National Association of the Deaf - NAD.org
President Melissa shares a brief recap about the NAD Board and Staff Retreat and explains about the International Week of the Deaf. She also reminds you to join a NAD committee and to register to vote!
Other region representatives also share their updates:
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) delights in announcing the two new Appointed Board Members to complete its Board of Directors for 2018-2020: Alicia Lane-Outlaw and Benro Ogunyipe.
A Deaf business owner, Alicia Lane-Outlaw is president of AllOut Marketing, which provides services such as marketing strategy, web/print design, and online marketing. Her more than two decades of experience include large corporations, nonprofits, universities, K-12 schools, small businesses, and government agencies. A longtime community activist, Alicia has received numerous awards for her leadership. She successfully advocated for website accessibility laws in Minnesota, expanded the state’s longest-running Deaf community news and events website, and spearheaded marketing efforts to launch a Deaf charter school. In addition to serving on a film festival board and a community health board, she was elected president of the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, where she increased the association’s visibility and community engagement. Other activism includes evaluating applicants for the nation’s only Deaf artist residency program and serving as a judge for NTID’s Next Big Idea competition. Alicia graduated cum laude from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a visual arts minor. She resides in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her wife and daughter. This is her third term as an appointed board member.
Benro T. Ogunyipe, MPA, is a Senior Accessibility Specialist for the State of Illinois, Department of Human Services (IDHS), Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation in Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity since 2004, he directs and administers the bureau’s program and training activities to ensure department compliance with Titles I & II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the department’s legal obligations under the Illinois Human Rights Act. He also serves as a reasonable accommodation specialist, disability discrimination complaint investigator, bureau legislative liaison and communication and telecommunication access trainer. Benro has over 15 years of professional experience in public service administration, non-profit leadership management and multiple advocacy and policy board positions driven to promote full inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities as well as personal and professional advocacy for deaf and hard of hearing people in all settings of the society. In 2014, and again in 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Benro to the National Council on Disability. Benro was also appointed by three different Illinois Governors to public bodies — twice as a Commissioner of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission and as a Member of the Illinois Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities. He served as President of the National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc. from 2011 to 2013, and served as Vice President and Chairman of the Board from 2007 to 2011. Benro received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the School of Public Service at DePaul University.
Delegates at the 2018 NAD Conference in Hartford, Connecticut elected the following officers for the 2018-2020 term: Melissa Draganac-Hawk as President, Richard McCowin as Vice President, Jenny Buechner as Secretary, and Michelle Cline as Treasurer.
Also elected were four new regional representatives for the next four years (2018-2022): Liz Hill, elected as the Region I Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region I Board Representative Steve Lovi; Kevin Ryan, elected as the Region II Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region II Board Representative Linsay Darnall, Jr.; Steve Hamerdinger, elected as the Region III Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region III Board Representative Holly Ketchum; and Amy Gomme, elected as the Region IV Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region IV Board Representative Martin Price.
For more information, you can explore the Board page of the NAD website.
The NAD expresses a tremendous amount of gratitude to our outgoing board members: Joshua Beckman (2016-2018 Vice President), Philippe Montalette (2012-2018 Treasurer), Jerry Nelson (2014-2018 Region III Board Representative), Lisa Furr (2016-2018 Region IV Board Representative), and Meena Mann (2016-2018 Appointed Board Member) for their years of service and appreciates their enormous dedication to the NAD.
“The NAD operates most effectively with dedicated and committed volunteer Board Members that work tirelessly to uphold the mission and vision of the NAD on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing community,” said President Melissa Draganac-Hawk. “I want to express gratitude to Joshua Beckman, Philippe Montalette, Jerry Nelson, Lisa Furr, and Meena Mann for their selfless contributions to the NAD — your work makes it possible to continue our efforts towards a better future for all.”
- Certified Deaf Interpreter Task Force
- Diversity Strategy Team
- Public Safety: Ambulance
- Public Safety: Fire Department
- Public Safety: Law Enforcement
Dr. Gerald “Bummy” Burstein of southern California, one of the greatest trailblazers of our community departed at the age of 91 on August 31, 2018. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) mourns his passing; his distinguished life will continue to leave its mark for generations to come.
