thanks Everyone!


Note from Uncle Dale: NAD, Day One (Minus One)

Dateline Hartford CT.

The play ended Saturday night! I am happy to have NAD/RID Region I this week or I would be totally depressed. Playing Snoopy was more fun than I have given myself permission to have in a long time! A group of my students.

Ready? My Psychiatrist. For real. The man who first told me I had ADHD and helped me through testing, medication adjusting to life without all the “coping strategies” Aunt SuperTam and I had developed. His son is Deaf and his wife is a POWERHOUSE of a legislative activist. I love them!

Where was I? OH YEAH! NAD/RID Region I in Hartford.

After the flight was delayed out of Chicago I arrived last night (this morning?) and finally got to bed at about 4 am. Four in the morning of the 31st anniversary of the day Aunt SuperTam and I met (our true anniversary).

At 7 am, on the dot, a jackhammer started pounding away outside my hotel window… they put me in a “Deaf” room!

DeafGain! Never doubt it!

So as sleep was obviously out of the question I got up and wandered over to the Convention Center.

First off, its wicked hot in New England. Like honored guest at the lobstah boil hot.

Second, it’s beautiful here. I came through Hartford very briefly years ago when I spent a summer at the National Theatre of the Deaf. I remember seeing the river then and wishing I had time to walk the riverfront. I took the time this morning and wow! I will never regret that.

The conventions begin in earnest tomorrow.

I finished the night hanging out in the lobby of the Hartford Marriott catching up with old friends and making new ones.


The first action taken at this conference is a big one and it portents of important discussions to come:

I’m going to bed because the long days start tomorrow.

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: A Lie Is A Lie, But Sometimes It’s A Violation

I have been jumping back and forth between this being a Note or a You Probably Should Know. The later are usually explanations of law or policy which is not exactly what this is, but I’m staying with it.

A interpreter sent me a private message about Rule 439 today.

Just as a refresher:

With her permission I will tell you that she asked me if this Rule was excusing audism.

I understand her asking this in light of the recent discussions regarding interpreters being paid as expert witnesses to offer expert opinions against the interests of Deaf persons (an issue that, it turns out, seems to go right to the top), it is a natural concern.

I asked her if she was thinking of a specific example where the interpreter faced with a lie during a police interview might cross into audism.

She asked if I would first give an example of where it was acceptable for the police to lie and an interpreter to knowingly interpret the lie according to this Rule.

A police officer tells the Deaf suspect that they have his accomplice in the next room and he is ready to confess.

Whomever confesses first, the officer says, will get the better deal.

This is a lie oft used by police when interviewing a suspect. It is used both when there is no suspect in the other room and when there is. If there are accomplices in separate rooms the lie is told to both of them in order to encourage them to be forthcoming.

This is not a problem.

This is a legitimate interrogation technique employed by police forces world wide and throughout history.

It is a two part lie, the second part being that the police can not control the kind of “deal” the suspect gets. That is a decision made above the detective pay grade.

I asked if that helped?

The interpreter said, “ok, but what if the detective tells the Deaf suspect that he will only keep the interpreter there for a short time more and so if he wants to tell his story, and have a discussion in a ‘civilized’ manner, now was the time to do it. But, if he just wanted to jerk [the police] around the police department was not going to pay for an interpreter while he did it and he could just figure out how to communicate on his own.”

I did not ask if this was or was not a hypothetical.

And um, THAT is a completely different issue than “lying” to a suspect.

This is not so much a lie (because the officer may very well have meant it when he said it) as it is a threat to violate the Deaf suspect’s civil rights.

In the life of an interpreter we sometimes are thrust into situations where we feel trouble is unavoidable.

Ninety percent of the real ethical screw ups we land in happen, in my opinion, because we are to apt to say nothing lest we say too much.

Ten percent are because we speak without thinking.

One of my Rules says that ethical questions are not about right and wrong, those are moral questions. Ethical questions are about more wrong and less wrong. No matter what we choose it will be “wrong,” but we are tasked with finding the path that is the “least wrong.”

In the situation raised by the interpreter who messaged me there is no clear path to the right answer, so I have to go with my own internal compass to guide me on the path that is the least wrong.

I will not be made a party to a civil rights violation.

The police officer in this example may very well be lying; he may have no intention of sending the interpreter away. But what he is doing is telling the Deaf suspect that his right to effective communication is contingent on his confessing to a crime.

It is not.

