Retaking RID: A Story of Deaf Empowerment

Haverhill, MA
New England Deaf Studies Conference


The following timeline is an outsider’s view over twenty years of involvement with the American Deaf Community. It was presented as one of four keynote presentations at the New England Deaf Studies Conference on Saturday, 3 April, 2010 at Northern Essex Community College. Please comment with additions and corrections!


  • Workshop at Ball State University, Muncie IN, involving Deaf, CODAs, and non-Deaf family-friends leads to establishment of RID.


  • Al Pimental (Deaf) named first CEO of RID


  • RID incorporated as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization
  • “Reverse Skills Certificate” established


  • RID has become an organization run by non-Deaf people for the perceived professional needs of non-Deaf people.


  • MJ Bienvenu proposes that RID recognize ASL as an official language of the organization. Denied.


  • Deaf request for “Voice off!” at the RID Region 1 conference (Nancy Becker?) (Mary Gorman?) interrupt a Phil Donahue-type entertainment event to ask interpreters to sign for themselves, instead of relying on English interpreted by their colleagues into ASL
  • Joan Wattman, 8 or 9 years into her career, discusses this with Linda Carroll, and experiences a paradigm shift in thinking about fluency & flows of interaction


  • NAD Certification – first created at the California School for the Deaf (?)
  • then bought by NAD and the State of New Hampshire


  • MJ Bienvenu: “Stop the Music” RID Region 1 conference
  • [also: “Deaf President Now” Movement at Gallaudet University]
  • [and: Bilingual-Bicultural Education Movement at residential schools for the Deaf]


  • Ben Soukop, President of NAD, and Janet Bailey (RID) attend joint MA-RID and MA-NAD state conference in Massachusetts meeting, facilitated by BJ Wood. “The handshake” between Janet Bailey and Ben Soukup begins the process of integrating NAD’s standards with RID’s. The handshake is re-enacted at the next RID national convention.


  • “Allies” track at the RID Region 1 Conference (Valley Forge, PA)
  • National RID Conference, Evansville IN


  • NAD-RID Task Force on Interpreting formed


  • “Allies” Conferences replace Region 1 Conferences (1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 (Nashua NH)


  • NAD-RID TF becomes the National Council on Interpreting (NAD-RID NCI)


  • CDI replaces RSC


  • NAD-RID NCI develops and implements a state cooperation plan designed to encourage NAD and RID state/affiliate chapters to work collaboratively
  • Last “Allies” Conferences in Region 1: New Haven, CT and near New York City.


  • NAD-certified interpreters accepted as RID certification


  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Deaf members added to some RID committees


  • NIC certification replaces separate NAD and RID certifications


  • Jointly-developed NAD-RID Code of Conduct replaces RID-only Code of Ethics


  • Deaf Advisory Council Established
  • First-Ever Deaf Member at Large Sworn in

My involvement as a hearing person in this story is limited; the exposure I have is only what I have witnessed or learned about because of my initial rich education by members of the Bilingual-Bicultural Committee at the Indiana School for the Deaf (circa 1990-1993) and on-going professional training as a certified ASL/English interpreter.


Affiliate Chapter Relations Committee. (2003, 2004, 2006). “RID History: The Bridge to the Future” in the Affiliate Chapter Handbook, 3rd Edition. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf: Alexandria, VA. Retrieved online April 2, 2010.

Bienvenu, MJ. “The Heart of RID.” Presentation at RID’s Biennial Conference, Philadelphia, August 2009.

Fant, Lou. (1990). Silver Threads, as performed in “RID – The Musical” by Maria Ruiz-Williams and Amie Seiberlich at RID’s Biennial Conference, Philadelphia, 2009.

Kent, Stephanie Jo. (2007). “’Why bother?’ Institutionalization, interpreter decisions, and power relations” in Wadensjo, C., Dimitrova, B.E., and Nilsson, A.L., The Critical Link 4: Professionalisation of interpreting in the community. John Benjamins: Amsterdam.

National Association of the Deaf. History.” Retrieved April 11, 2010.

RID’s “Prints on the Past: A Decade in Review.” (2010). In Views, Winter edition, pp. 36-37. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf: Alexandria, VA.

Wattman, Joan. (April 1, 2010). Oral history, audiorecorded at a Western Massachusetts RID meeting. Esselon Café, Amherst MA.

a bit more background:

See also, previous links in Reflexivity about the IMG_04362009 RID Biennial Convention in Philadelphia, including a post specific to MJ’s presentation and the performance of highlights from Lou Fant’s book on the history of RID’s first 25 years:

Embrace Change, Honor Tradition

and a proposal for the 2011 Biennial RID Convention in Atlanta, GA.

3 thoughts on “Retaking RID: A Story of Deaf Empowerment”

  1. FYI:

    I found the motion (2000.10) requesting that the NAD & RID Boards approve the name change from the NAD-RID Taskforce to the National Council on Interpreting. That was passed April 14-15, 2000 at our meeting here at CSUN.

    Hope this helps

  2. What a wonderful blog!

    Do you have any more information on MJ Bienvenu’s presentation, “Stop the Music?” I am doing a presentation for a class on Deaf music, and would be interested to include any articles detailing her views.

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