Logo for CIT 2020 Conference - Transforming Interpreter Education

Deaf, Diverse, and Intersectional: How is Interpreter Education Keeping Up?

by Su Kyong Isakson & Joseph Hill

Interactive Workshop

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This interactive workshop invites interpreter educators and administrators to conduct a guided curriculum evaluation designed by the presenters to self-assess for social justice fitness and develop a 5 year plan for curriculum improvement. Participants will leave with a better interpretation of Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education Standard 6.3 and an implementation plan for curricular changes to align with the standard.

Deaf communities in North America have always been diverse in terms of race, gender, disability, sexuality, and language among others. By contrast the interpreting field is predominantly cis-gendered able-bodied white women. With 2- and 4-year interpreter training programs producing a reliable pipeline of entry-level interpreters, educational institutions continue to play a large role in diversifying the interpreting field. At present, training programs are continuing to cater to and graduating more cis-gendered able-bodied white female interpreters. It is known that higher education presents institutional, social, and financial barriers for students of certain backgrounds. Even after graduation these students face barriers which make it difficult for them to remain in the interpreting field, resulting in a lack of diversity and representation among interpreter practitioners, as well as educators, researchers, mentors and agency owners. This calls for an evaluation of social justice fitness of interpreting training curricula to identify how educational institutions may mitigate the barriers to entry into the interpreting field for students of diverse backgrounds.

There have been several iterations of social justice-based interpreting education curriculum to meet the demands of training a culturally competent interpreter workforce: National Multicultural Interpreter Project (NMIP), NCIEC’s Social Justice modules, Interpreting in Spanish-influenced Settings, and Deaf Interpreter Institute to name a few. These curricula are free online resources made possible by federal grants and yet not all interpreting training programs have fully adopted these resources for several reasons: lack of awareness of such resources, lack of confidence or expertise in teaching the materials, or lack of time. Nevertheless, the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) requires accredited ITPs to address “knowledge competencies related to multicultural and diverse populations” (CCIE standard 6.3) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has recently required power privilege and oppression continuing education credits for all certified interpreters. This requires self-assessment on the part of ITPs to see where they have successfully incorporated social justice into their curriculum and in which areas they may improve.

Participants will be able to:

  • Define key concepts and terminology related to social justice
  • Identify barriers affecting recruitment and retention of target students and trainees
  • Identify resources to incorporate into program curriculum to satisfy CCIE standard 6.3.
  • Develop an implementation plan to address barriers and promote curricular change

An Asian-American woman with black hair and brown highlights wearing a plaid black and white vest stands outside in front of snow-covered trees smiling at camera Su Kyong Isakson, MA, NIC, Ed:K-12, is Assistant Professor in the Interpreter Preparation Program at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville, MD. Her area of interest includes curriculum design and teaching strategies of heritage signers in ASL and interpreter training programs, and the sociocultural impacts of professional identity development among Coda interpreters. Her contributions include Heritage signers: language profile questionnaire (2016), and The Case for Heritage ASL Instruction for Hearing Heritage Signers (2018). When she is not professing, Ms. Isakson is enjoying her role as a new mother to daughter Halcyon Areum.

A black man wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a salmon colored button down shirt smiles at camera in front of grey backgroundJoseph Hill is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Sign Language and Interpreting Education in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology. His research interests include socio-historical and -linguistic aspects of African-American variety of American Sign Language and attitudes and ideologies about signing varieties in the American Deaf community. His contributions include The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure (2011) which he co-authored with Carolyn McCaskill, Ceil Lucas, and Robert Bayley and Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community (2012).