Tuesday, April 14, 2015

So you want to interpret for the deaf? There's just one thing...

I do not know American Sign Language, and therefore cannot judge another person's proficiency in it. However, this page seems to indicate that John Krpan is knowledgeable in the topic.

John Krpan has taught American Sign Language most of his life. His professional teaching licenses include Virginia Postgraduate License and certifications for Administration and Supervision PreK-12, ASL and English, Maryland Advanced Professional Certificate and certifications for Administrator I & II, ASL PreK-12, English 7-12, reading and special education.John interprets ASL-English and foreign languages/gestures-English. Specializes in legal interpretation.

ASL is his native language.

We'll get back to that last sentence in a minute, because it is key to this entire post.

You can see from the text above that Krpan has various certifications attesting to his ASL abilities. Certifications are not necessarily a guarantee - heck, I could provide you with an ASL certification myself - but if the organization providing the certification is trusted and respected, then the certification allows certified people to pursue their professions - somewhat.

One of the organizations providing ASL certification is the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. And they have a mission...statement:

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. promotes excellence in the delivery of interpreting services among diverse users of signed and spoken languages through professional development, networking, advocacy, and standards.

Let's take a look at one of the certifications that RID offers, the National Interpreter Certification.

The NIC certification process begins with a multiple-choice NIC Knowledge Exam. Candidates are eligible for the NIC Knowledge Exam if they are at least 18 years old. Candidates who have passed the knowledge exam within 5 years and meet RID’s educational requirement may then take the NIC Interview and Performance Exam. The NIC Interview and Performance Examination is a vignette-based assessment using video to deliver and record the assessment.

Sounds rigorous, doesn't it? You start with the written exam, meet some educational requirements, and then have an interview.

An oral interview.

Remember that statement from Krpan that said that ASL is his NATIVE language?

You can see where this is going.

It's going to court:

Despite his experience and ability to do his job "with or without an accommodation," as defined under Americans with Disabilities Act, Krpan claims that the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Inc. discriminates against deaf interpreters because its certification process includes an oral test that a deaf person cannot possibly complete.

Obviously there are two sides to every court case, and presumably RID would argue that it is not a "reasonable accommodation" to allow deaf people to serve as interpreters.

But the irony in this whole situation is delicious. It's great for someone to desire to go out and help deaf people - as long as the helper is not deaf. You need to be...um, able-bodied to help the deaf, I guess.

Of course, the deaf community is no stranger to political controversy. In 1988, Gallaudet University was temporarily shut down as protestors deplored the appointment of a new president for the university. The problem with the new president? She could hear. She resigned after a few days, and then was banished to Moscow. (Idaho.)
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