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:

https://zaboosh.com/collections/frontpage/products/what-works-october-2019-conference

And

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

http://www.coloradorid.org/crid-conference-2019.html

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

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.

“Yes.”

“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? 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.”

Go.

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

Rule 739

If you ever want to know how much embarrassment you can take, interpret for a mediocre comedian who needs an easy target to save his act.