In this situation, taking every fact I was given at face value, I would take what many interpreters would consider to be the most drastic step possible; I would stop the interview and ask to step out of the room.

Outside I would tell the officer that, while I respect his position, I cannot be made a party to his threatening to violate the civil rights of the suspect, his right to effective communication, as a tool of interrogation. Carry on in any matter he sees fit but do not make me a party to it.

This may seem shocking or uncomfortable to some readers. But remember I did not insert myself into the discussion, the officer tore open my role by making my role a part of his threat.

I would then tell the officer he has a choice, he can rescind the threat, or make good on it and I will leave now. If I leave he can find another interpreter or let the possible civil rights violation stand in the record but, if asked, I will not hesitate to testify as to why I left.

Again. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I just said, taking all the facts as they were stated at face value, that is what I would do.

I can back up my decision using the CPC (see: 3.8, 4.4, 6.2-6.3 and 6.6) but I measure ethical decisions using something my wife once said:

A woman can wear ugly shoes, as long as she knows they are ugly.

This situation (again I never asked if it was hypothetical) and its repercussions are ugly.

What I stated I would do is ugly.

But just because something is ugly does not mean it’s not the right choice.

I know why I would do it, and I can back it up with the CPC.

Despite not everyone agreeing with my choice, I would be prepared to wear those shoes right out in public.

Note from Uncle Dale: Meeting A Hero

You know when you hear the story of an event over and over, or tell the story of that event as an example or to support your point over and over, but you have never actually met any of the players involved.

And then you meet one of them.

Meeting the person you have talked about for what feels like your whole life, having that person is right there in front of you, it’s a weird feeling.

If the reason you tell the story is highly significant to your work or culture or personal interests, but not to people in general, it’s hard to explain to the “uninitiated” why you are so excited to meet a person they may never have heard of. They just don’t get it.

It’s like trying to explain a meme to your grandma.

So, this happened yesterday:

If you do not know who this is, you should. It was a moment where two of my great passions, Deafness and the Law, came together.

This is Amy June Rowley.

I have said her name and told her story easily a thousand times in classrooms and court rooms for the past 20 years.

Now, like I said, if you don’t recognize the name, as an interpreter or a member of the Deaf community, you should. Take a minute and read this.

I’m an advocate. I was born that way. My mother encouraged my journey down that road. This case has always made my blood boil.

I disagree with the decision. I disagree with the reasoning for it.

But, I have always loved the idea of Amy Rowley. She has always occupied the same place in my mind as Linda Brown (who recently passed away).

I can’t think of one without the other. Proud and strong little girls standing up before a system that is ultimately unfair to proud and strong little girls who stand up to the system.

When I thought of Amy Rowley I saw this iconic image in my head:

But now I will see this:

I will see a brilliant and strong woman who, unlike Linda Brown who was vindicated by nine white men, was disappointed by nine hearing justices but did not allow that moment to define who she is.

That is the most important thing I learned from meeting Amy Rowley, Board of Educ. v. Rowley, is part of her history but is not who she is.

That is when Amy Rowley changed in my mind from a character in a story to a real live hero.

Amy June Rowley is a hero not because she and her parents stood up against impossible odds and lost. Amy June Rowley is a hero because the best revenge is a good life and she has done just that!

She is a proud and strong mother who is Deaf of proud and strong children who are Deaf. She is a hero because “Dr. Amy June Rowley is the Coordinator of the American Sign Language Program in Modern Languages and Literatures department. She completed her dissertation in 2014 in Second Language Education in Urban Education from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee which focused on American SignLanguage Advanced Studies Programs: Implementation Procedures and Identifying Empowering Practices. She holds a professional level certification inAmerican Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA). Her research interests are systemic and hierarchal structure of American Sign Language programs in postsecondary institutions; and relationships between students/interpreters and the Deaf community. She has published articles related to Audism, oppression and special education experiences. Prior to coming to Cal State- East Bay, she was the coordinator of the American Sign Language Program at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee for nine years” (from her bio).

Just as the Supreme Court had the chance to clean up its own mess in Plessy v. Ferguson with its decision in Brown v. Board of Education it took a positive step in redeeming itself for Board of ed. v. Rowley with is recent decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County.

It’s nowhere near enough, but it’s a start.


If you get a chance to attend a lecture or presentation by Dr. Rowley don’t miss it. Afterward please shake her hand and let her know she is the hero we all need. Not because she stood up to injustice and was knocked down, but because she got up and became the person she is without the permission of history.

