RID Denies Members Opportunity to Vote on Motion

If you have an immediate negative reaction to the idea of unionizing sign language interpreters, then I would like to ask you—politely, please—to pause for a moment and recognize bias.

Most of us have no idea what it could mean to become a Union. In fact, I am still learning. I’m eager to find up to a dozen other sign language interpreters, Deaf and Hearing, who are willing to investigate this notion.

Most importantly, interpreters in general have no idea how much unionizing could help the aims and goals of the American Deaf Community. Instead, the notion is shot down by assumptions and stereotypes before we get a chance to engage in a thoughtful way.

The reality is that there are many questions to answer before we can have a clear vision about whether unionizing is an act of deep structural change that will promote Deaf people’s freedom to participate in social life, or just another way to protect the privileges of hearing interpreters. Anyone who wants to respond seriously to calls for social justice ought to be open to learning if unionizing has real potential to make differences that all of our other efforts have so far failed to produce.

The RID Bylaws Committee found a legal reason not to bring the Motion to the 2019 Business Meeting.

A Motion for RID to set up a Task Force to study the question of unionizing was rejected by RID’s lawyers on the basis of anti-trust law. Interpreters can talk about it, but not within the auspices of RID.  This means we have to establish ourselves on the outside, as a small self-selected study group, technically called an organizing committee.

The members of this group would invest time exploring the questions of what and how unionizing could be the best, right, next thing for sign language interpreting in the United States. Please sign up to volunteer or to receive information on developments.

Find more information at this webpage: Organizing Interpreters.


June 9 – 13, 2010

2010 Summer Doctoral Seminar at Wayne State University


Disaster is non-discriminatory; it does not care whether the people affected speak the same language or not. Recruiting and retaining qualified language interpreters and learning to utilize rudimentary machine translation are first steps in a comprehensive systemic solution, involving training of all members of rescue and support teams, their supervisors, funders, policy-makers, the media and the public to understand how to cooperate in highly-charged intercultural communication requiring simultaneous interpretation.

The desire for instantaneous and unproblematic use of language is culturally conditioned. Most people’s experience of social interaction occurs in a language that is mutually understood. The desire for fast and fluid communication in a shared language is a common human experience. In the rapid flow of responding to an emergency, who will pause to focus on the skills of patience and attention needed to navigate non-shared meaning structures? Not knowing another’s language stymies the onward rush of establishing security and problematizes efficiency, upending reasonable assumptions of easy understandings.

A certain level of skill and commitment is required to investigate the orientations of culture and language-based meaning systems in order to gauge whether words and concepts describe the same referent or different realities. For instance the work of the United Nations Security Needs Assessment Protocol (SNAP) demonstrated conclusively that what the UN means by “security” and what villagers in affected areas in different countries mean by “security” are entirely different. The practice of ethnographers and interpreters tests and validates the limits of theory. This seminar will allow me to explore the relevance of interpreting theory to practices of thinking clearly in dangerous situations.

Rapid response is a necessary characteristic of dealing with emergency situations. Well-trained teams can both integrate interpreted interaction seamlessly into their operations and participate in generating a new kind of cultural bond. Interpreters are certified, as it were, not only to transmit information, but also to build relationships. The intercultural experience of being in each other’s presence without knowing what is going on is a natural setting for the facilitation of the exact skills of tolerating difference that are required in situations of crisis.

My dissertation research, which was funded by a Fulbright Grant in 2008-2009, explored the bases of shared identity among Members of the European Parliament, who routinely use interpreters among 23 different languages. That “total institution” (in the sociological sense) is contrasted with my professional experience as an American Sign Language interpreter for the Deaf community in the US. What is common to each setting is the need to learn how to orient differently to time in order to co-create an effective process of intercultural communication. The necessary adaptation suggests that learning how to use an interpreter well is a single skill with profound implications for conflict resolution, disaster management, peacekeeping, and any other situation in which safety is under threat.

a chance for change


23:30 pm, November 4: My colleagues (ahem) made up in a single evening, all the time that I’ve been late to events so far this year. It was nice that most of them eventually did arrive! 😉 Volunteering at the American Club‘s election eve event was the way to go; at least we were guaranteed entrance! In 2004, somewhere between 900-1200 people attended. This year, more than 2000 tickets were sold before the doors were essentially closed – well before polling ended on the East Coast and prior to a single projection! I enjoyed selling tickets at the main entrance, but checking those precious wristbands at the side door was not as much fun. One drunk guy didn’t miss a moment all night to glare at me for turning away friends he tried to usher in without having paid.

