Sunday, September 27, 2009

October 2009 WAVLI Ripple

In This Issue:

Editors' Note
Message from the President
Remembering Dave Still

David Still

Musings from a 2009 Douglas Graduate
Blast From The Past
Is That Blood?
RID Conference

Sorenson VRS

Editors' Note
by Wanda Sinclair & Suzie Giroux

Autumn is setting in and we are having those glorious days filled with leaves of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows, geese flying overhead and crisp nights (at least we are out here in Ottawa, where I am - Wanda; and in Vancouver, the tell tale sign of fall - rain - has descended - Suzie). We hope you are all enjoying this time of year too.

This edition of the Ripple is dedicated to Dave Still, our dear friend, colleague, mentor, leader. He is sorely missed by everyone. The versitile bredth of Dave's contriutions to our profession and community is evident everywhere you look. Who has not benefitted from his teaching and insight into language, culture and human nature? Or enjoyed his wry sense of humour and readiness to laugh, his kindness and generosity? Each of us has a "Dave" story and draw a picture of him in our mind. His generous spirit and ability to teach were just the beginnings of a long list of what made Dave so valued in our community. To say he will be profoundly missed is an understatement.

Enjoy this edition of the Ripple and happy Autumn to all of you!

Message from the President
by Susi Bolender, BPA, COI

Here we are rolling into fall. Another season, another set of changes and adjustments to get comfortable with before everything changes again. One of the biggest changes over the summer was the loss of David Still. WAVLI has tried to honour his dedication to the field in several ways and we hope the membership is accepting of our efforts to recognize the incredible gifts Dave shared with us in the small ways in which we can remember such an amazing person.

As I am writing this article, we are very close to making our submission for Title Protection. This is the last leg of the incredible journey and while after our acceptance there will be a lot more work to come, this will have been an incredible milestone in the process. I really want to recognize the efforts and dedication of the Title Protection Ad Hoc Committee--Barb Mykle-Hotzon, Cheryl Palmer, Suzie Giroux and Sara MacFayden--that has continued to review documents, find errors and really go over the whole application several times.

Thank you to all of you have completed the numerous surveys that have come out through the fall. There have been strategic plan surveys fromAVLIC, Interpreter Education Surveys regarding Douglas and VCC programs and how to most effectively improve on areas of Interpreter Education. Your participation is really valued and needed so that we can make positive changes and continue the growth and recognition of our field. I was pleased to hear that there was a full group of registrants for the TOI preparation workshop this fall. It's really great that our chapter was finally able to run one of these workshops after having to cancel many times due to lack of participants.

I've really enjoyed my second term as president, though it was a short one due to the motion to stagger elections for various positions. I'm hopeful that someone else from the membership will be willing and ready to take on my role in the upcoming election at the Spring AGM. Other board members may be continuing for another term, but if you are curious or interested in joining the WAVLI board or serving on the Executive Board, I encourage you to talk to fellow members and find out what you might be interested in doing. Elections are only a few months away!

All the best over the fall and upcoming holiday season!

Reflection on a Presidential Term

Dear Members,

When I started on the board in 2007, one of the first things I wanted to do was get a sense of what the membership wanted from WAVLI. I did a long survey in which some interesting results came back. Some people noted just their general dissatisfaction with WAVLI as a whole, some people had some feedback, some people shared their ideas and visions about what they thought WAVLI should be.

I have had these on my mind the last few years and am proud to say that many of the suggestions and ideas that were shared through the survey have been accomplished, or we are getting there. As a new board starts another term, it is important to be reminded that we are the task force working for the members. Your comments and suggestions have been and are instrumental in guiding us in which direction we need to move. We are so thankful to those that take the time to get their ideas to us so that we can see what we can do to make it happen. Here is a look at some of the initiatives from the membership that we have been working on and continue to do so with the hopes of bringing them into reality:

Title Protection: All the steps for preparing the application for Title Protection are complete. It is just a matter of submitting the application. This has been the President’s main focus this term. Title Protection has been a 10 year goal in the making that is finally being reached.