That is what a hero does.

Uncle Dale Says Thank You!

Thank you!

It’s important to say it.

I love to celebrate milestones and we hit one yesterday. Over 18,000 of you stopped by for a visit over 50,000 times this year.

When I first started this I hoped it would resonate with the experiences of many Sign Language Interpreters, but I had no idea it would resonate with all kinds of interpreters in over 90 countries.

Thank you all so much for enjoying this journey with me!


Note from Uncle Dale: Mentoring, If I Do This Right I’m Out Of A Job, RID Views (Spring 2018) #UncleDalesVIEWS

A teacher teaches you something you didn’t already know.

A mentor helps you realize how much you do know.

A teacher instructs you on a principle or skill.

A mentor helps you to figure out how to apply it.

A teacher gives you a grade.

A mentor gives you a perspective…

I am both a teacher and a mentor and despite what I said above the VERY end goal of both jobs is the same. I want you not to need me. If I do my job correctly, I will teach you more than just skills and applications. If I do this right, I will have instilled in you a love of the process and a desire to improve your abilities because you love to, not because you have to. Most importantly, I will have helped you develop the internal structure and foundation so you know how to continue learn, to teach yourself, when I am gone. In order to be the best mentor I can be, there are some things that both you and I have to clearly understand.


The whole reason we are meeting is to develop your skills. If you could produce a perfect interpretation, you would not need me. (I, on the other hand, would love to make an appointment to have you mentor me!) You should not be shy or embarrassed to show me your work. That is why I’m here. If you hold back, I can’t get a good read on your cur- rent levels – in other words, I can’t evaluate what I don’t see.

Don’t apologize at the beginning or the end of an exercise. You don’t have to. I’m not offended by gaps in your skill sets. Don’t stop in the middle of an exercise to tell me you messed up. (Psst. Big secret? I know when you messed up… I can see it.) Just take a breath in through your nose and out through your mouth and move on. Once again, that is why we are here!

Don’t worry about screwing up in front of me! Take risks. Be creative. If you are going to be wrong, be definitively wrong! I will pull you back if you are getting too far out there. If you play it safe the whole time, you will just pro- duce the same work, and therefore the same errors, over and over. Keep this in mind: no matter what happens in this interpreter lab, there is ZERO POSSIBILITY that anyone will go to the morgue or that anyone will go to jail. It is my job to make sure you succeed in your work. (Because the client trusted me enough to agree to have you come to her work or doctor’s appointment or other meeting. She trusted me enough to agree to let you learn while she lives. I will NOT let either of you down.)


I am not competing with you so don’t try to compare yourself to me. Unbalanced comparisons lead to hopelessness. Let me put that another way. I’m better than you at inter- preting (at least right now). If I wasn’t, you would have no reason to want me to mentor you. But I do not have more inborn ability than you. Any natural talent I may have started with has ceased to be important a long time ago (I will explain that in a minute). What I do have is time invested in doing this work. If you are just starting out, I could have very close to 30 years of experience more than you. (Wow, that made me choke just a little… I’m so old.) It’s not about talent. Talent gets you two years of people saying “Oh you are so talented” and after that, people want to see skill. So, I am better than you, but not because I have more ability. I just have more practice.

Don’t get discouraged if it looks easy for me. The operative word in that sentence is “looks.” It’s never easy, even for me. What looks like ease is the application of years of interpreting things just like this. I have a full toolbox to choose from and I will help you build yours! You must always remember that behind my smooth production and calm eyes there is a massive amount of mental dancing happening!


I send students out to work with experienced interpreters and sometimes when they come back, I hear, “She is so great at interpreting! I will NEVER be that good!” Don’t do that. She was not born interpreting like that. She had to work to get there. As you are now, that highly skilled and experienced interpreter once was, and as she is now, you may someday be – if you put in the work and time. She didn’t get there by rubbing a lamp or answering a wizard’s riddle or winning the lottery. She tried and failed and got up and dusted off and tried again. If you knew how many times she failed, you would know how dangerous it is to put her on a pedestal. Every time she fell down on her journey she got back up.



My job is to help you to stand up when you stumble until you can stand up without me. If I do my job right, you will call me long after you have become that skilled, experi- enced, working interpreter to help you help the next gen- eration. My job as a mentor is to help you to become the mentor who comes after me.



Note from Uncle Dale: Does Learning ASL Change You? Only If You Do It Right.