Dr. Burstein (photo: Gallaudet University) was the second deaf Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP), the highest level recognized by the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP), as well as a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP). With his comprehensive expertise in parliamentary procedure, he brought improved order and efficiency and countless deaf organizations and schools across the country as well as internationally. He shared his knowledge as the author of “Basic Parliamentary Procedure,” “Bummy’s Successful Meeting Procedures,” as well as through an ASL video, “Bummy’s Basic Parliamentary Workshop.” He greatly aided the NAD through several biennial national conference business meetingsas parliamentarian; he also worked with local, state, and national organizations.
NAD President Melissa Draganac-Hawk (2016-present), in looking back on her many interactions with Dr. Burstein: “Bummy as a national leader and parliamentarian was a source of inspiration to so many; he served as a model of professionalism, wisdom, diplomacy, compassion, humor, and respect. His kind personality and strong spirit will be missed by everyone – the impact and lessons of his leadership will continue to live on in our community.”
Elizabeth “Libby” Pollard, who served as NAD President for two terms (1998-2002), was inspired by Dr. Burstein: “When I first met Bummy, I was impressed by his detailed knowledge of Roberts Rules of Order. He encouraged me to study parliamentarian procedure, and in 2011, I became a certified parliamentarian. Many times, I expressed gratitude to Bummy for his encouragement – I know he motivated countless others as well.”
Robert “Bob” Weinstock, Manager of Enrollment Communications at Gallaudet University and a parliamentarian, fondly remembers Dr. Burstein: “I was honored to serve as co-parliamentarian with Bummy on several occasions, sitting together in his brilliantly-conceived ‘Bummy Box.’ I was awestruck by how seamlessly he performed his duties and how eloquently he presented his advisory opinions.”
Dr. Frank Turk recalls Dr. Burstein as “one of the significant supporters of several youth leadership programs including the Junior NAD, the NAD Youth Leadership Camp, and the National Leadership and Literacy Camp (NLLC), including volunteer service as parliamentarian and trainer.” Dr. Turk remarked that “Bummy encouraged students to measure up to capacity, generously shared his time and expertise with them, and demonstrated confidence in their ability to succeed in whatever they pursued.”
Bill Stark, former Project Director for the federal Described and Captioned Media Program managed by the NAD remembers Dr. Burstein with appreciation: “Bummy was involved with Captioned Films since the early 1960s – he was a captioner, a regional depository manager, and then a library manager when the regional configuration ended. He worked with DCMP through the transition from 16mm films, to VHS and DVD videos, to present-day video streaming. He served as library manager up until 2008 when DCMP ceased housing of captioned materials at residential schools for the deaf.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Burstein was such a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, which were called “dem bums” that he acquired and was known by the nickname “Bummy.” He graduated in 1943 from Junior High School 47 (known as JHS 47 and also as PS 47), and then graduated from Charles Evans Hughes High School in 1946. He attended City College of New York (CCNY) and then transferred to Gallaudet University where he graduated in 1950. After 15 years of teaching at the Minnesota School for the Deaf, he attended the National Leadership Training Program at California State University in Northridge (CSUN) and in 1965 obtained his Master’s degree in Administration and Supervision. He then taught at, managed media services, and served as an administrator at the California School for the Deaf-Riverside (CSDR) for 37 years, for a total of 52 years in the field of deaf education. Dr. Burstein has also received numerous awards including an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1986 and the first Deaf President Now Leadership Award in 2005, both from Gallaudet University.
Dr. Burstein’s commitment to the deaf community went far beyond parliamentarian work and educational services. He volunteered for many organizations and served as the president of several including California Association of the Deaf, Gallaudet University Alumni Association, National Congress of Jewish Deaf; he also chaired several committees under the California Public Utilities Commission.
The life and legacy of Dr. Gerald R. “Bummy” Burstein will continue to live on within the NAD and its membership, many of whom share his love for civic and community service and parliamentary procedure.