4- Year Degree Interpreting Program: Currently the Member-at-Large participates on a committee that is discussing the changes of VCC and Douglas and making suggestions on behalf of the membership.

More Professional Development: In the past two and a half years we have had more frequent and a wider variety of professional development opportunities provided to our members. The current Professional Development Committee also strives to offer regular workshop opportunities, as well as supporting and encouraging participants to go ahead with the AVLIC CES-Interpreting Interactive Interviews workshop in 2010. They are also working on a ‘Spring Institute’; a pro-D weekend where members would be able to choose from a variety of workshops. These would be paired with a fundraising event that our newly formed Fundraising Committee is working hard to bring together. The fundraising Committee and Treasurer are also already in the early planning stages for WAVLI’s 20th Anniversary Gala, happening November 2010.

Improving WAVLI's professional image: In the past few years we have recreated the directory, the membership cards and the website. The current Directory Committee, with the help of the past committee are nearing completion on our directory and more significantly a template program of the directory that would make it easier and more efficient for future committees to use. They are also focusing on getting the directory listed on website and make the information more current, while still leaving it to only names and emails. The Membership Committee is responsible for the printing and distribution of the membership cards and is continually exploring ways to better serve the members. The Public Relations Committee has been working hard making appearances at job fairs and centres distributing WAVLI brochures; as well as making presentations at ASL prep-classes trying to garner interest in our profession. The committee is also penning a Ripple article updating the members on all their work. Look for it soon.

Accessibility for Members: The behind the scenes positions on the board are always hard at work providing a variety of avenues in which the members can obtain information pertaining to the association, can use to contact the board or have their voices heard. The President is working hard recruiting new members to the board. The Vice-President responds to WAVLI email and also directs the email to the appropriate board members, ensuring the members get quick responses to their queries. They are also working at connecting with the membership at a more personal level and keeping in touch with what the members want. The Treasurer and Secretary make sure that all association business is properly documented. The Secretary is also working on an online storage for past and future AGM and executive meetings minutes that will be accessible through the members-only link off of the WAVLI website for the members to view. The Newsletter Committee strives to increase member submissions to the newsletter, as well as working on exciting newsletter additions such at online surveys, education articles, student submissions, poll questions, Island newsletter rep, an event sleuth and a possible committee photographer.

Reaching out to Members outside of the Lower Mainland: The Professional Development Committee with help from other board members conducted a phone survey, contacting every member in the province to solicit ideas and general feedback about what they would like to see happen with WAVLI Professional Development. We are also aiming to set up video conferencing for our business meetings (AGM's) and hopefully professional development and hope to have that ready to go for 2010. This is being researched by our Member-At-Large.

Deaf Interpreter Training: We offered a 30 hour course for Deaf Interpreters that had a wait-list. We hope to offer it again in the future.

Every election I ask the board members to come up with goals for their term. Two years is not a long time to get a project off the ground, successful and completed. Please connect with a board member to share your thoughts about our goals and what you want to see from WAVLI next so that we can make it happen. The board really works for the membership. We need your ideas, goals and dreams for WAVLI. It is your professional association and we're here to do the work.

Susi Bolender
WAVLI President

A Big Thank You to the 2007-2009 Board.
Thank you for all your hard work.

Introducing your Board 2009-2010:
Susi Bolender, President
Suzie Giroux, Past-President and Newsletter Committee
Rhys McCormick, Vice President
Simon Dorer, Treasurer
Barbara Zbeetnoff, Secretary
Heather Perry, Member-at-Large and Professional Standards Committee
Sarah McDiarmid, Professional Standards Committee and Public Relations Brianne Braun, Professional Development Committee
Nicole Pedneault, Professional Development Committee
Rebecca McCormick, Membership Darcie Kerr, Membership
Wanda Sinclair, Newsletter Committee
Julia Menzies, Directory Committee
Emily Allan, Directory Committee
Tess Iwama, Fundraising Committee
Carli van Rossum, Fundraising Committee

Remembering Dave Still
By Karen Malcolm

How can I summarize all that Dave was to me, and to all of us? He was a colleague, interpreter, educator, innovator, and friend, a humble guy with great intelligence, vast creativity, and a devilish sense of humour.

