Note from Uncle Dale: What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do? Micro-Audism and Advocacy.

I get calls and emails and texts (oh my) weekly-all asking the same question:

“What would you do if…”.

The details tend to diverge at that point, but the idea is the same.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

I addressed ethics in a previous Note. I will deal with interpersonal relationships in another Note. This Note starts with the question:

“What do I do if a business won’t pay me?”

Now. I’ve already told a story about how I handled this situation once upon a time:

That one was fun, but my decision in that situation obviously won’t apply broadly (but seriously, I highly recommend using it if you can). So let’s focus on more common frustrations.

If you are concerned that a business won’t pay you make sure you have a good enforceable contract, signed and in place, before you go. Make sure your Terms and Conditions includes a clause that you can collect all attorneys fees and costs of enforcing collection in court, and then make a friend of small claims court.

“But,” you say, “if I sue them they will never hire me again!”

They didn’t pay you. They haven’t hired you yet.

But, Ok.

If you’ve struggled to get a certain business to pay you in the past then get a deposit before taking an appointment with it, or, and hear me out, politely decline to take the appointment at all.


“Oh” is right.

If it’s going to cost you more to get paid than you would have been paid to do the job it’s not worth it. Just say no.

“But,” you say, “What about the Deaf Client? Won’t that leave the Deaf client without an interpreter?”

You are not denying the Deaf Client an interpreter by refusing to interpret if you are not paid, the business who refuses to pay you is. You are ready willing and able to interpret the moment business (who is obligated by law to provide the accommodation-you are not) is willing to pay for the service.

I know it is stressful to think about it this way, but you have to remember there is a problem at the place the Deaf client works or at the business the Deaf client wants to access. The problem is that the business is not concerned for the rights of the Deaf client-but it may be concerned about getting sued. You showing up and not getting paid does not resolve that issue, it just masks it while allowing the discrimination to continue and become entrenched. In essence if you show up, knowing you won’t be paid, you become part of the problem.

No change will occur in this business’ practices without a confrontation of its audist attitude.

That is sometimes hard to see because not paying the interpreter is not audism in the way we generally envision it. It’s more subtle, it’s audism with a level of abstraction, a form of “micro-audism.”

The business “providing” an interpreter while refusing or at least resisting paying the cost of an interpreter is really an expression of resentment toward the rights of the Deaf client without confronting the Deaf client directly; micro-audism. This micro-audism will continue and become more and more entrenched until it is exposed and resolved.

It has to be resolved. However, you showing up, knowing you may not be paid, just perpetuates the problem without requiring a resolution; what’s the problem? There was an interpreter there. The legal requirement for effective communication was satisfied.

“That’s all well and good,” you cry, “but if I don’t show up it still leaves the Deaf client without an interpreter.

That is true, today. And the Deaf client will have to deal with it. Luckily there are laws in place to do so. Laws, when it comes right down to it, are words on paper. These words are nothing without enforcement. Yes, people should follow the law because it’s the right thing to do, but if everyone did there would be no lawyers or courts.

There are lawyers and courts.

You showing up and not getting paid is not advocating for the Deaf client, it’s masking the need for advocacy. It’s fixing today at the expense of all the tomorrows.

Now. To my friends in the Deaf community. You may be asking yourselves, “wasn’t the ADA supposed to take care of this?”

Yes. But it didn’t. And it won’t without people who are Deaf pushing businesses to abide by it.

At a recent TownHall I attended a woman who is Deaf lamented, “why should we have to go through all that? Shouldn’t they just respect our request?”

Yes, of course they should. But if they won’t. Businesses will not change just because the Deaf community asks. They will only change if they are forced to. Think of businesses like Newton’s First Rule of Motion:

An object will remain at rest unless changed by an external force.

Businesses will try not to change what they have always done, because change cost money. So they will remain “at rest” unless they are subjected to an external force; that force is you.

The Deaf community must be that force. It’s tiring. It’s frustrating. It seems like it will never end, and it may not end in your life time or mine. But things will change, if we work together to change them.

Civil rights are won not gifted.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I will be there with you. The interpreting community will be there with you. Change will happen. The moral arc will bend toward justice.

