One of my favorite Notes!
This weekend I will be presenting at Colorado RID
I will give two workshops on Saturday:
Leaving Literal Translation Behind; and,
Ask Me Anything: Interpreting in Civil/Criminal Legal Settings
I will present Ask Me Anything: Interpreting in Civil/Criminal Legal Settings again on Sunday
(I may even try to look in on the student conference on Thursday 😋)
I am so very excited that CRID is partnering with DOVE for this conference. https://www.deafdove.org
I work with a sister organization, Sego Lily Center for Abused Deaf, here in Utah as often as I can. I cannot say enough good things about these organizations. They deserve our time and treasure and I am thrilled to do anything I can to support DOVE’s great work.
Thank you for the invite CRID! Can’t wait to see you all there!
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?)
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.
It’s ok to say no. It is.
ASLized courtesy of Delawaredeaf.org
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).
A couple of weeks ago Shelby Hintze, a television producer and the daughter of my cousin, asked me to review the script of a segment she was planning for a local Sunday talk show discussing the ADA’s 29th anniversary.
See if you can spot the part that I helped write, Grin.
(The prepared video transcript. I am working on a transcript for the live portion.)
Voice of Shelby Hintze
“According to the 2010 Census—nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population has some sort of disability. That’s one in five people in this country. As the Baby Boomer generation ages—that number is expected to grow a lot.
Despite the sheer numbers, the unemployment rate for disabled Americans is nearly twice the rate of their able-bodied peers. But historically, that’s an improvement. 29 years ago—our country took a big step in the civil rights of disabled Americans when President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act—also known as the ADA.
Activists argued that people with disabilities were not as disabled by their bodies as they were by their environment. They had a right to access all the services of their able-bodied peers. King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, said, “We’re not asking for any favors. … We’re simply asking the same rights and equality any other American has.” In what is described as the biggest catalyst to the bill’s signing 60 activists left their wheelchairs and dragged themselves up the 83 steps to the U-S Capitol, in what’s called The Capitol Crawl. The bill was signed four months later. Since 2000, 181 countries have signed disability civil rights laws inspired by the ADA.
When we think of the ADA, we often think of improving access for wheelchair users. But it’s more than that. It offers protections for the deaf community, people who are blind, people with chronic illnesses.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the ADA is how it is enforced. The law is mostly complaint based. For example, while new buildings are required to have things like ramps, accessible restrooms, and Braille on signs—there is no one who checks these regulations and must be solved through mediation or court.
For example–Under Title III of the ADA, Deaf people are promised “effective communication” but that really isn’t defined by the law. So if a Deaf person goes to a doctor for example, the doctor gets to decide what “effective communication” means. In this case, it could mean the doctor decides writing notes back and forth is enough–instead of using a certified sign language interpreter, which the Deaf patient may want. The Deaf person cannot do anything legally unless they can prove the communication was ineffective. That can be very hard to prove. If they do win the case, the Deaf person is then only entitled to another appointment with that same doctor, this time with an interpreter. Title III does not allow someone monetary damages beyond legal fees.
Just recently—a Utah family made national headlines after they were denied service at an Ogden restaurant because one of the children used a service animal. That was illegal. But outside of court, there is no way to actually make people follow the law.
The ADA did a lot to change the world for disabled people. But for many activists, it is just the beginning.“