Dave was such an amazing colleague. He had great passion for interpreting, and teaching. He enthusiastically came up with new ideas all the time. I can picture him arriving at my office door, bouncing on the balls of his feet and saying, hey, I just had an idea of something we could try in class, want to hear it?

He was an innovator who embraced technology and the ways it could improve interpreter education. He was the first hearing person I knew who purchased a videophone and he was so thrilled to have a conversation with a long time Deaf friend in Winnipeg. He got me started using vlogs, and clips on YouTube, when the rest of us had never thought of using them in teaching. He introduced me to TokBox and Vimeo. I never knew when I opened an email from Dave what new exciting link he would have found…and when I couldn’t figure out how to actually use it, he was always there to guide me through it, though many times we would both be struggling and cursing as we tried to configure everything successfully!

Dave really cared about student learning and student success. Whenever students were struggling with mastering interpreting skills, Dave would always volunteer to spend extra time tutoring them. Twice a week, 30 minutes per week, Dave met with them and guided them along in their learning process. He did it with wisdom, and with humour.

One student recounted a tutoring incident to me that has really stuck in my mind. She had been struggling with a particular skill set and kept making the same mistake. She was getting really frustrated with herself and discouraged. So Dave had her do a live interpretation in his office. He told her that every time she made the same mistake, he was going to throw a chocolate covered espresso bean at her. (As a side note, why am I not surprised that he had a combination of caffeine and chocolate in his office? )

She began interpreting, and sure enough, she got bopped by a coffee bean several times. She couldn’t help but laugh, which broke the tension, but it also helped her recognize her pattern while doing it, and finally change. This is what I mean about Dave’s innovation as a teacher!

I miss him every day, in ways big and small, and I know for certain I am not alone in this. All of us in the interpreting program (faculty, staff and students), as well as our larger CFCS faculty, miss him…as do countless interpreters in BC, as well as throughout Canada and the US. He was taken from us too soon, and we can’t help but grieve, because he was so loved, and so important to us.

Dave’s family has worked with the Douglas College Foundation to establish the David Still Memorial Scholarship. It will reward and recognize students enrolled in the Program of Sign Language Interpreting here at Douglas. The amount and selection process will be determined later as the family established the terms of reference. If you wish to make a donation in honour of Dave and his contributions, please contact the David Still Memorial Scholarship at the Douglas College Foundation P.O. Box 2503, New Westminster, BC V3L 5B2 or 604-777-6172 or online at

David Still
by Kevin Layne
On behalf of the Douglas College Interpreting Students

Dave Still was an outstanding instructor. One attribute that will be remembered about Dave is that he had the ability to be at your level. Whenever we had a problem Dave was there with support. Huge workload or not, Dave still found the time to sit with us and talk about concerns we had or stories to share. He made a huge impact in our lives even though most of us only knew him for a short amount of time, which says a lot about who he was. He has touched our lives personally and as a group.

Dave would listen to our opinions with an open mind, and would accept feedback even though we are students. In class when we practiced with the Still Learning DVD’s we would ask to view his version of the interpretation. We called this button the “Dave Button” (mainly because it says “Dave”), but would be a running joke for a while after. Dave would hesitate because he would analyze his work, even though completed and burned to DVD, which showed us that it’s not important what level an interpreter is at, analysing your work to improve is always necessary and at times nerve wracking.

Dave taught us that we have to consider the issues and “trust the process.” Without the process interpreting can go astray, and students would constantly worry. In addition, there was a side of Dave we were lucky to see, the humorous side. In our classes there were many laughs from Dave poking fun at us, or students teasing Dave. It was as though we would feed off the energy Dave had, not the other way around. He had a way of getting us back into a rhythm even in the last class of the week.

We are lucky to have had a chance to learn from one of the Grandfathers of Interpreting and a role model for male interpreters. It seems the ones that impact our lives the most are here for a short time, perhaps to show us the path to inspiration. Thank you for the time you have given us David Still. Your life and teachings will always be remembered in the hearts and hands of many.