After a month and a half in Belgium, attending a half-dozen more-or-less official events, the expat crowd begins to seem familiar. Faces seem recognizable, even if the names blur. I keep seeing look-alikes of several friends who I know are State-side; biology turns up similarities even across oceans! At this moment, the roar in the ballroom is near deafening. Some blokes on stage are shouting in debate at each other, critiquing the truthfulness factor in claims made by candidate’s advertising. CNN is on projection screens stationed at intervals throughout the first floor of the Renaissance Hotel, without audio so far. A rock band, The Wanderers, has been playing covers at intervals throughout the evening. 93% of the people who have so far filled out the lottery form have selected Barack Obama as the deliverer of this quote:

“The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone.
We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies.”

Only seven percent imagined that John McCain could have said this, including me and Alyssa. (We were correct.)
01:30 am, November 5: The women’s bathroom is extremely entertaining. Earlier, there was a woman on her cell phone frantically scheming to get a friend without a ticket inside. Just now, an international trio including “a Swedish girl and a Canadian girl” (so they self-identified, if I recall accurately) were discussing whether a guy who looks pretty must be bi. “He has a pretty nose!” I really could not weigh in, although I did venture that “gay” is a cultural construction that may not apply uniformly in all parts of the world. This shifted us to a discussion of learning English via Michael Jackson and Madonna in Bulgaria.
In general, the crowd has thinned to half or even a third. A noticeable reduction occurred as soon as the band stopped. The buzz, however, is still achingly loud. It is hard to know if we’re getting down to only the diehards. Cheers go up each time numbers are posted showing an Obama lead (even if its only on 1% of polls reporting). The Republican table was unstaffed, although a few staunch supporters were undeniably present.
Republican Table.JPG.jpg

02:40 am: CNN just called Pennsylvania for Obama. The crowd here burst into its loudest and most sustained applause yet. (I confess; I teared up.) Alyssa and I are hanging out at our back corner table with its questionable views – she’s studying Flemish in-between updates and I’ve been reading The Bulletin. Folks keep dropping by to buy food tickets and ask questions, but we only look official (we know nothing!) Chris, however, scored a set of campaign set buttons, and proceeded to explain a project, “mindset” and its “zero interest group” platform.
chris and McCain.JPG.jpg

03:27 am: I finished reading the current edition of Flanders Today. The chatter is still loud. People have taken to the floors, sitting in small groups, although most of the remaining crowd (several hundred) remains standing. Wolf Blitzer just teased us with “a big projection coming up.”
03:35 am: Ohio! An eruption of cheers, upraised arms, flying objects, hoots and hollers. “No Republican has won the Presidency without Ohio.
03:50 am: New Mexico! Way to go, mom! 🙂
Dead heat in the popular vote at the moment; would like to see a wider margin. Meanwhile, they dimmed the lights here at the Renaissance Hotel in Brussels a few minutes after the projection of Ohio. They don’t expect us to leave, do they?!
lights out.JPG.jpg

04:43 am: Folks have been slowly drifting out; the crowd is noticeable thinner as the night turns toward morning. There’s still over 200 people hanging in, waiting for the speeches. Did I mention popping out my contact lens in favor of old-fashioned spectacles?
05:06 am: They did kick us out of the main ballroom; fortunately we were all re-situated in the lobby when CNN announced

The din echoed off the ceiling for no short time; some groups further back in the hotel bar carried on for several minutes in hearty rendition of an Oktoberfest tune. Now, again, the constant chatter continues, and we wait . . .
05:29 am: McCain did alright with his concession speech. Three quarters of the stalwarts listened . . .

