Here we summarize points made by Deaf Interpreter focus group participants regarding the formal interpreter preparation.

Focus group participants stated their belief that current opportunities for formal preparation of Deaf Interpreters were insufficient. Deaf people wanting to become Deaf Interpreters have been creating their own training processes and “successful training” is measured by customer satisfaction. It takes assertiveness to identify needed training opportunities, workshops, classes, and reading material. Some Deaf Interpreters have gone on to, for example, become certified, earn BA degrees, and participate in other continuing education and in-service training post- certification. Participants observed that volunteer interpreting is one way to hone skills, and consumers are less critical or judgmental of the work of volunteers. Experience of volunteering might lead to a decision to make it a career.

Desire for a Professional Community for Deaf Interpreters

There appeared to be consensus that there is an urgent need for Deaf Interpreters to have a forum within which they can engage in mutual exploration of their practice and mentoring. Especially in the absence of dependable professional development, it is important to be able to discuss interpreting experiences, and trials and errors, with other Deaf Interpreters, and learn from each other in a confidential setting.

Absence of Deaf Interpreter Preparation in Traditional Programs

Traditional Interpreter Preparation Programs (IPPs) were seen as not including curriculum and instruction related to the specialized role(s) Deaf Interpreters play in the communication/interpreting process. There is no vision, formal training, or practicum opportunity to support Deaf Interpreters and no program designed for Deaf Interpreter students to dig deeply into the aspect of the field they serve.

  • There tends to be no Deaf peer group in the IPPs, so while the programs may be friendly and inviting, there is insufficient peer group mental stimulation for Deaf students.
  • Acknowledgment was given to the challenge to IPPs in that without enough Deaf students, it is financially not feasible to offer classes related to Deaf Interpreting.
  • Sometimes, in traditional courses with hearing students, Deaf students become language models for the less ASL fluent students. Deaf students have no access to classes specifically related to their needs and do not have appropriate opportunity to develop their interpreting skills.
  • There is a need for Deaf Interpreters to train Deaf Interpreters.

Alternative Educational Opportunities

Educational opportunities outside of traditional, formal, interpreter education programs were seen as useful, and additional thoughts covered a range of gaps and possibilities. Participants suggested that:

  • Workshops meet some of the need, yet at interpreting workshops Deaf Interpreters can feel spotlighted as hearing interpreters so carefully watched them and use them as language models. If more Deaf people were involved, it would feel more collegial.
  • Personal motivation makes a difference. One individual reported being so motivated by the desire to be a CDI that she completed the training requirements, found a legal mentor, and has continued to team with that person ever since.
  • There is a strong expectation that experienced Deaf Interpreters should train new people, including the introductory conversations about the field, discussion of actual requirements and expectations, and what it really means to be a Deaf Interpreter.
  • Videophone technology makes remote mentoring viable. Deaf Interpreters from across the country can still gain access to the specialized Deaf Interpreter knowledge and experience from Deaf mentors, and reliance on hearing interpreters for training and mentoring can be reduced.
  • There was a need/wish expressed for a centrally located CDI training program . . . yet the reality of knowing how difficult it is for people to give up their lives and move to go to school for a year or two probably precludes it. Establishing Deaf Interpreter programs around the country would be more practical.

RID Certification Written Exam Issues

While there was a belief expressed that certification is important, it was reported that there is much negative communication in the emerging community of practice that interpreting certification not worth pursuing. A major disincentive is that the costs of preparation for the exams, travel to the exams and to workshops offering CEUS, and various fees are disproportionately high for Deaf Interpreters because of their limited opportunities for work and earnings.

For those who do pursue certification, the need for a study group for Deaf Interpreters preparing for the exam was expressed. They are seen as having issues and questions beyond typical study groups.

Read Full Report: Analysis of Deaf Interpreter focus group discussions conducted April-July 2007