Musings from a 2009 Douglas Graduate

Hello Wavli Members, my name is Farah Ladha and I am a recent graduate of the interpreter training program at Douglas College.

It was roughly two years ago that I was mulling over what to write for the Ripple as the WAVLI representative for my 1st year class. We were new and shy and nervous but the thing that stood out for me the most how supportive all the interpreters we met were.

As we continued through our two year journey at Douglas and more recently, working as professionals, we are once again new and shy and nervous but at least now we have learned ‘masking skills’! Honestly it is so great to see the support from interpreters continue as we transition from student to colleagues. Thank you.

As our class size decreased, the bond grew not only with each other but with our teachers who were the most amazing group of individuals. On behalf of myself and my classmates: Tess Iwama, Michelle Garland, Natalie Page, Carli Van Rossum & Tiffany Goodkey, we would like to say a special thank you to: Cheryl Palmer, Nigel Howard, David Still, Karen Malcolm, Barb Mykle-Hotzon and Boyd McWilliam for all their support, encouragement, shoulders to cry on, and most of all their sense of humor.

That being said the 2 years we spent at Douglas, while stressful and nerve wracking till the end, were the most fun. I could not have asked to graduate with anyone other than my fellow classmates who are also my friends, and now my colleagues.

Thank you,
Farah Ladha
Douglas College Interpreting Program Graduate Class of 2009!

In memory of David Still

"Your commitment to both your profession and students will never be forgotten and we will forever be in your debt for all that you have taught us"
~ Graduating Class of 2009

Blast From the Past
Submitted by Suzie Giroux

For this edition of our Blast from the Past, I waded through the many archived issues of The Ripple that I have, in search of an article from Dave. Alas, to no avail… However, one article caught my eye. Printed in the Fall 1993 edition of The Ripple, submitted by Marty Taylor, there were two quotes that stood out for me as something I believe that Dave would have held passionate to his heart and would have wanted all of us to strive for:

“How are you ever going to become that “superb” interpreter? How are you going to improve on what you are already doing and what you already know?”

“The simple rule to follow is to always interpret your best, which means with clarity and with 100% concentration.”

Practical Ideas For Professional Growth on Your Own Time
By Marty Taylor

Practice Idea #1
How are you ever going to become that “superb” interpreter? How are you going to improve on what you are already doing and what you already know?

What is it that you are doing? What it is, keep it up!

To help keep it up and improve, let me suggest a couple of ideas.

After you have finished each assignment, take at least five minutes to write down a few comments. Useful comments might be: sign choices you particularly liked; sign choices you know but did not have at your fingertips, such as Mennonite, Hutterite, peach or the apple with the brown spot.

On your paper, draw two columns and label them:
1. practice
2. ask someone/research

Even if you write down five points after each assignment and do at least ten assignments in a month, the total at the end of the month would be fifty points. This is plenty to keep you busy and to keep you focused in your own professional development.

Other comments you might write down could be things such as ethical issues you need to think about, ie: “How would I handle it differently next time, when the doctor hands me the prescription instead of handing it to the Deaf person?” Or, when you are voicing and your team member is not in a position to hear you as back-up, what do you do?

The importance of writing these items down can not be emphasized enough. It is important to have a record of your thoughts. Our mind is limited at to what it will hold on to after assignments are completed, and even more gets lost after weeks, months, and years pass by. A place for reflection is irreplaceable.

A written record to keep track of this is best. It is interesting after time elapses to look back on your scribbled notes and see how far you have come; or, on the other hand, notice that you still haven’t dealt with some of the items. You haven’t taken the time to do your research and those problems are still causing you difficulty. Or, you look at your comment and think, “Really, there used to be a time when I didn’t know the sign for Latin?”

Now that you have taken five minutes after each assignment and have accumulated comments that are interesting and that you have given thought to… share it… with others. Make an hour coffee date with someone you respect to discuss what it is you have learned over the past month. Find out what they think and ask them what they learned over the last while. Fair is fair… smile.

