The Rehabilitation Act of 1974 was one of the civil rights protections signed into law which helped people who are Deaf or hard of hearing receive communication access to services. This legislation pertained to any agency or organization receiving federal dollars. Later, it became evident that an enormous gap existed in the private sector.

Therefore, in 1990, President George Bush signed new civil rights legislation, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), into law. This legislation mandates the provision of auxiliary aids such as sign language interpreters, captioning, and other vehicles of communication access when accessing services is not covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 as well as in in many employment situations. With the advent of the ADA, it meant communication access is now ensured when Deaf people receive services from businesses, agencies, organizations, local and state governments, profit or non-profit, or whether the service is provided for a charge or for free.

In addition, Title 1 of the ADA states any company which employs 15 or more employees, must provide interpreters, captioning, or other appropriate vehicles-of-access the Deaf or hard of hearing person requests when involved with any aspect of the employment process from job interviews to post-retirement meetings or discussions.

Interpreting and captioning fees are not as high as they could be considering the level of expertise it requires to be highly qualified. Like so many other professional services, it takes years of training, practice, and just plain hard work to be considered one of the best in your field. Yet, interpreters and captionists have not been able to obtain the high salaries other specialists may command. You can obtain a quote on this web page on the “Contact” page or simply call us at (513) 608-1695.

Interpreting, captioning, and other vehicles of access should be treated as a cost of doing business, such as hiring an attorney for legal services, paying an accountant to help with financial services, or even, providing a wheelchair ramp. How do you pay for your attorney, your accountant, the plumber who came to the office to fix that clogged toilet, or the copy machine repair person? Do you charge a ramp fee every time a person who uses a wheelchair uses the ramp? Of course not. These are all costs of doing business which you build into the fee you charge your customers. Access costs should be treated the same way. At least with access costs, you get a tax credit or business deduction.

Our thoughts often gravitate to race or gender when we think of the words, ‘discrimination’ or ‘prejudice.’ These words are discussed often or heard/seen in conversations, television or radio news, and in print. Most of the time, there is a minority group which is being or feels it is being oppressed or treated unfairly. We hear these words often because they are part of the larger culture of hearing people. However, Deaf and hard of hearing people experience being discriminated against or encounter prejudice by people who are referred to as ‘audists.’ Audism can be simply defined as discrimination or prejudice that is based on a person’s ability, or lack of ability, to hear.

In deaf culture, calling someone an audist would be the same as calling someone a racist.

Tom Humphries invented the term ‘audism’ in 1975 to describe an oppressive attitude that some people, agencies, businesses, or organizations have towards people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Humphries, while in a doctoral program at the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, used the word audism in his dissertation,  “Communicating Across Cultures Deaf-Hearing and Language Learning.” He defined it as “the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears.”

Audism can come in many forms:

  • not signing in the presence of Deaf individuals when you know how to sign;
  • negative expectations or views of those who cannot speak with their voices;
  •  ignoring or not providing reasonable accommodations for Deaf or hard of hearing people;
  • inappropriate, negative, or lower expectations of success held by some educators, administrators, audiologists or speech therapists, interpreters, corporate/business employees, or others in professional positions toward Deaf or hard of hearing people;
  •  viewing hearing people and hearing culture as superior to Deaf or hard of hearing people and Deaf culture;
  • not allowing Deaf people’s input or their rise to positions of authority;
  • parents of Deaf children who insist on forcing their child to conform only to the hearing culture at the expense of or instead of their unique sense of belonging to Deaf culture because the parent sees the child as limited by a non-verbal, non-hearing minority.

We do not hear the term audism often due to the fact that the term applies to a minority or subculture. Even some Deaf or hard of hearing people are not familiar with the term or their own behaviors of audism. Some Deaf or hard of hearing people may feel they or their views of language, ability to use speech to communicate, or their attitude toward Deaf culture makes them superior to others.

Deaf people have pride in and a sense of belonging to their culture. They may feel audists are attempting to destroy or oppress deaf culture. Some hearing people want Deaf people to be just like hearing people. These hearing people believe Deaf people must conform and adopt English, lip reading, speech, and other hearing ways of communication at the exclusion of embracing the natural language of the Deaf, American Sign Language. These people do not accept Deaf culture coupled with this language or ASL-based educational methodologies which have proven very successful over the years.