The NAD needs you to contact your Senators to tell them you oppose Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court and ask that they nominate another person. #AskHoward
Review of Disability-Related Cases Involving Brett Kavanaugh by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health LawLetters Opposing Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh from other Disability Rights Organizations
The NAD created recommendations to help guide schools for the deaf and/or state departments of education that are seeking to search for and select new school leaders. The goal of these recommendations is to support schools for the deaf in their search and selection process to find and hire the best possible candidates to take on leadership roles in their programs #AskHoward
President Melissa’s first video for the 2018-2020 term discusses the five new priorities.
Fairness Hearing scheduled for tomorrow – the 28th anniversary of the ADA
Chicago (July 25, 2018)– A groundbreaking settlement has been reached in a class action that will fundamentally improve the lives of Illinois prisoners who are deaf and hard of hearing. The class action was filed May 4, 2011 and alleged, among other things, that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) systematically failed to provide American Sign Language interpreters and other alternate forms of communication. Without these accommodations, deaf and hard of hearing prisoners have been endangered and deprived of meaningful access to religious services, healthcare, educational and vocational programs, telephones, televisions, library services, disciplinary proceedings, grievances, and pre-release programs. A fairness hearing, in which a judge must find that a class action settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate, will be held in Chicago tomorrow, July 26 at 10:30 before the Honorable Judge Marvin E. Aspen, 219 S. Dearborn Street, Courtroom 2568.
The lawsuit was filed by the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP, serving as lead counsel and providing representation on a pro bono basis; two Illinois non-profit legal advocacy organizations, Equip for Equality and Uptown People’s Law Center; and the National Association of the Deaf.
Terms under the far-reaching settlement include:
- Hearing Tests: IDOC will provide enhanced screening to identify which prisoners are deaf and hard of hearing.
- Communication Specialists. IDOC will use specialists to test the communication skills of deaf and hard of hearing prisoners, identify necessary accommodations and develop a communication plan.
- Hearing Aids: IDOC will provide hearing aids when recommended by an audiologist and provide timely replacement batteries and repairs.
- Sign Language Interpreters: For prisoners who communicate in American Sign Language (ASL), IDOC will provide sign language interpreters for important programs.
- Video Phones, TTYs, and Amplified Phones: Every Illinois prison with a deaf or hard of hearing prisoner must have at least one videophone, two TTYs, and two amplified telephones.
- Communication Alerts: Every Illinois prison that has a deaf or hard of hearing prisoner must have a safe way to provide accessible notifications about fires, emergencies, evacuations, meals, showers, yard time, doctor or counselor appointments, and visitors.
- VRI: Illinois prisons must provide Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for doctor appointments when no sign language interpreter can come to the prison for doctor appointments.
“It is fitting that the fairness hearing will take place on the anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Barry C. Taylor, vice president for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation, Equip for Equality. “One of the tenets of the ADA is to provide effective communication for people with disabilities. This settlement agreement will go a long way to ensure that the ADA’s promise becomes a reality for deaf and hard of hearing prisoners.”
“Our goal in this case was to ensure that significant steps would be taken within IDOC to enable deaf and hard of hearing prisoners in Illinois to communicate effectively while in IDOC custody,” said Robert Michels, a partner with Winston & Strawn. “Allowing deaf and hard of hearing prisoners to communicate effectively is critically important for a variety of reasons, including so that they are safe, they are able receive proper medical care, they are able to participate in the programs and services available to them while in custody, and they are not treated unfairly as a result of their hearing impairment. We are glad that this settlement today allows substantial improvements to be made within IDOC that, if properly implemented, should result in achieving our goal.”
“Being in prison is an awful experience for anyone; being in prison when you can’t hear is terrifying. This settlement, when fully implemented, ensures that no one will ever be left alone in silence in Illinois prisons. These changes are vital—the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to everyone in the United States, including people in prison,” said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center.
“On the 28th anniversary of the ADA and 45 years after passage of the Rehabilitation Act, this fairness hearing is one step closer to ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing people in Illinois prisons have equal rights, particularly for communication and telecommunication purposes,” said Howard A., Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. “Although such basic rights are overdue, there should be no further delay to ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing prisoners have equal access to calling their families and lawyers, and to being able to communicate with prison staff for all programs and services.”