Practice Idea#2
Are you still taking time every day to practice – to rehearse – to perform – just for yourself? Or are you just practicing when you have consumers in front of you who are depending on your interpretation. Do you go into every assignment with a goal in mind as far as your performance is concerned? For example, I will fingerspell every word correctly the first time, or, I will use space to the maximum potential for the second half hour, and the second hour I will concentrate on my eye contact with the Deaf consumer.

Remember when some people first learned to fingerspell and he or she would spell what they heard on the television or say on the road signs as they were driving? Did you ever rehearse in your head and on your hands a particular important rendition of “God Save the Queen” or “Our Father”, or a speech you were going to interpret? These are examples of a desire to perform well and a recognition of the need to be prepared.

A suggestion is to take at least ten minutes periods from your day and practice. The easiest is to use the travel time to and from the assignment. Listen to the radio and choose a segment to interpret and interpret it well. Do it again until it is perfect. Take the time to go over “God Save the Queen”. Memorize it. Do it again and again until you are satisfied.

The simple rule to follow is to always interpret your best, which means with clarity and with 100% concentration.

Is that Blood??
by Denise Sedran and Tarren McKay

One of the most common things we hear from interpreters who are considering venturing into the field of medical interpreting is, “No, that’s not for me, I can’t stand the sight of blood”. Fortunately, for all of us closet hemophobes, blood is rarely an issue on the job. Most medical interpreting consists of visits to the family doctor, specialists, appointments for prenatal care or diagnostic testing ... the only blood you’ll likely encounter will be during routine blood testing .

Medical interpreting is both rewarding and challenging. The setting lends itself well to working consecutively which allows for a more effective interpretation, benefiting both the patient and the doctor. At the same time, medical interpreting can be challenging in numerous ways. One must learn how to navigate the medical system as a professional, deal with medical jargon and complex terminology, and at times deal with matters of life and death.

MIS encourages you to consider joining our roster of interpreters. As we all know, there is a critical shortage of interpreters and MIS is feeling this shortage as well. In the last 6 months, 145 appointments have been declined because no interpreter was available. Also in the last 6 months, we had 49 emergency on call shifts remain vacant with no interpreter assigned. This means that while a Deaf person is in the emergency room, our dispatcher is spending precious time trying to find an interpreter who is available to take the call.

Although we can’t resolve your hemophobia, we can help you prepare for the MIS screen and provide a mentoring opportunity to make the transition into medical interpreting that much smoother. Based on feedback from candidates who have taken the pre-screen workshop and the screen itself, we are currently modifying the workshop to allow for more one-on-one feedback from the facilitator. The workshop will also be offered well in advance of the screen to allow you to incorporate the feedback you have received and make the necessary changes that could contribute to your success.

In addition, if you are successful on the screen but still feeling a bit uncertain about jumping right into medical interpreting, we are providing a mentoring opportunity with one of our staff interpreters. You will experience on the job training, giving you the opportunity to observe and be observed. This will be paid work as MIS is committed to increasing our roster and supporting interpreters as they enter this field.

Should you happen to be unsuccessful on the screen, we can arrange for you to meet with our staff and view specific segments of your test sample that are linked to the feedback from the raters. Interpreters have found this extremely beneficial as it allows them to see the patterns in their work and receive suggestions on how to improve.

So, medical interpreting is so much more than blood. It is a fascinating area of specialty interpreting that is also an opportunity to provide a critical and much needed service to Deaf people and medical personnel.

Remember, in order to be eligible for the practical portion of the MIS screen you must first complete the written exam. For more information on either part of the screen or to obtain a copy of the written exam study manual contact MIS at

21st National Conference of the
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
August 1 - 6, 2009

by Marla Spencer

Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - known as the City of Brotherly Love - was the location of the 2009 Biennial Conference of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. And I was there!

However, I wouldn't say my first impressions of Philly were particularly "loving". Upon arrival at the Philadelphia airport, another interpreter and I were scrambling to get a shuttle to take us to our hotels. I first approached a rather large woman at the shuttle reservation desk, who was quite absorbed in what appeared to be a personal conversation on a cell phone.