One final note:  You may be like millions of other people who have had limited or no contact with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. You cannot be expected to know all the appropriate do’s and don’t’s of interacting with someone who is Deaf of hard of hearing. Even after you become educated, you may still make an error in judgement or behavior. An audist is someone who has been around Deaf or hard of hearing people, been educated about appropriate expectations or perspectives, and knows the difference between discriminating or prejudice toward a Deaf or heard of hearing person, yet continues to act superior, belittles, looks down upon, makes negative comments about, or does not respect people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. You have the choice to discriminate or be prejudice toward any race or culture. We hope you will realize there is a whole other world out there with some interesting Deaf and hard of hearing people who can enrich your life’s adventure. Don’t go through life with a myopic view. Stretch yourself and discover all that life has to offer.

Civil rights legislation requires that the public or private agency, business, organization, or government entity must be accessible when providing services (or when in the role of employer, if they employ more than 15 employees). Therefore, the financial responsibility for access is borne by the public or private agency, business, organization, or government entity.

A court, business, agency, or other entity cannot pass the cost of access like an interpreter or captionist on to the Deaf person through court costs, fees, or other such avenues. When you installed a wheelchair ramp to allow people who use a wheelchair to access your services, there were costs involved. You are not allowed to charge a ramp fee each time someone uses the ramp. Therefore, you cannot charge the Deaf or hard of hearing person when they access your services with an interpreter or captionist.

Besides, it is the right thing to do.

Talk to your accountant to find out how you may take advantage of generous tax credits or business deductions which are afforded to those who provide access.

If the Deaf or hard of hearing person has an extremely good command of the English language, it could be effective if the situation is not lengthy or complex. If not, writing notes would have little benefit. It would be like writing English to a Spanish speaking person who knows very little or no English.

The Deaf or hard of hearing person may misunderstand the message you are conveying. They may understand most or all of the words, yet misinterpret the meaning of the full sentence. Many English words, ideas, or idiomatic phrases do not transfer well when written in notes. They may be reading/thinking in the word order of American Sign Language (ASL), not English. Hearing people often say, “They write in broken English.” This may be due to the Deaf or hard of hearing person writing English using the grammatical rules of ASL.

Writing back and forth can be harmful in the wrong situation. Liability issues can arise. Your best option to ensure an effective, accurate message is to use a professional interpreter.

One final note relates to your time. If you write back and forth, it takes much more of your valuable time. Using an interpreter is almost like speaking in real time. You will find that you save so much more time by using an interpreter.

When you schedule an interpreter/captionist, you are buying their time. The interpreter/captionist is committed to be at your assignment for the requested day and time. They cannot be scheduled for other assignments. If you cancel your appointment, they may not be able to replace their commitment to you with another. Therefore, there may be a charge depending on when you cancel.

Your agency is responsible for notifying Deaf Choice (DC) immediately if it becomes necessary to cancel the services you requested. If a service is not cancelled at least 24 (twenty-four) business hours in advance, your agency will be billed for 50% of the block of time or 2 (two-hour) minimum – whichever is greater. If the services are cancelled upon arrival, your agency will be billed for 100% of the block of time scheduled or the two (2) -hour minimum, whichever is greater. This includes if the client does not show up.

Call as soon as you find out you need an interpreter/captionist. If you know about a particular assignment 6 months in advance, call at that time. That way, you have your best chance of obtaining services as interpreters/captionists are a scarce resource. Interpreters/captionists come when you need them, so we may have to perform some magic by adjusting the schedules of others to make it work for you. If you have flexibility with your schedule, that makes things easier as an interpreter/captionist may be available a couple of hours before or after the time you originally requested.

Some consumers have been known to call us for interpreter/captionist availability before they set the day or time of their meeting, appointments, or training.

Deaf Choice Inc. strongly believes in Deaf consumer choice. If a Deaf person requests a particular interpreter/captionist, we will do our best to meet that request. If you are requesting a particular interpreter/captionist, it depends entirely on their schedule. Calling in advance usually increases the odds you can obtain the services of the interpreter/captionist that is preferred.

We may be able to provide services when you call us last minute, if another assignment cancelled or it is that infrequent day when the schedule is lighter and interpreters/captionists happen to be available.