A copy of the Settlement Agreement can be found at www.equipforequality.org.
Reference: U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Holmes et al. v. Godinez et al.11 C 2961
Organizations representing the plaintiffs
Winston & Strawn LLP
Winston & Strawn LLP is an international law firm with nearly 1,000 attorneys among 16 offices across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Formed in 1853, the firm not only represents Fortune 500 companies and other clients on major business-related matters, it also has a strong commitment to providing pro bono representation, including in matters involving civil rights, community economic development, criminal defense, First Amendment/free speech, contested guardianship, landlord/tenant, not-for-profit corporate organization, political asylum, post-conviction relief in death penalty cases, and public assistance.
Equip for Equality
Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit entity designated in 1985 by the Governor of Illinois to administer the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for safeguarding the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois.
Uptown People’s Law Center
Uptown People’s Law Center is a nonprofit legal services organization specializing in prisoners’ rights, Social Security disability, and tenants’ rights and eviction defense. UPLC currently has seven class action lawsuits regarding jail and prison conditions.
National Association of the Deaf
The National Association of the Deaf, established in 1880, is the nation’s premier organization safeguarding the civil, human and linguistics rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the USA.
- Barry Taylor, Equip for Equality, 312-895-7317, email@example.com
- Megan Groves, Uptown People’s Law Center, 773-769-1411, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jill Shea, Winston & Strawn LLP, 312-558-3734, email@example.com
- Howard A. Rosenblum, National Association of the Deaf, 301-587-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introducing you to our B-U-I-L-D-E-R-S!
PHOTO DESC: A close shot of Jimel standing in front of a field of trees.
Camp Director: Jimel Wright
PHOTO DESC: A close up shot of Zoe smiling to the camera. Zoe is standing in front of a red background.
Assistant Camp Director: Zoe Rodriguez
PHOTO DESC: Tory is smiling and signing “lead”. She is posing in front of a field of trees.
Special Projects Coordinator: Tory Sampson
PHOTO DESC: Lavanda, the american bulldog, is laying on the floor, smiling.
PHOTO DESC: Jason is pointing fingers to the camera.
PHOTO DESC: Joseph is signing “what’s up” in front of a red background.
PHOTO DESC: A headshot of Tanea smiling in front of a field of trees.
PHOTO DESC: Trey is using his hair to create a mustache. Trey is standing in front of a red background.
PHOTO DESC: Natasha is smiling with her hand on her chin.
PHOTO DESC: Savannah is pointing towards the camera.
PHOTO DESC: Aaron is posing with a smize in front of a field of trees.
PHOTO DESC: Aneesha is pointing at herself, posing towards the camera.
PHOTO DESC: A headshot of Anna smiling.
PHOTO DESC: Roger is saying hello with his two arms up.
PHOTO DESC: A headshot of Amelia smiling.
PHOTO DESC: Andrew is posing with his hands on his chin, squinting his eyes with a grin.
PHOTO DESC: A headshot of Seth smiling.
Welcome to the NAD Youth Leadership Camp blog site for 2018! This year, we will explore the Prism of Possibilities. Endless possibilities. Influential leaders. Dynamic teamwork. This summer will bring out so many different possibilities. It all starts with you.
We, the Builders, are excited to start our summer with you!
Image Desc: The handshapes of “influence” is moving towards and through a triangle with motion waves, stars, sun and a moon.
Melvin Walker, President
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
333 Commerce Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Dear President Melvin Walker:
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), as the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals issues this letter to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to demand that the RID act in furtherance of the right of people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing to equally effective communication. Specifically, the NAD requests that RID immediately issue a public apology and statement with respect to positions taken by its previous executive director, Anna Witter-Merithew, during her tenure with RID.
