Rule 744

Don’t ask other interpreters questions you know they CAN’T answer:

“Are you here interpreting?”

“How did your appointment go?”

“Are you interpreting for (insert event, speaker or performer here)?”

Are there Deaf people here?

Have you ever interpreted for (name)?

Uncle Dale at the Utah Association of the Deaf Conference.

Saturday, September 7, 2019, I was honored to be present at UAD’s annual conference in Ogden, Utah.

My workshop was an overview of Federal laws. I present it like each applicable law (the ADA, 501, 504, the ACA and IDEA) or Title thereof (ADA Titles I, II and III) are separate countries and we are all taking a tour and learning the culture and language of each.

This workshop is designed to be presented in a gym or large conference room and it takes six hours (two sessions of three hours each). I map the “laws/countries” out on the floor and the participants physically travel from one “law/country” to the next while we discuss the similarities and differences in each law/country’s history, language, culture, and customs.

It’s a big undertaking.

As you can imagine I’ve only been asked to do the full presentation a few times but each time has been amazing (I am thinking of organizing one for a Saturday in early November at the Utah Community Center for the Deaf and filming some of it so people or groups who are interested can see how it works). The first time I did it I had souvenirs from the different “laws/countries” the participants visited.

Like I said, it’s labor intensive for me to do the full tour and to do it right, but it’s worth it.

Usually I am asked to give a less involved version of it in a 2-3 hour time slot. It’s still a fantastic workshop but I sometimes feel like the participants are taking a tour by bullet-train!

In the 2-3 hour version the attendees stay in one place and I move (if you look at the top of the projector screen you can see one of our “stops” marked out.

This time I had just a little over an hour-so I really had to strip it down. Luckily, Jared Allebest’s presentation covered many of the details I had to edit out for time.

I was thrilled UAD asked me to present because the venue was a little bit of a homecoming for me. The conference room where I gave my presentation was right down the hall from my former office at The Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

Back in the 1990’s I was the lead mentor for all of the interpreters working within the USDB system.

By the way, Jared Allebest, the guy I mentioned before, is an attorney who is Deaf here in Utah.

Yes. Utah has two attorneys who are fluent in ASL! (I’m just kidding. Utah actually has FOUR attorneys who are fluent in ASL. Two of us who are solo practitioners, one who works the for state in the juvenile court system and one who works with a firm in southern Utah-it’s kind of an embarrassment of wealth I will admit that).

My next two scheduled presentations will be on October 12, 2019 through Zaboosh on-line trainings. You can get more info here:


The Colorado RID Conference, October 18-20, 2019, details here:

I’d love to meet you so if you see me don’t hesitate to come up to say hi!

Rule 743

It’s Saturday night! I’m feeling rebellious and wild. I may just go to a movie and LEAVE MY CELLPHONE IN THE CAR SO NO REFERRAL AGENCIES CAN TEXT ME! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

(Though we both know I probably won’t…)

Note from Uncle Dale: What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do?: Interpersonal Dynamics-Deaf Client.

My original plan was to write one Note to tackle Interpersonal Dynamics: Deaf Client; Hearing Client; and, Team. But there is a lot to unpack in all these topics! So much that I split it into three.

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 and micro-audism in previous Notes. So let’s talk about interpersonal dynamics.

How do you, as the interpreter, relate to the other actors in the communication event?

The Deaf Client

There are all kinds of discussions to be had on this topic but the most interesting question I have been asked recently is:

What do I do if the Deaf Client doesn’t seem to like me?

The short answer to this is, “your job.”

Do your job and do it damn well. You are not the hearing world hospitality coordinator. There is no requirement that the Deaf Client likes you.

That thought is often WAY too much for some interpreters to handle. The idea that-gasp-someone may not like you plagues some interpreters to the point of eyes-wide-open-in-the-middle-of-the-night distraction. But here is the hard truth, nobody has to like you all the time, not your significant other, not your mother, not a stranger on the street and certainly not the Deaf Client.

The Deaf Client does not have to like you. They just have to trust your skills.

I have discussed this before so I ask you to indulge my saying this again, but it is important. There is a level of ambivalence that always exist between the Deaf Client and the interpreter. This cognitive dissonance is factory installed in the Interpreter/Deaf Client interpersonal dynamic.

Deaf Clients, no matter what relationship they may have with you as a person, tend to greet your work with both appreciation and frustration (it is entirely possible to hold two varied feelings about the same thing with no contradiction). In other words, it’s fine to feel conflicted without any conflict.

Why? Well. Think of it this way:

Imagine that, in order to breathe, you must employ the services of a person who touches the end of your nose, a person who is specifically trained and endorsed to do so-a Certified Nose Toucher.

Now, it may not be that you can’t breathe without the CNT, but in order to breathe effectively, and specifically at times of stress or when breathing effectively is vital, the services of a professional, certified “Nose Toucher” is needed (can’t do it for yourself, oh and you have horrible memories of the education system trying to teach you to touch your nose with your elbow, and everyone seems to have a suggestion of installing dubious microchips in your nose, but I digress).

So, how would you feel toward the “Nose Toucher?”

You would of course appreciate the CNT each and every time you took a clear and effective breath. But, you would also resent the fact that you had to depend on this other person for something so basic as breathing, resent that the world, as it is, forces this reality.

You would surely be angry each time someone talked to the CNT instead of you, as if you were unable to think instead of breathe.

Out of necessity you will spend a great deal of time with a CNT and so you may develop a relationship of sorts-maybe outside of the realm of “nose touching.” That relationship may even develop into a friendship (but that can lead to problems of its own. A blurry line between friend and professional can be dangerous).

Of course sometimes you will be assigned a CNT that you just do not like.  That’s a whole new level of frustration.

In the end no matter how much you appreciate the work of the professional, Certified, “Nose Toucher” and despite perhaps liking some of the CNTs, they are people you MUST be with, not people you choose to be with. Every time they do their job you are grateful for it and at the same time reminded of the fact that you are inescapably dependent on them.

Appreciation and frustration.

Sometimes the frustration wins and you want to go into the bathroom all alone-just accepting that you will choke. Sometimes you would rather just choke.

I have had newly certified former students mention in passing that a Deaf Client (don’t worry-I taught them not to mention names or details) left the appointment without saying goodbye or thank you.

“Did you get paid?” I ask.


“Then you’re fine. You can expect to get paid or get a thank you, you will sometimes get both, but you should never expect both.”

In the interests of full disclosure I did not come upon this zen attitude all at once or even overnight. I grew up with raging ADHD in an era where that was not well understood. I was tested in school over and over without conclusive results. It was finally determined that I was clinically obnoxious and they just went with it. I learned that many people were willing to remind me that I can be irritating.

But I’m not irritating or obnoxious. I’m funny, I’m excited and I’m interested in many things (often at the same time) they are irritated by me and I am under no obligation to change me-but I should change my behavior in situations where it would not be appropriate to be… well… too much like me (but again, I digress).

There are many Deaf Clients who request me but I know for a fact don’t like me. They request the skills not the person.

On the other hand I have shown up to appointments to interpret for friends who are Deaf and been told, “not you, not today.”

I know that there are a thousand possible reasons that this Deaf Client wants an interpreter other than me for this appointment, and, luckily, every single one of these reasons is none of my business.

In the end it doesn’t matter in the slightest who you and this person who is Deaf are to each other out in the world, friend or foe or neutral, in here you are the Interpreter they are the Client and the dynamic needs be no more complicated than that.

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.