I teach a class called “Visual Linguistic Analysis.” It’s an interpreting class but we open it to Deaf Studies Majors generally.

It is in essence a Discourse Analysis class that focuses on analysis within context, within setting, evaluating cultural influence as well as markers within the language structure; not just what a person who is Deaf is saying, but how people who are Deaf make themselves understood and how settings and context influence the meaning. It’s fun. Seriously.

On the first day a have a speech (in an academic setting I really should call it a lesson plan) I use this speech to invite the scared to become the inspired. I tell them, “you are not Sign Language students, you are ASL Interpreting students now. You have all the vocabulary you need to interpret almost any topic thrown at you, and starting today we are gonna to convince your brain of that fact.” I spend a lot of time in the class trying to help them understand that vocabulary is only one component of meaning.

We then look at a video of a native ASL user telling a story. When it’s finished I ask, “what was the story about.” Without fail the class consensus is, for example, “it’s about how some Deaf kids get into trouble but then get out of it ok.”

I then propose, “what if I told you that if I show this video to a native user of ASL that person will tell you this is a story about how being Deaf saved their lives? This is a story of Deaf-Gain.”

If I’m lucky I have a class dynamic that trust that I know what I’m talking about (side note: it always makes me chuckle when students are amazed at the insight I have into texts I have been using to teach these principles for 14 years. Um… I’ve seen them once or twice. That being said, last year I was using a text that I FILMED-MYSELF! in 1994 and a student said “the girl’s name is Jennifer…” I marked it as an ‘addition.’ My student challenged me and OH CRAP! she was RIGHT! For twenty-three years I have used this text in workshops and classes and NEVER ONCE did I notice that the presenter introduces the character in the story by name. I’ll just back slowly away from this parenthetical now).

As a class we then walk back, frame by frame, through the story and… boom it’s a story about how being Deaf saved their lives.

I then explain that this is the purpose of the class. The difference between their first understanding of the story and the deeper meaning of the story comes down to a processes they have yet to develop in their brains, visual cues their brains literally ignore. This class begins the process of restructuring their very brain configurations to incorporate the meaning of the visual nuance of ASL into their thought process.

In other words to teach them how to see ASL instead of Signs.

“If you do this right,” I tell them, “sometime around midterm your head will start to hurt. That is your brain physically rewriting itself to incorporate the demands of a three-dimensional visual language structure.”

It is my belief that learning ASL as a hearing person not only shifts the physical structure of your brain (Oliver Sacks would agree with me) it changes the very way you think.

That why I love the movie Arrival.

When I mention that we will be watching this movie in class many of my students get all “scrunch faced” and say, “an alien movie?” Their eyes roll so fast I fear it will lift them off their seats.

I tell them, “aliens are the framework used to tell the story, but the movie is about how language analysis, properly executed, saves the world.”

This gets the interest of a whole new level of nerds.

Arrival, if you have not seen it, is the story of what each hearing person who learns ASL experiences. If you watch this movie and don’t relate, you’re doing it wrong. But, maybe you do not realize the change ASL causes until you have watched the movie.

It is the story of learning not just what the aliens are saying, but of how they make themselves understood.

The main feature of the film for my purposes (and no I’m not giving anything away. Spoiler free!) is how learning the methods cultures employ to communicate changes the very structure of your brain, your mind, and as a result every aspect of how you think about and relate to the world.

Oh, and the parallels between Sign Language and the alien’s language are obvious to the point where the first time I saw the movie in a theatre the stranger sitting next to me whispered, “how is that possible?” To which I whispered back, “Sign Language.” He paused an said, a little too loudly, “oh, right, RIGHT!”

Watch the movie.

Until you do think about how ASL changes the way you think. In spoken languages the meta-concept of an “idea” is an abstract. In ASL it becomes a concrete.

If I want to give you “my opinion” in ASL I can physically hand it to you.

If I want to talk about a person who is not present I must make that person present, I must manifest that person physically in order to refer to them. In essence I can never talk about someone without the person about whom I wish to speak being, in one form or another, right there in front of me.

Think of how each of these elements changes the way your brain processes the meta-information and the subsequent impact that has on your relationship with the concepts themselves.

Pretty deep for a Note from Uncle Dale, I know, but beautiful and inspiring at the same time.

You can identify the base components of a language (signs or words) without being able to communicate the actual meaning and that is no kind of communication.

You have to let it get inside your head and change how you think. If that happens, you’re doing it right