We understand that Ms. Witter-Merithew provided expert witness testimony in opposition to deaf people asserting civil rights in at least three cases known to us while she served as the Executive Director of RID: as the rebuttal expert for the hospital in the case of Priscilla Saunders v. Mayo Clinic, No. 13-cv-1972 (U.S. District Court of Minnesota, 2013); as the rebuttal expert for the hospital in the case of Durand et al. v. Fairview Health Services, No. 2015-cv-2012 (U.S. District Court of Minnesota, 2015); and as an expert witness for the prosecution in the criminal case of State of Tennessee v. Andrew Clayton Parker, No. CR6081 (White County Criminal Court, 2014). While her report in the criminal case of Parker is not available to us at the moment, we have her reports and testimony in the Saundersand Durandcases – and they are attached for your convenience.
A reading of these reports and testimony makes it clear that Ms. Witter-Merithew served as an expert on behalf of defendants alleged to have violated the civil rights of deaf people who require communication access through qualified sign language interpreters.
Priscilla Saunders is a deaf woman who was pregnant and sought qualified interpreters for when she would deliver the baby at the Mayo Clinic. She asserted in her complaint that she could not effectively communicate with the hospital’s staff interpreter and asked for other interpreters. The hospital allegedly kept using the staff interpreter anyway to communicate with her. Ms. Witter-Merithew provided an expert report on October 22, 2014 saying, “It would not be possible for the Mayo Clinic to satisfy the specific expectations and preferences of the plaintiffs in this matter for consistent provision of services by highly qualified interpreters with native ASL competence.”
Roger and Linda Durand are deaf parents who sued a hospital that was treating their adult hearing son and allegedly did not provide them with qualified interpreters except two times, both brief. The Durands asserted that, as a result of the lack of qualified interpreters, they did not understand that their son was dying. Ms. Witter-Merithew provided a June 29, 2016 expert report in which she opined, “It would likely not be possible to satisfy the specific expectations and preferences of the plaintiffs in this matter for consistent provision of services by highly qualified interpreters throughout the days leading up to Shaun Durand’s death.” Even more upsetting to the NAD is her statement in the report that “There is no evidence supporting the notion…that the inclusion of interpreters would have in anyway [sic] improved the level of understanding that apparently continues to elude Linda and Roger Durand.” She further stated that the deaf parents were at fault for not properly requesting interpreters: “They [sic] family is emphatic that requests were made, but often vague as to with who, when, how” and “The hands off approach of Linda and Roger Durand, which included a failure to self-advocate and ask for clarification when needed and when the opportunity existed contradicts the impact they now claim the lack of interpreters created.”
The NAD believes these comments to be harmful to the civil and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people. Moreover, what the NAD considers most disturbing is the timing of her reports and testimony. Her Saunders expert report is dated October 22, 2014, but she was prepared to testify until the case was settled in March 2015. Her Durand expert report is dated June 29, 2016, and her deposition was given on August 16, 2016. According to her Durand report, she was scheduled to provide expert testimony against the interests of a deaf person accused of a crime on July 8, 2016.
Anna Witter-Merithew was employed by the RID as its Executive Director from March 2015 to July 2017. The Saunders case immediately preceded her hire, and her report should have disqualified her from the executive director position. She continued to provide testimony and reports throughout her term on behalf of defendants sued for allegedly violating the civil rights of deaf people.
The NAD believes that Ms. Witter-Merithew’s statements on behalf of defendants against deaf people seeking access to equally effective communication is completely inconsistent with advocacy for the civil rights of deaf people and undermines interpreters as a profession. And, in the Durand case, she has done this while stating that she is the Executive Director of the RID.
The NAD considers unacceptable any statement by an interpreter acting as an expert witness in opposition to the assertion of critical civil rights of deaf people. Also unacceptable are any such statements made by the executive director of RID or any staff of the RID.
To rectify Ms. Witter-Merithew’s actions, the NAD demands that the RID make three public statements as follows:
- The RID will declare that it agrees with the NAD that the Code of Professional Conduct (CPC) needs to be updated to prohibit any interpreter from providing expert witness testimony or reports opposing the civil or linguistic rights of any deaf or hard of hearing person, and will expedite its committee work with the NAD to revamp the CPC;
- The RID will declare that it prohibits all of its staff and board members from making any statements or engaging in any conduct that is adverse to the civil or linguistic rights of any deaf or hard of hearing person; and
- The RID will disavow expert witness reports and testimony by RID staff and board members that are adverse to the civil and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing persons, and declare that the RID renounces the reports and testimony given in the Saunders and Durand cases as well as any other similar cases.
