I wanted to write this blog as a way to say thank you for posting the recent letter to the editor titled, “Signing Specialists are a Distraction”. Not only was your post from Mr. Muccolini a real “discussion starter” about the role of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, but also generated thoughts about all the rights we have as Americans.
You see by posting Mr. Muccolini’s rant, albeit in my opinion narrow minded and a few other choice adjectives, it demonstrated that we have an amazing right in the United States for freedom of speech. This right has been one of the backbones of our country and often valued above others. Blood has been shed to uphold this freedom and I for one am thankful for the right to speak my mind.
I also thank you for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on another set of rights known as the American Disabilities Act aka ADA. (Please go here to fully see them outlined) Ahhhh…. this is where I get to be an educator and discuss how important these rights are for ALL. It seems perfectly logical that the right to information meant for the general public is one equally valued and needed by both hearing and deaf. So, I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around anyone who suggests that the right to a sign language interpreter, used to ensure equal access of pertinent safety information, is a “distraction”.
In fact, I challenge any hearing person who doubts the value of the ADA laws to walk around with noise cancellation ear muffs and see how much of what is being said can be understood. Accept my challenge for an hour, a day, or a week. Were you feeling “left out”, “ignored”, “uninformed”, etc? Perhaps after this exercise it will seem as clear as crystal why the Deaf may need to have access to interpreters. And, do note that not all people with hearing challenges require the same accommodations. Just as those with visual acuity problems don’t require the same extent of corrective lenses, etc.
Next I offer to people who think that “sign specialists” are nothing more than a nuisance another challenge to learn about the hard work it takes to become a certified interpreter. In fact, it requires just as much college experience to be a certified ASL interpreter as it does to become a chemical engineer. A four year degree and several exams later this “sign specialist” is allowed to “leave the box” and be a conduit of information for those who need this assistance. (Learn more about sign language interpreters here at RID – the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
And, I challenge those who doubt the effectiveness and need for ASL interpreters to chat with those who needed them when their lives were disrupted by disasters. These victims of disasters are in towns all around America. In Joplin, Missouri, throughout Oklahoma, Northern California, and even near Burlington. Remember Superstorm Sandy? It is because of ADA laws that interpreters can be readily available to any of our community members who need their service. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that some people who are hearing, but have some communication challenges, may also require the assistance of an interpreter to facilitate communication.
You see, this is my field of expertise – helping build communication bridges between community members, including emergency responders, and those who use sign language as their primary language. I have seen the faces of those who are thankful for interpreters who have helped in the aftermath of a disaster. These interpreters often leave their own families to help others. They should be applauded for their dedication and commitment.
Why as a hearing woman do I write this note to you? First understand that I proudly sit on several committees that help with disaster preparedness and response for those with access and functional needs. It is my passion to do so. I welcome an opportunity to share educational resources with those who are in need of some enlightenment about the reasons why ASL interpreters are essential to our communities. After all, ASL is in the top five of the most used languages in the United States.
Thank you for reminding us that our rights as Americans are to be treasured and that we still have so much to learn as a country about equality.
Lastly, thank you for allowing me to exercise my right to freedom of speech.
Louise Masin Sattler, Nationally Certified School Psychologist