You usually don’t unless you happen to be fluent in English and American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a nationally recognized, complete language which is very difficult to learn. The casual observer will not be able to effectively assess the accuracy of the communication. This is why consumers who are Deaf and hard of hearing may request their preferred interpreter depending on the situation.

When you request our services, we send Deaf Choice staff and contract interpreters/captionists who meet the licensure or certification requirements for Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana. Our interpreters been screened and assessed for ASL skills. Our captionists have undergone rigorous training by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Deaf Choice. In addition, our interpreters/captionists strictly adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and/or the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), as well as National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) for providing C-Print® speech-to-text captioning services. In addition, we know most of the members of the Deaf or hard of hearing communities. We may already know their needs and preferences.

Be cautious in who you call for an interpreter/captionist. Some agencies will send a “warm body,” unqualified interpreter who is not fluent in ASL. The agency – some of which specialize in foreign language (such as Spanish, French, or Russian) interpreters – wants to make money and cannot insist on quality because some of them do not even know sign language. Deaf Choice has an excellent reputation in the community for sending qualified interpreters who have been assessed and deemed appropriate for your situation. Deaf Choice specializes in providing quality services to the Deaf and hearing communities. Our priority is quality, not profit.

The process of providing interpreting/captioning can be demanding both physically and mentally. As for the mental aspect, research has shown that the interpreter/captionist’s ability to effectively facilitate the message begins to diminish after 20 minutes. The interpreter/captionist may not even be aware that this is occurring. Physically, interpreters/captionists use repetitive motions and may face a greater risk of such injuries plus it becomes tiring constantly moving your arms around or typing at a high rate of speed for 1-2 hours.

We will ask you questions about your assignment to determine if you need 1 or 2 interpreters/captionists. We have been doing this for many years and have become very adept at this determination. Generally speaking, you will need 2 interpreters/captionists if the assignment will last over 2 hours. However, there may be one-hour assignments where we determine that 2 interpreters/captionists will be necessary. Conversely, there may be 3-4 hour assignments where there is significant down time and only one interpreter/captionist is needed.

We reserve the right to make the final determination to ensure that the message remains accurate for the full length of your assignment and we protect our interpreter’s/captionist’s health.

There are many good reasons NOT to use a family member or friend to interpret.

  • Generally, family members are not qualified, objective, nor do they need to adhere to a code of ethics.
  • Most family members or friends do not have the sign language skills to provide effective communication in professional situations.
  • They are not objective in the situation therefore if they feel the Deaf or hard of hearing person would become upset or “couldn’t handle it”, they may not convey everything that was said.
  • They do not have to adhere to a code of professional conduct so they may not be confidential with the information that was conveyed.
  • It increases your risk of liability when you use someone who may misinterpret what is said during an assignment or openly discusses the situation with people outside of your place of work.

Professional interpreters/captionists are highly trained, skilled, experienced, and objective. Many interpreters have specialties in certain areas such as medical or legal. They comply with the Code of Professional Conduct strictly adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and/or the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), as well as National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) for providing C-Print® speech-to-text captioning services. They are required to maintain their certification with continuous training and mandatory CEU’s.

Interpreting is very different from having a casual conversation with someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing. Professional vocabulary and content use a different vocabulary from that used in casual conversation which is what most beginner signers know. American Sign Language (ASL) incorporates it’s own idiomatic phrases, non-manual communication, and idiosyncrasies. These dynamics are too advanced for someone who took a few classes. Learning another language is very difficult and requires advanced training and years of experience. How long would it take for you to be fluent in Russian, Arabic, Farsi, Wolof, or another language?

You would not want a person who took some basic medical classes to perform surgery on you. Professional interpreters have advanced training and education, as well as years of experience, which enables them to understand ASL, English, Deaf culture, hearing culture, and related terminology in areas such as medical, legal, mental health, job-related situations, technology, and many other arenas. A staff member who took a few ASL classes probably does not know the ASL signs for the English words everyone uses in the office.

In addition, Deaf or hard of hearing people may be signing using ASL, Pidgin Signed English (PSE), Signing Exact English (SEE), or Tactile Signing or some combination thereof. The interpreter must be ready to match the signing style or mode used by the person who is Deaf or hard of hearing in order for effective communication to occur. Professional interpreters are your best bet to ensure that the communication is facilitated effectively despite the mode of communication being used by the Deaf person(s).