Note from Uncle Dale: What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do? Ethics.

I get calls and emails and texts (oh my) weekly-all asking the same question:

“What would you do if…”.

The details tend to diverge at that point, but the idea is the same.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Often it’s an ethical question.

Remember that ethics is not about right and wrong; right and wrong is about morals and a moral question is usually pretty easy to answer.

Should I steal this or not?

Easy answer. Um, no.

Should I punch that audist jerk or not?

Ok, maybe that’s not so easy to answer.

But, with right and wrong it’s usually easy to spot what you should do and then pick that over what you may even want to do.

But ethics, ethics are different. With ethics it’s never a question of right or wrong-it’s a question of wrong and wrong. Ethics helps us decide which action is most wrong and which is least wrong (and then morals kick in to help us go with that decision).

If you think about it, the old guidelines for interpreters were called The Code of Ethics, but the tenets thereof bled over into morality. The newer guidelines are called The Code of Professional Conduct and openly embraces both the moral and ethical sides.

So, what do you do when you have an ethical decision in front of you and don’t which path leads to the least wrong choice?

Well. There is no one answer that applies to every situation all the time (true! but unhelpful). So I approach most ethical dilemmas this way:

First, what does the CPC say and how closely can I adhere to it whatever I decide to do? Second, can I articulate the reason I am making the choice I make.

That second part is key.

Because, even if everything works out, if you can’t explain why you did what you did then you did not make an ethical choice-you made a lucky stumble and, because God protects fools and drunks, you got away with it. (As my sister says, “never confuse luck for skill”)

Make a choice you can explain and, even if another interpreter says they would have made a different choice, if you can explain why you chose what you chose it’s hard for anyone to argue that you made the wrong choice.

Make a choice. Articulate the reason for that choice. Own that choice. Done.

“Yes,” I hear you saying, “we all know our Demand-Control Schema, but what about issues that aren’t about ethics? The day to day stuff? Like how do I make sure I get paid or prepare for an assignment that scares me or deal with a teacher that seems to resent me being in her classroom or…”

The answer to most of these questions come down to common sense. Don’t take that to mean that the answers are somehow simple.

Common sense is never simple. It is said that sense is not, and never has been, common.

I’m not avoiding these questions, they just deserve their own Notes and so I will give them what they deserve.

Last point here though, training.

In the mythology of Star Trek there is a test given to all potential starship captains called, “The Kobayashi Maru.” It is an exercise designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario.

We need to test out ethical skills in the same manner. Too often we want there to be a right answer, however, to really understand our ethical core there just can’t be. We must be able to face the no-win ethical dilemma in practice to be able to deal with the actual ethical dilemmas we will face in the field.

“A theatre troop comes to town and holds a three day workshop for the local high school drama classes. Several Deaf students attend and you are hired to interpret for them.

One of the Deaf students, who will be 18 the day after tomorrow, seems to be getting special attention from one of the directors, a man of at least 35 years.

At the end of the day you see her tell the friend she rode with to the workshop that her mom is picking her up so she doesn’t need a ride home. She then has you interpret for a call to her mom saying she is going over to that same friend’s house, the one who just left, for the night and riding back to the workshop with her in the morning.

She then asks you to interpret for a conversation with the director. The director tells her she has a special talent and he would like to work with her more closely back at his hotel room. This student has filed complaints against two other interpreters for what she felt was offering their opinions in violation of the CPC.”


(Does it change your answer if the workshop ended at 6:30 and she will be 18-year-old at midnight tonight?)

Rule 740

Get your degree. Any degree.

Why? What will I do with a degree?

Be educated. (AuntSuperTam)

Actual conversation Uncle Dale had with an academic advisor in 1998:

UD: I want to go to law school. How can I graduate with my BA in the shortest amount of time?

AA: Wow! you have a lot of credits, in a lot of different areas, and from a crazy number of schools.

UD: Yep. I’ve been attending on the ADHD plan.

AA: Yes you have! (Typing) would you consider changing majors again?

UD: I would consider sacrificing goats.

AA: (under her breath) I’ll take that as a yes. (Typing) If you major in sociology you can graduate in two semesters.