I tried waiting patiently, truly I did, but it was late and I was tired. I'm sure I did a stationary dance showing that I was in a bit of a hurry. She finally put down the phone and when I asked about how I could arrange shuttle pickup from "Lady Liberty" she shouted at me, quite rudely, that I would need a ticket and shoved one in my face. Then she told me (again in a voice many decibels too high) to use the complimentary phone to call the shuttle myself, which I did.

After contacting Lady Liberty shuttle service and giving them "my number" (the number on the little ticket I had been given - 71) the woman shoved another piece of paper and a small square box with lights into my hand and bellowed at me to wait outside. When I shared that I was told to wait inside for the shuttle driver, she began to yell at me again, and was joined now by a man with an equally loud voice. They were both shouting at me to take the "pager" (the small square box) and wait outside because no shuttle driver was going to come inside looking for me! Wow! I was feeling incredibly welcome to Philly at this point.

So Sherry (the other interpreter, from St. John) and I went outside to wait for the shuttle. There was a Lady Liberty van just across the street and a youngish man there was shouting too, only he had a purpose for shouting. He barked out, "66, 67, 68 ...". At which point, I hopefully inquired, "71?" He responded with , "Yeah, come on over. I'll take you". Sherry and I hurried to the shuttle, bags in tow. I handed him the paper and the pager, and he loaded up our bags while we piled into the van. We were joined by some other interpreters (also headed for the conference) and a few locals.

As Sherry and I were commenting about the loud, rude communication that we'd just experienced, a woman in the seat in front of us identified herself as a local and said, "That's just Philly for you! Everyone here talks like that." Oh, great I thought ... there's going to be more shouting, and I forgot to bring my earplugs!

The next morning I got another taste of "brotherly love". I left the Hampton Inn, on Race Street, and walked toward the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, on Market Street, where the RID conference was being held. My trusty Google map was telling me that I had found the right location, but I couldn't see the entrance to the Marriott. So, I was walking slowly, looking up at the tall buildings trying to spy a sign that would tell me that I was indeed at the right place. Just then a rather grizzly, disheveled (and smelly) man made a bee-line towards me and said, in a gruff (but quiet) voice, "Woman, get the f*** out of my way!" Oh, now I was definitely feeling loved!

Okay, so much for my introduction to Philadelphia. But I can say it was all "uphill" from there. Honestly these were my only "bad" experiences with Philly itself.

Now, about the conference. This was not my first RID conference experience, so I had some idea of what to expect. What I wasn't expecting was how much the conference attendance has grown over the years! The "largest interpreter conference ever held in the United States", had over 2,600 registered attendees (although we did hear that final attendance was over 3,000)! Whew! That's the approximate population of Quadra Island!

After picking up my registration package, including my name badge, my 10 year pin, and "ribbons", I got right to the purpose of my trip to Philly - earning CEUs! Over the next several days, I attended 10 different workshops and/or professional discussions, most of which were related to the field of Video Relay Interpreting because that is the area where I do the majority of my interpreting work these days. I won't go into details about each workshop/discussion. Suffice it to say that some were very worthwhile and others were merely "meh".

I also attended the Opening Ceremony (much too long!) and Reception, where we were entertained by the Deaf Performing Artists Network (D-PAN). I made sure to attend the Region V Caucus (of which BC is included), the Video Remote Interpreting committee meeting (because I am involved in the production of the Standard Practice Paper for VRI), and the new Video Interpreter Member Section (VIMS) meeting (a member group specifically for Video Relay and Video Remote interpreters). I was appointed Region V representative at this meeting, but more about that at a later date.

I did not attend the four hour business meetings on both Monday and Tuesday morning – bleah – not my style. I attempted to endure the Closing Ceremony, but I was just to pooped by that point to stay throughout. I returned to my hotel room before the Closing Ceremony was concluded, so I also missed the Closing Reception and entertainment that followed.

One other highlight of the conference was the special "International Tea Reception" on Wednesday evening, hosted by Cheryl Moose, current President of RID. All international registrants were invited to attend, so I made sure to make an appearance before scooting back to a workshop. While at the reception, I had the honor of introducing Cheryl to fellow BC interpreters, Suzie Giroux and Vicki Yee. (By the way, there were a record number of Canadians in attendance at the conference, too. Way to go, team Canada!)

