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DeafBlind Interpreting: Moving Forward with Emerging Practices in Protactile Language and Implications for Interpreter Education

by CM Hall, Jelica Nuccio & Heather Holmes


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The DeafBlind Interpreting: National Training and Resource Center is a federally-funded grant project tasked with increasing the number of qualified interpreters prepared to work with DeafBlind folks. That starts with improving the quality of interpreting for DeafBlind consumers who use Protactile language. DBI works hand-in-hand with DeafBlind leaders, educators, trainers, and mentors, to provide the highest level of instruction and training to interpreters working with DeafBlind consumers. As the community of DeafBlind consumers who use protactile language continues to grow, there is increased need for interpreters who are qualified to provide protactile interpretation. Building on the results of a national needs assessment that led to the identification of domains and core competencies required for protactile interpreting, DBI designed an intensive program of study for interpreters interested in interpreting with DeafBlind individuals who use protactile language. This program of study consists of three components: 30 hours of online coursework, 60 hours in an immersion-based protactile environment, and a 10 hour induction period. All components follow evidence-based design and have been field-tested with three cohorts of interpreters (n=84). DBI will work with an additional 64 interpreters during 2020.

In addition to educating interpreters, DBI also is charged with increasing the number of DeafBlind educators and mentors within the DeafBlind community. This mentor training has been field-tested with three DeafBlind mentor cohorts (n=15). DBI will work with an additional 15 DeafBlind mentors during 2020.

This presentation will explore the process of co-navigating a DeafBlind led training for sighted (Deaf and hearing) interpreters. We will share excerpts from our most recent evaluation data, emerging practices in the field of DeafBlind interpreting, and ways that DeafBlind leaders/mentors/trainers are taking leadership roles in training interpreters who will work with DeafBlind community members.

Foundations of protactile language will be addressed for those unfamiliar with the protactile movement, and opportunities for further discussion and practice of protactile skills will be available after the workshop at a designated location.

As the grant concludes in 2021, DBI seeks to identify IEPs that can partner with trained DeafBlind instructors to implement instruction. Come learn more about DBI’s transformative work and the future of DeafBlind interpreter education.

Participants will:

  • Participants will be able to define Protactile language
  • Participants will be able to articulate at least two key differences between Protactile language and Tactile American Sign Language (TASL).
  • Participants will be able to describe the qualifications of a protactile interpreter.
  • Participants will be able to recommend 2 professional organizations that provide more information about protactile and DeafBlind interpreting.

A black and white photo of a white woman wears a spotted headband and looks up at the camera and smilesCM Hall, Ed.M., NIC Advanced, EIPA K-12, is Co-Director of the National Center on DeafBlind Interpreting and from 2007-2016 served as the Project Coordinator of the Western Region Interpreter Education Center at Western Oregon University. She holds a Master’s in Education with an emphasis in LGBTQ and Gender Studies from Oregon State University and a Bachelor’s in ASL/English Interpreting from Western and completed their one-year interpreter training program prior to that. CM has volunteered in the DeafBlind community since 1992 and teachers DeafBlind Interpreting in Western’s interpreting program and is a past co-chair of the National Task Force on DeafBlind Interpreting. She is currently the Communications Chair for the DeafBlind Member Section of RID and formerly served as Secretary for DBMS, as well as having served on the national RID board as the former Member at Large.

Black and white photo of a woman with dark hair wearing black sunglasses smiling at the cameraJelica Nuccio is a nationally recognized DeafBlind leader and trainer, and has been instrumental in the growth of the Protactile movement. With more than 11 years of experience training others in the use of protactile language, and three years consulting and training interpreters with DBI, Jelica is the master trainer for DBI face-to-face trainings, and supervises the DeafBlind mentor program. Jelica Nuccio was the first DeafBlind Director of the Seattle Deaf-Blind Service Center (DBSC) and also a co-author of a curriculum for DeafBlind people getting the most out of their Support Service Providers (SSP). She is the founder of Tactile Communications, which is the only training center based on protactile philosophy and DeafBlind Education in the world. Prior to this work, Jelica worked as a research coordinator, advocate and job-developer. Jelica has a B.A. in Biology from RIT in Rochester, and an M.A. in Public Health from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past 25 years, she has been active in the local and national DeafBlind communities. Jelica is the lead mentor trainer and lead DeafBlind consultant for DBI.

A black and white photo of white woman with brown straight hair wearing a scarfHeather Holmes is Co-Director of the DeafBlind Interpreting National Training and Resource Center (DBI). Her responsibilities include development of online materials and courses, management of the online DBII communities of practice, and curriculum guide development and design. Her areas of interest include online accessibility, adult learning, content and course development, and curriculum design. Heather has a Master of Science degree in Education: Information Technology from Western Oregon University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Arizona State University. She is a nationally certified (NIC – Advanced) American Sign Language interpreter and a member of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).