The RID has an obligation to take these corrective steps with respect to the actions taken by its previous executive director, and these statements that NAD requests above are the minimum that the RID owes to both the deaf community and the interpreting community.
While the NAD and RID no longer have a partnership on certification, we have been engaged in a dialogue about the CPC and other areas of mutual interest. Given this situation, however, the NAD cannot engage in any further collaboration with the RID until such corrective actions are taken.
Howard A. Rosenblum
Chief Executive Officer
Enjoy President Melissa’s last video for the 2016-2018 term! She discusses the five priorities from 2016-2018, shares a quick update for some committees, and encourages you to join us in Hartford — it’s not too late!
Note: Originally published in the Fall 2017 NADmag Issue.
As long as there have been deaf and hard of hearing people, there have been interpreters. The dynamics between interpreters and deaf persons have always been complex and layered. Interpreters often have different roles: family members and strangers, teachers and students, employers and employees as well as co-workers, and friends and foes. While there have been divisions, there needs to be unity going forward if both deaf people and interpreters are to succeed in their respective goals. However, such unity must be carefully structured to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing persons are able to achieve their full potential without restrictions, limitations, or suppression. In short, there must be assurance that interpreters – like doctors bound by the Hippocratic Oath – must only do good and not harm deaf and hard of hearing individuals (often referred to as “first, do no harm”).
All respectable professions have a code of ethics or code of professional conduct, which is designed to foster accountability, responsibility, and trust so that consumers can put faith in the covered professionals. Certified sign language interpreters are expected to adhere to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct (“CPC”), which contains seven tenets as follows: 1) confidentiality; 2) professional skills and knowledge; 3) appropriate conduct; 4) respect for consumer; 5) respect for colleagues, interns and students; 6) ethical business practices; and 7) professional development.
However, despite such provisions in the CPC, it has become apparent that there is a growing divide between the deaf and hard of hearing community and the interpreting profession. Such a divide has contributed to a large increase in distrust and suspicions between consumers and interpreters. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals contact the NAD often to express misgivings or complaints about interpreters and interpreter referral agencies. The concerns that have been shared were once about isolated issues but now have occurred with enough frequency to become recognizable patterns centering around six specific areas that need to be addressed. These six areas are as follows: public advocacy; self-promotion; employment competition; adverse expert witness testimony; and adverse consultations and business practices. The bottom line is that the CPC needs to be updated to address these concerns in a way to better safeguard against harm to consumers. This article is not intended to recommend specific provisions for each area to be included in the CPC, but seeks to prompt a discussion among the interpreting community, as well as the deaf and hard of hearing community, to examine what needs to be updated in the CPC.
Marginalized groups often have to advocate for their rights, and allies are often needed and helpful. However, it is important for allies to respect the space needed for the marginalized to promote such advocacy. With the advent of the Internet, there has been an increase in public advocacy for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people by interpreters. While such advocacy is well-intentioned, this publicity deprives deaf and hard of hearing individuals of the opportunity and space to assert their rights in a public forum. There are interpreters writing blogs on major media outlets and presenting themselves as the voice of the deaf and hard of hearing community. It is one thing for interpreters to advocate for improvements in interpreting, but that does not mean they should be advocating for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people. The CPC, as it exists now, does not address how interpreters present themselves to the world on issues relating to advocacy on deaf rights.
All hard-working professionals seek to advance their livelihood through self-promotion in various ways. However, certain professions have ethical constraints on the nature and form of such self-promotion. For example, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which most states adopt with some revisions as code of ethics for their licensed lawyers, has specific restrictions on how lawyers may communicate or advertise about their services, and how lawyers may solicit clients. Similarly, the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics contains some restrictions on advertising and publicity. These are examples that could guide a review of the CPC to determine if there should be provisions governing self-promotion. Anger and resentment has begun building within the deaf community when some interpreters engage in extravagant self-promotion including, but not limited to, videos going viral of the interpreters signing songs. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals have begun wondering why they are unemployed or underemployed while interpreters are gaining recognition and appearing to derive income from such promotions. Such conduct, if left uncontrolled, will contribute to the growing distrust and divide between the deaf community and interpreters.
