Chapter 7 Whose Professional Reputation is at Stake? Tara Holcomb & Aracelia Aguilar


Hi. I’m Tara Holcomb, and I co-authored this chapter with Aracelia Aguilar. We both work as empowerment directors at DeafHope, a nonprofit in Oakland, California. That organization focuses on ceasing violence including domestic violence, and sexual violence in the Deaf community. Our chapter is entitled, “Whose Professional Reputation Is at Stake?” The purpose of this chapter is one where we share our experiences, thoughts, and analyses from participation in a large, nationwide training with several organizations from all over the country. Since the conference site was not local, we had to fly to the conference site. The training was broken down into several different sessions requiring three trips. For the first session, the host organization hired interpreters through a local agency. For the subsequent trainings, we decided to bring our own interpreters. Our experiences were vastly different between the first training and the last two sessions. In the first training, we had a lot of conflicts and struggles with the local interpreting agency in what was considered appropriate and professional behavior, and whether we could contribute to decision making process related to interpreting. For the latter trainings, we brought our own interpreters, which resulted in much more harmonious and interactive experiences for us with everyone at the training sessions. What were the contributing factors that led to the differences between these two situations? The story we are sharing in this chapter includes three key points. First, it is impossible to take the “one-size-fits-all” approach to provide access. Each deaf person is different, each profession is different, and each situation is different. The interpreting profession has its ideas of what constitutes best practices. While it makes sense that guidelines can be valuable but that does not mean we should rely on these practices and guidelines down to the very last letter. But if the end result is harmful for the deaf person, then it shouldn’t have happened. After all, what do “professional standards” really mean? Who benefits from those standards? If interpreters are the only one benefitting, leaving the deaf person to suffer, is that really professional? The second key point is the question of who works for whom? Does the interpreter work for the deaf person? Or does the interpreter work for whoever pays for the job? Or for the agency owners? If the interpreter is employed by the hiring agency, does that mean they have the ultimate decision on all the terms such as where to stand, when to interpret, and exactly how to perform the job? Do deaf people have the right to dictate the ideal interpreting situation for themselves? For example, in order to improve access for themselves, can deaf people request adjustments in the division of duties If the interpreter look at it differently, this then causes conflicts along the way, and creates chaos. whether it be representing their companies or organizations paid their way or representing themselves as capable professionals. This challenge has to be discussed openly between Deaf professionals and the interpreting community. Last, but not least, we realized through this experience that it is crucial to value the relationship between Deaf people and interpreters as allies. This kind of relationship allows both parties to have a dialogue and work closely together and understand the needs of each party. With clear explanations, both deaf people and interpreters can best modify situations to meet the Deaf person’s needs while also respecting the work of the interpreters. Every situation might seem different, but it is entirely possible to create positive outcomes that are mutually beneficial for deaf people and interpreters. In summary, we need to encourage ongoing dialogue between both groups to share any differing perspectives on what “professional” really mean and who should make decisions in creating optimal access for Deaf people. In the end, the question of whose reputation is at stake becomes paramount when there is a conflict between the Deaf professional and the working interpreter.

Zane Wilson

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