In an article from Mashable called “Left Speechless”, Claire Trageser describes significant cuts to interpreter services at Yosemite National Park. In short, while the park used to have rangers who were–themselves–certified interpreters and/or fluent in sign language, the park now relies upon contract interpreters to serve the declining number of Deaf visitors.
This is too bad. Mainly because, in my view, the best way to fully serve members of the Deaf community is to create circumstances where professionals know sign language and can communicate directly, rather than relying in interpreters to fill in the language gap. In this sense, the institutional changes as Yosemite are the opposite of progress.
Do you know of any situation where a public or private entity has signing staff instead of hiring out interpreters? I’m sure it’s rare, but it must be out there.
As you all know, I pay close attention to the daily news coming out of Malta, the small island off the southern coast of Sicily. (Okay, that’s a joke. But click here for a map if you don’t know where Malta is.) And the big news recently is that interpreting services are nearly going away as a result of the lack of government funds for interpreters – or a lack of will of the government to fund interpreting services. It’s always so hard to tell, isn’t it?
Is a Malta a microcosm of the coming collapse of interpreting services? Or is it specific to the island economy of this small, Mediterranean land? (And honestly, if interpreting was going south, wouldn’t you rather lose your job on a beautiful island than in rural Ohio? And is there an old colonial bias in the phrase “going south”, as if “going south” implies that things are getting worse? After the last economic meltdown started squarely in northern housing economies, maybe we should say “going north” to mean that something is tanking.)
In any case, here’s your news of the day. (Click headline to see full article.)
When I first got involved in the Deaf community in Puerto Rico in 2002, a new technology had just emerged that changed the face of Deaf communication as we know it. The device was officially called a Hiptop, but I knew it as a Sidekick, complete with it’s own ASL sign. (non-dom. B-hs, palm up; dom. S-hs palm up, twist out into K-hs.) It was a hot item. The way it flipped open with a snap, had a large, comfortable keyboard (better than those Blackberrys), and had what seemed at the time to be an enormous screen. It was revolutionary, probably the only time Deaf individuals received technology ahead of their hearing counterparts.
Today I found a great article over on Medium written by Chris DeSalvo, one of the developers for Danger, the company that made the Sidekick. In it, he discusses the unique reception that the Sidekick received in the Deaf community. Here’s just an excerpt of the section on the Deaf community, but you should read the rest of the article because it’s really good.
With the hiptop you could get the same functionality without the extra hardware. Our TDD was software based and built in. Suddenly deaf and hard of hearing users could communicate with hearing users anywhere, anytime. A cell phone for deaf users. The letters of thanks we received at the office because of this would break your heart if you read them. T-Mobile did a great thing and offered a data-only pricing plan for deaf users since they couldn’t use the voice minutes. There is an official ASL sign for the hiptop.
(Click here to read the entire article.)