Another reason not to use staff members is because they are not required to adhere to an interpreter code of ethics. This means they could leave the work environment and talk about what an interesting experience it was to work with so-and-so, the Deaf person that came into work that day. You expose yourself to liability and possible infractions of laws such as HIPPA. Protect yourself by using a professional.

Many hearing people wonder how to use the interpreter appropriately so as not to offend the Deaf person.

  • Talk directly to the  Deaf person as if they can hear. You may notice the Deaf person looking back and forth between you and the interpreter.This is a natural part of the process.
  • Do not tell the interpreter, “Don’t interpret this,” or “Don’t tell him/her,” because the interpreter is required to interpret everything that is said.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the Deaf or hard of hearing person, “How can I improve the communication process?”
  • Use models or pictures if they are available.
  • Be aware that even though they may not be highly fluent in their second language, English, it doesn’t mean the Deaf or hard of hearing person is intellectually inferior. They are highly fluent in their first language, ASL. Most hearing people are not fluent in ASL.
  • Use personal references such as “I” and “You” when communicating with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Avoid speaking of the Deaf individual in the third person; phrases such as “ask her” or “tell him” can be confusing because the interpreter will sign “ask her” or “tell him”. The Deaf person will be saying, “Tell who?”.
  • Speak at a reasonable pace.
  • Look at the Interpreter Professional Code of Conduct under “About Us” to learn more about the interpreter role.

Despite the fact that the ADA law uses the terminology “hearing impaired”, most deaf people would prefer to be described as “Deaf”. The term hearing impaired is actually offensive to many Deaf people because the word “impaired” implies that something is “broken” or wrong with them. Deaf people are not “broken” -they are Deaf-  and simply communicate a different way than many other people. Deaf people communicate using their hands and their eyes while many other people communcate using their ears and their mouths.

Generally, hard of hearing people describe themselves as hearing impaired because most of them do not want to be called “Deaf”. They do not fit in or identify with the Deaf Community.

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) web page ( www.rid.org) has an extensive listing of interpreter training programs (ITPs) in the United States and Canada. Scholarships for attending an ITP are not plentiful, however there are some possibilities to research such as the Elizabeth Benson Scholarship Award on the RID web page. Of course, all of the traditional college loans are available to potential students. Check with your college’s Financial Aid office to see what loans or scholarships might be available.

If you want to become a C-Print® captionist, contact Deaf Choice at (513)608-1695. Here is information from Maria Miller about the steps to become a CPrinter :

  •  I strongly advise you to make sure you are typing at least 65wpm or above before you begin training. Everyone who works on my team is a minimum of 65; most are high 80’s and 90’s.
  • You need to complete a test from NTID ( NTID or I can provide this to you) and submit this to Anne Alepoudakis, apanod@ntid.rit.edu and phone 585-475-7557 if you have questions. It’s very helpful to copy me on emails to Anne in the preliminary stages in case she has questions that I need to answer; she will also copy me when she replies to you so everyone is on the same page on the status of your testing.
  • Once you have passed the test (grammar, English, phonetics, and typing) you will be ready to submit payment to NTID to begin online training (pay with a check). At that point I will help you out (they will need proof of c-print software loaded for training so you can take the course and I will supply the serial # and help get software loaded). NTID will allow you to use my software for training purposes only, after which the software must be removed.  
  • After training, I will do a 2-day in-service with you followed by you beginning mentoring with my team until your confidence, skill, and endurance are developed (it’s a lot like going through a practicum in a safe environment).
  • I suggest you maintain training about 2 hours every day until it is completed (It’s a “use it or lose it” system where every segment builds on the previous one. If you don’t keep up/stay on top of it,  you forget the abbreviations you previously learned and you are back to square one doing review).
  • If you are in the skills modules and you happen to fail a quiz it’s not a big deal; you just go back, review, and try again.  The training is all online these days and they will give you an authorization # to begin.
  • Once you are finished training and mentoring you will need to purchase the software from NTID, a pair of laptops, and other equipment to provide captioning services. This is explained in depth during the in-service. This is getting way ahead of the game but the point is you will have some expenses down the road. Because of IRS mandates and a 20-point ruling system to determine if someone is an independent contractor, I am not allowed to provide you with this equipment because you would then fall into the category of an “employee” instead of a contracted, independent captionist.
  • I advise you to seek professional assistance to establish yourself as a business.
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