. . . and continued to listen carefully, while a handful kept trying to shush persistent chatterers in the background.
Finally – Obama’s turn.
thank you.jpg

09:00 am: I am a wee bit tired. 🙂 We lingered for some time after President-Elect Obama’s acceptance speech, basking in the relative quiet (finally! after the noise of the night and the entire election). Then, Alyssa and I walked in the pre-dawn mist toward the U.S. Embassy’s breakfast affair. At one point, ducking into a virtually empty metro station to confirm our destination and relative whereabouts, we were embraced by Queen. As we walked the quietly-stirring city streets, office lights glowing as if suspended in the ether without structures, the topic of fear arose. Michelle Obama explained some time ago the role of fear in the family decision that Barack would run for President. I agree with her wholeheartedly.
I should have snapped a photo of the BMW showroom gleaming brightly with red and white balloons before we entered; the cops wouldn’t let me later! (I thought he was pulling my leg, he was so friendly about it. “You’re kidding?” I exclaimed. “Please comprehend,” he asked. Sigh.)
Fox and media.JPG.jpg

U.S. Ambassador Sam Fox (to Belgium), U.S. Ambassador Kristen Silverberg (to the EU), and Rep. Kurt Volker (NATO) gave upbeat speeches.

“As an American, I have never been so proud of my country.”

Ambassador Fox extolled the election of Barack Obama, emphasizing the “peaceful transition of power,” and guaranteeing the continuation of strong trading relations. (BMW, Ambassador Fox informed us, manufactures cars in Alabama.) These themes were echoed by Ambassador Silverberg and Rep. Volker.

Prior to the three speeches, I was interviewed.


Who knows what fool I made of me!

13:59 pm: On three hours sleep (!), I recall the loudest cheer during President-Elect Obama’s acceptance speech. He said,

“…the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals…”

and the people roared. At least half a dozen times our soon-to-be forty-fourth President of the United States of America was drowned out by spontaneous cheers in the cozy hotel lobby. It wasn’t until a second listen at the US Embassy reception that I heard the list of ideals:

and unyielding hope.”

DEBATING CORPORATE EVIL (a problematic moment)

Quoting from a Reuters article by Eric Auchard about Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, on “good, evil and monopoly fears“:

When he first joined Google as CEO seven years ago, Schmidt acknowledged thinking the “Don’t be evil” phrase was a “joke” being played on him by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Schmidt recalled sitting in Google’s offices later in 2001 when an engineer interrupted a strategy discussion over a planned advertising product by saying, “That is evil.”
“It is like a bomb goes off in the room. Everything stopped. Everyone had a moral and ethical conversation, which by the way, stopped the product,” Schmidt said.
“So it is a cultural rule, a way of forcing a conversation, especially in areas which are ambiguous,” he said of how the mission statement works in practice at Google.

The desire to ritualize such a practice of communication illustrates the ethic of “start[ing] from the perspective of what [big, world-class] problems do we have”? This is an example of the political divide characterized by David Brooks a few days ago as “a little culture war” between “”the highly educated coastal rich …. [and] … the inland corporate rich.” It would be nice, somehow, to get away from a blanket condemnation of whomever can be construed as part of the latter group (Brooks doesn’t do such a bad job of representing them – even if he does deploy inflammatory rhetoric at times), because we need them, too, to be part of the solutions we quite urgently need to be putting into place and action.

Freedom from Fear Day

“…who demonstrates patriotism today&emdash;the critics who stand fast by our foundational values? Or those who would ignore our traditions by reaching quickly for the base and the brutal? No real patriot today, no citizen who is concerned about the fate of our fellow citizens in uniform, can be silent on this issue.”

Remembering December 7
Scott Horton

Comm-Grad Legacy

You may or may not be aware that Comm-Grads have an established reputation (Nov 14, 2005 Rally for our Pay!) for activism (April 22, 2005 A21 Walkout and Boycott) concerning campus labor issues.
One of our very own is President of GEO this year, Srinivas Lankala.
Many of us attended a bargaining session on March 13, 2005 that was downright rude. This is where we’re headed again if we delay our show of strength.
Perry Irwin (our lighthearted GEO steward) and I are organizing two sign-making parties for one hour each on Wednesday morning (that’s tomorrow) from 11:10-12:10 in the Graduate Lounge and again Thursday morning just prior to the rally (check with Perry for details on that one).
suggestions to date:

Hey, maybe the COPS can teach!
Aww, that’s OK; I LIKE waiting for raises.
My debt’s bigger than your debt, UMass!
I’ll give you five bricks for that TA!

SUPPLIES: We need posterboard, cardboard, etc to write on (bring markers too if you have favorites but we have a bunch).
SCOPE: If we make good/sturdy signs now, we can post them in the halls of Machmer and re-use as necessary.

