Logo for CIT 2020 Conference - Transforming Interpreter Education

Deaf Interpreters’ Experiences Call for Revisiting Interpreting Programs

by Donna Guardino


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Attendees will be provided with information from a dissertation study on Deaf Interpreters’ psychological well-being in medical situations with Deaf individuals who are language deprived. Results from a dissertation study on the curriculum and training program aspect raised issues with existent interpreting curriculum, continuing education opportunities, and lack of mentorship for Deaf interpreters. The majority of participants in the study were from a location of a large Deaf community and a location that was known to frequently utilize Deaf interpreters. Despite familiarization with Deaf interpreting in the community, Deaf interpreters reported issues with quality of training due to lack of competent Deaf interpreter trainers and with training programs being superficial due to interpreting programs modified from those designed for hearing interpreters. Deaf interpreters also reported limited debriefing opportunities with their own Deaf interpreting peers, impacting their education and opportunity for ongoing professional development. Deaf interpreters feel they are learning as they go in the profession, as interpreting curriculum often do not require internship, mentorship, or supervision experiences prior to completion of the training or certification program.

The findings have also indicated that Deaf interpreters are experiencing power differentials within the interpreting community, especially when hearing sign language interpreters make decisions on whether a Deaf interpreter is needed in situations. As a result, Deaf interpreters felt a need to justify themselves and work harder to catch up during appointments with their consumers. Experiencing oppression within the workplace may impact dynamics and Deaf interpreters’ relationship with everyone in the room. Despite Deaf interpreters experiencing stressors within the interpreting community, team interpreters were an essential support system for them.

Based on above issues, it is important to reevaluate current training programs and curriculum to address above concerns as it may hurt interpreting retention rates and interpreter well-being. Goals of this presentation include gaining insight and a better understanding of issues for Deaf interpreters within training programs and existing curriculum. Attendees will gain a better understanding of issues, for Deaf interpreters and their teams, within training programs and social justice issues in the interpreting community. Information presented can be used to develop strategies on improving interpreting curriculum and training programs (e.g., mentorship, internship, interdisciplinary curriculum), as well as addressing power differential issues within the interpreting community (i.e., professional development courses) to allow for improved relationships among interpreters.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to discuss their experiences and insights in the interpreting field, working as or working with Deaf interpreters, potential options for improving existing issues in order to transform interpreting education and allow for healthier working environment and positive well-being for all involved.

Participants will be able to:

  • Gain insight and a better understanding of issues for Deaf interpreters within training programs and existing curriculum.
  • Gain insight and better understanding of social justice issues within the interpreting community.
  • Become aware of different potential options on addressing existing issues within the interpreting field to transform interpreter education for Deaf interpreters in training and their interpreting teams.

A white woman with black wavy hair pulled back and going down over shoulder wearing glasses smiles at the camera while in a natural setting that includes rocks and plantsDonna Guardino, PhD, is a clinical faculty at University of Rochester Medical Center. A New Jersey native, Dr. Guardino received her Ph.D. in 2018 from Gallaudet University. Dr. Guardino’s dissertation focuses on Deaf Interpreter’s experiences, coping mechanisms, and psychological well-being when working with Deaf individuals who are language deprived. She has a secondary interest in Deaf population health and language deprivation. Dr. Guardino has presented at Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Potomac Chapter local conference on Vicarious Trauma. Currently, Dr. Guardino works as a psychologist at Deaf Wellness Center. In addition to her outpatient work, she is a member of the Diversity and Cultural Awareness Leadership Team (DCALT). On a side note, Dr. Guardino resides in Rochester, NY with her life partner, Zach, and their child, Brendan. They enjoy camping, sustainability, & urban gardening.