I think that about wraps it up for the conference! The only other "highlights" were reconnecting with former friends and colleagues (deluxe!), a 3 hour self-guided walking tour of some of the most historical sites of early Philadelphia (yep, I saw the Liberty Bell), a traditional "Philly Cheese Steak" sandwich (if vegetarian can be considered "traditional" *smile*) and the Reading Street Market (incredible! amazing! a conglomeration of cuisine and culture) and finally ... touching down again in BC and getting home to my loved-ones!!

There is so much more to the story, but I think that's enough for this writing. I'll just close by saying that, although it got off to a "Rocky" start (get the reference?), the weather was fairly good for the duration, and most of the other Philidelphians I met were friendly and helpful to this "tourist/conference attendee". So, in reality, I guess I did get a taste of the “brotherly love” for which Philadelphia is known. (And the RID CEUs earned definitely made the trip worthwhile!)

If you'd like a more thorough look at what the conference entailed and the many workshops/professional discussions that were offered, visit:

Sorenson Communications launches school for interpreters
Taylorsville facility will help sign language translators and teachers hone their skills.
by Mike Gorrell
The Salt Lake Tribune

Having created the telecommunications technology to help the deaf and hearing impaired to converse over the phone, Sorenson Communications now is focusing on developing skilled interpreters to complete the connection. The company has established the VRS Interpreting Institute at its Taylorsville headquarters, setting up classrooms for a half-dozen faculty members and building a 30-station lab where students can train -- and see how well they performed -- on the video relay service (VRS) videophones pioneered by Sorenson Communications.

"Our goal is to be the premier training site for sign language instructors," said Chris Wakeland, the company's vice president of interpreting.

The institute is not intended to take people off the street and turn them into interpreters. Instead, it is targeting the 1,500 graduates of North America's 150 programs that teach American Sign Language, people who have the basics down but not the practical skills needed to be fluent interpreters, whatever the subject matter.

And it can be used to help teachers in those dispersed programs do their jobs even better.

"We want to offer training to them so they can better assess their students and write tests better so that their students are better prepared to do the job when they graduate," Wakeland added. To get the program rolling, Sorenson Communications hired Carolyn Ball as the institute's first executive director.

She became interested in American Sign Language as an Idaho high school student when a deaf boy asked her out but they had trouble communicating because she did not know how to sign. She learned while on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, enhanced her skills while pursuing her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, then spent two decades developing educational programming. For the past 10 years, she was director of the American Sign Language & Interpreting Program at William Woods University in Fulton, Mo.

"I just lived with deaf people, and they told me what I did right or what I did wrong," she said.

What's wrong with the current system, Ball said, is that the Americans with Disabilities Act spelled out situations in which the deaf have the right to an interpreter -- such as dealing with schools or government agencies -- but provided little training for interpreters.

Interpreting can be tough work, she noted, leading to a high turnover rate. And it can be challenging to accurately convey the intended message, either from speaker through sign language to a deaf person or vice versa.

"It's particularly hard when you can be talking about family stuff, banking transactions, cars or signing up for classes," Wakeland said. "You can do a disservice to people if you don't interpret well."

The program Ball is developing allows students to handle interpretation scenarios, then go back through the videophone system to see if the message they conveyed matched what they really intended to convey. And to get better at it.

She is designing the system to be flexible, so that it can be tailored to the needs of small groups of instructors or interpreters who come to the institute seeking specific assistance. Ball also is creating a curriculum for a 15-week instruction period that will give college graduates intensive training.

"When they leave our program, they will be nationally certified and employable by whomever," she said.

Leaders in interpreting
Sorenson Communications has hired a number of leading sign language educators to lead its VRS Interpreting Institute, including:

Executive Director Carolyn Ball, director of the American Sign Language & Interpreting Program at William Woods University in Fulton, Mo.

Debbie Peterson, who comes from a deaf family in Alabama, and has taught around the country and has taught the use of international sign language.

Marla Broetz, who taught Salt Lake Community College, William Woods University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.Annette Miner who formerly taught full-time at Salt Lake Community College and coordinated
its interpreter education program.