Through Deaf Eyes

Coming in March to a PBS station near you:
Quoted in full from an email by the Justice for All moderator and passed along…thanks!
PBS Documentary Explores 200 Years of Deaf Life in America
“Through Deaf Eyes,” a two-hour PBS documentary exploring nearly
200 years of Deaf life in America, will air early next year. The
film was inspired by the exhibition, “History Through Deaf Eyes,”
curated by Jack R. Gannon of Gallaudet University.
The documentary will air nationally on PBS on Wednesday, March 21
at 9 p.m. ET
(check local listings).
The film presents the shared experiences of American history
family life, education, work, and community connections – from the
perspective of deaf citizens. Interviews include community
leaders, historians, and deaf Americans with diverse views on
language use, technology and identity.
Bringing a Deaf cinematic lens to the film are six artistic works
by Deaf media artists and filmmakers: Wayne Betts, Renee Visco,
Tracey Salaway, Kimby Caplan, Arthur Luhn, and Adrean Mangiardi.
Poignant, sometimes humorous, these films draw on the media
artists’ own lives and are woven throughout the documentary. But
the core of the film remains the larger story of Deaf life in
America — a story of conflicts, prejudice and affirmation that
reaches the heart of what it means to be human.
Major funding for “Through Deaf Eyes” is provided by the National
Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting,
PBS, The Annenberg Foundation and the National Endowment for the
Arts. Private individuals have also contributed to the funding of
this project. The extensive outreach campaign is funded in part
by Sign Language Associates. Outreach partners are the National
Association for the Deaf, Gallaudet University, the National
Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of
Technology, and California State University-Northridge. As part
of the outreach campaign, numerous local organizations, some in
association with their public television stations, will mount
events and discussions exploring the issues raised in the film.
A comprehensive Web site, found at http://www.pbs.org,
accompanies the film. The site includes interviews with the deaf
filmmakers whose work is featured in the documentary, while also
inviting viewers to submit their own stories, photographs, and
films. These will become part of the archival collection of
Gallaudet University. A companion book is being published by
Gallaudet University Press.
Source: PBS

“How much time do we have?”

This sentiment haunts The Jacket, a film about consciousness. Although no plausible physical mechanism is provided for time travel, we witness the lead character adapt proactively to the most improbable scenario: discovering himself in a future timespace in which he has already died. Instead of engaging a futile struggle to avoid what has been foreordained, Jack uses the forays into the future to identify, strategize, and act to change elements in his present that influence the unfolding of time for others. The physical fact of his own death cannot be undetermined, but the trajectories of others’ lives might be shifted just enough to lead to (at least potentially) more satisfactory, less painful unfoldings.
“I know the difference between reality and delusion,” Jack asserts. “I’m not delusional, the real events that have happened to me are crazy.” (“Quote” based on memory.)
The craziness of real events is a theme in the other film I saw last week, Children of Men. Although it seems too far-fetched to be believed that all women might become infertile more-or-less simultaneously, that “reality” serves as the backdrop for the dissolution of society in the face of events too dramatic (apparently) to be managed on the human scale. While viewing the movie, which depicts an escalation of immigrant-baiting and an intensifying police state in England, I kept thinking about institutional and interactional fallout from global warming. Given the existing gaps among socioeconomic classes &emdash; globally (between countries and regions) as well as internal to national populations &emdash; the spread of anomie seems quite likely. Such chaos can conceivably be countered by cumulative acts of individual and collective consciousness such as that demonstrated by Jack as he moves between wearing and not wearing the jacket, back-and-forth in timespace, discovering a way to maintain the continuity of his be-ing.
The combined image of possibility presented by juxtaposing the two movies reminds me of Shemaya, who recently gave me her take on global warming. “It’s dramatic change,” she said, “just like disability. You’re going along, having your life, and suddenly things change drastically.” Dramatic change requires adaptation and issues of survival. I agree with the parallel of the microsocial experience of disability with the macrosocial event of weather-disrupted institutional systems; the distinction of scale seems relevant. The challenges that confront the newly disabled to retain, maintain, and reconstruct a social world fit to live in are magnified by the scale of cooperation required to shift major global societal flows.

“It’s not happening here…”

…but it is happening somewhere. Look carefully at the poster.
What is “it“?
To see more images, go to http://www.walker.ag, pick your language, then “work”, then Amnesty International. There are posters in China, Iraq, Liberia, Myanmar, and Sudan.
Shared via email from David, thanks.