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Colorado Rural Interpreting Service Project: Certification Readiness Training

by Barbara Garrett, Lauri Krouse, Susan Brown, & Pauline Ballentine


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Working and residing in rural communities involves challenging obstacles for all working professionals. For ASL-English Interpreters working with Deaf, hard of hearing, and Deafblind adults in rural communities these challenges go beyond the challenges of interpreters working in urban communities. Interpreters working in rural communities are often not in compliance with state interpreter licensing laws (e.g., RID certification) nor are they monitored or offered mentoring opportunities. As well, many of these rural practitioners have not completed an interpreter training program, which compromises both the quality of services and the uniqueness of ethical practices within small communities. Additionally, these practitioners work in isolation, have limited to no professional networking opportunities or access to substantial professional development. The impact on the rural Deaf community equates to a lack of appropriate access and results in unequal access to vital community-based programs and services.

In 2018, the Colorado General Assembly appropriated funding to the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind (CCDHHDB) to address shortages in the availability of qualified American Sign Language interpreters in rural areas of the state. CCDHHDB has since implemented Colorado’s Rural Interpreting Services Project (RISP). One of the objectives of the funding was to prepare non-certified interpreters working in rural areas of the state for entry-level competencies in ASL-English interpreting and professional certification in Colorado. To meet this goal, CCDHHDB partnered with the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), Department of ASL & Interpreting Studies (ASLIS) to develop and implement a ten-month, six course, online Certification Readiness Training (CRT).

Over the past year, UNC, in collaboration with CCDHHDB, has undertaken the execution of the CRT pilot, the development of six online courses, recruitment and acceptance of participating candidates, and the implementation of online coursework. Currently, there are eighteen CRT participants ranging in age, ethnicity, experience, and academic background. Participants in this pilot current live in rural areas of Colorado or are interested in traveling to rural areas to provide interpreting services. The training will conclude in June 2020. A pre- diagnostic assessment was conducted prior to participants entering into the first CRT course and a post-diagnostic assessment is scheduled for May of 2020. In addition, this pilot program is working to develop resources, mentoring, and networking opportunities for rural interpreters by training certified interpreters and deaf mentors from around the state. Acknowledging the need for online professional development for rural interpreters, UNC is also working to offer this training to a select group of states during 2020-2021.

The objective of the presentation will be to share the background, need, development, and outcomes of the 2019-2020 pilot Colorado RISP Certification Readiness Training. It will bring to light the critical need to provide non-certified interpreters working in rural communities the requisite professional development needed to provide quality interpreting services to rural communities around the state and to prepare them for national certification.

Participants will be able to:

  • outline factors related to the need for professional development for interpreters working in rural
  • analyze and assess the effectiveness of the development and implementation of the RISP Certification
    Readiness Training pilot pilot program.
  • analyze and assess the value and contribution of the RISP Certification Readiness Training pilot to the
    interpreting field.

A white woman with short brown hair with glasses smiles at cameraBarbara D. Garrett, PhD, CI & CT, is the Director of the Department of ASL & Interpreting Studies at the University of Northern Colorado that offers an ASL Minor, BA degrees in ASL-English Interpretation and an MA in Teaching ASL and manages state and national grant-funded projects. She has been educating interpreters while leading academic departments for 20+ years. She has been certified by the RID since 1994 and has served on numerous committees and boards at the local, state and national level. She is the recipient of the 2017 Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Lifetime Achievement Award: Passionate Educator.

A white woman with curly white shoulder-length hair wearing a black shirt smiles at camera in front of a blue backdropLauri Krouse, M.Ed., CI, CT, works as a private practice interpreter in Minneapolis, MN. She works in medical, behavioral health, legislative, governmental, vocational rehabilitation, educational, corporate, and performing arts settings. Additionally, Lauri is adjunct faculty at St Catherine University in St Paul and University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She has a Masters in Interpreting Pedagogy from Northeastern University in Boston. Lauri is one of the authors of the MRID Educational Interpreter Modules and continues to teach workshops and facilitate modules through Teaching Interpreters in Public Schools (TIPS).

Susan Brown is the Project Director for the Colorado Rural Interpreter Service Project (RISP): Certification Readiness Training (CRT).  In this position, Susan has collaborated with the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Department of ASL and Interpreting Studies (ASLIS, the Colorado Department of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind, and interpreter curriculum experts to develop and implement the CRT pilot online training.  She has been part of the UNC, ASL- ASLIS team since 2007, working as an administrative coordinator and adjunct faculty.  Over the past 25 years, Susan has been engaged in the field as a researcher, curriculum developer, author, and state/national presenter.  Susan holds a Master’s in Education from Regis University, served as the President of the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE) from 2016-2019 and is a co-author of Complexities in Educational Interpreting: An Investigation into Patterns of Practice (2019).

Headshot of white woman with red wavy hair down below her shoulders wearing glasses and a rust-colored cardiganPauline Ballentine is an ASL Coordinator and Senior Lecturer of ASL & Interpreting Studies Department at the University of Northern Colorado and is currently part-time freelancing in Colorado. Pauline holds a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Regent University; she is also a certified Deaf Interpreter. Pauline developed a few curricula for interpreting and actively give assessments for the interpreters. Pauline is active with committees and organizations at local and regional levels and presented workshops to Interpreters, K-12 teachers and parents of Deaf children on various topics related to language,