UD: Sociology is my life.

Uncle Dale’s, You Probably Should Know: The Hospital ER Script.

ASLized courtesy of

Last night there was a town hall meeting at the Deaf Center discussing the failure or refusal of hospitals to give primary consideration to the request of the patient who is Deaf when they ask for a Live In-Person Interpreter and are told they have to use VRI or get nothing at all. I was in the audience and suggested a script for making such a request.

Several people who are Deaf in the town hall asked, “why should we have to go through all that? Shouldn’t they just respect our request?”

Yes, of course they should. But if they did or would there would be no need for this town hall meeting. Hospitals are businesses and as such will not change just because the Deaf community asks. They will only change if they are forced to.

This script will help build a factual basis for future lawsuits which is the only thing hospitals will respond to.


(If you are in too much pain or stress whomever is with you can follow this script for you)

I require a live in-person ASL Interpreter for effective communication.

Let’s use VRI until we can get an interpreter here for you.

VRI is not effective for me because (pick the one that fits):

I am in pain/stress/destress and I can’t follow the three dimensional language of ASL on a two dimensional screen;

I’m not ordering a pizza, I’m trying to get medical care;

The screen is too small;

The picture keeps freezing;

Your staff does not know how to hook it up;

The VRI Interpreters can’t see or hear what is going on off screen and so I miss half the message;

My eye-sight is not good enough to see ASL on a VRI screen; or,

Your reason here.

Please make a note of the reason that VRI is not effective for me in my medical records so that we don’t have to have this discussion every time I come to the hospital.

But it’s after 5/it’s the weekend and there are no live Interpreters available.

That is not true. Interpreter referral agencies are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Please make a note of that in my medical record so I don’t have to explain this every time I come to the hospital.

VRI is the same as a live interpreter.

It is not. VRI and Live In-Person Interpreters are listed as separate accommodations under federal law. The Affordable Care Act in Section 1557 says that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires you to give primary consideration to the specific accommodation I request and I request a Live In-Person Interpreter. Please make a note of that in my medical file so I will not have to have this conversation every time I come the hospital.

Well, it could take a long time for the interpreter to get here so let try VRI until then.

I will use VRI until the Live In-Person Interpreter gets here if AND ONLY IF you provide me with the following information:

1. The name of the hospital staff person who requested the interpreter on my behalf;

2. The exact time that staff person called to request the interpreter for me;

3. The name of the agency the hospital staff person called to request an interpreter for me;

4. The name of the specific person the hospital staff person spoke to at that agency to request an interpreter for me; and,

5. The time the agency estimates the interpreter will arrive at this hospital.

Provide that to me in writing and make a note of it in my medical file and I will use VRI until the interpreter arrives.

Why do you need to know all of that?

Because I need to know who has ownership of my request.

We are not allowed to give you that information.

Yes you are. None of it is protected by law. If you refuse to give me the information I request please provide me with the specific law that forbids it and also make a note in my medical record that I requested it and you refused to provide it.

We don’t put things like that in medical records.

You put all kinds of things in medical records and this is my medical record and you will put whatever I tell you to put in it.

There is not an interpreter available.

I will now call the interpreter referral agency that you told me the hospital called and verify the time you called and that there is no interpreter available. If there is in fact no interpreter available I will require you to call a different referral agency. Make a note of my request in my medical records.

We can’t call another agency, we only contract with this one.

Who this hospital does and does not contract with is not my problem. I am the patient and have a right to effective communication and if the hospital cannot provide it with the agency it uses it needs to contract with a different agency. Make a note of that in my medical records.

Do that each and every time.

If they refuse to document it then as soon as possible make a request by email to the hospital’s Office of Customer Service or Risk Management Officer that you made the request I explained above and that your nurse/doctor refused to document it in your record. Use the names of the specific people you spoke to as often as possible.

One last point, and I can’t stress this enough. Never say “I prefer a Live In Person interpreter” or “I don’t want VRI” or “I don’t like VRI.” That says to the hearing people that is just a choice you are making. The magic words are, “I need” or “I require a Live In Person Interpreter for effective communication (that comes right from the law).