The NAD has received too many reports of employment situations where deaf and hard of hearing persons are working and an interpreter is promoted from being their interpreter to become their supervisor or boss. Such a change affects the dynamics between deaf and hard of hearing people and the interpreters, and has led to resentment among the deaf and hard of hearing employees.
In addition, there has been competition between interpreters and deaf individuals in certain fields that have also caused such resentment. For example, when there are casting calls for deaf roles in theater or television or movies, interpreters have sometimes auditioned for such roles. Further, many interpreters have taken on jobs teaching ASL in schools and universities across the country, depriving deaf people of such opportunities.
While interpreters are certainly entitled to seek employment opportunities, deaf and hard of hearing individuals are experiencing abysmal rates of unemployment and underemployment. The CPC focuses primarily on how interpreters conduct themselves in the course of interpreting rather than governing how interpreters handle a wide variety of life situations that impact the trust of deaf and hard of hearing consumers.
Adverse Expert Witness Testimony
The NAD has also received alarming proof of interpreters who have testified in legal cases against the interests of the deaf and hard of hearing community. As a civil rights organization dedicated to advancing the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people, the NAD is appalled that any interpreter would provide testimony that sets back the civil rights of deaf and hard of hearing people. Even when interpreters thought they were merely providing information about their field of expertise in cases where they were retained by attorneys opposing the rights of deaf individuals, such interpreters’ testimony cause harm to those deaf individuals. Otherwise, the opposing attorneys would not have bothered to retain the interpreters for their testimony. The CPC should add strict guidelines that guards against any adverse expert witness testimony that may harm the civil rights of the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Adverse Consultations & Business Practices
Although the CPC was designed to govern the conduct of interpreters in the course of providing interpreting services, it has become apparent that the code should be expanded to cover all aspects of an interpreter’s profession. Not only should the CPC apply to adverse witness testimony, but it should also apply to any consultations that are adverse to the interests of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Interpreters that advise hospitals, courts, businesses, schools and universities, and professionals should always influence them to ensure fully effective communication access. There are too many situations where interpreters engage in consultations either as individuals or on behalf of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) or interpreter referral agencies, and advise entities to provide the bare minimum of services in the interest of saving costs and drawing in business for the interpreter or their agency.
Some interpreter agencies have secured exclusive contracts with specific businesses such as hospitals. The NAD has received numerous complaints from deaf individuals who have to go to these hospitals and are not able to effectively communicate through the interpreters that are provided by the interpreter agency holding the exclusive contract. When the deaf persons inform those hospitals that they require different interpreters to understand what is being discussed, the hospitals tend to respond that they cannot because of the exclusive contract. These problems have prompted the NAD to begin work on certification of interpreter referral agencies to establish best practices, but it is important to include in the CPC some language establishing parameters about interpreters working for agencies having exclusive contracts that end up hurting the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Numerous deaf and hard of hearing individuals have spoken out vehemently against the misuse of VRI in hospitals. Yet, hospitals across the country are increasingly turning to VRI as their sole solution for communication access. Why are hospitals everywhere buying VRI services without being advised of needing a proper balance between in-person interpreting services and VRI services? VRI company representatives as a whole should be prohibited from advising hospitals that VRI is the solution for all communications with deaf individuals. While there are preliminary efforts to impede such false advertising for all such representatives, the CPC can immediately control the behavior of interpreters who work for those companies and engage in such false advertising.
Such consultations and business practices are often provided at the expense of effective communication for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and ethical considerations for such consultations should be included in the CPC.
Time to Update the Code of Professional Conduct
Given the seriousness of these issues, we must work together to update the Code of Professional Conduct to address changes in the profession and society. The NAD is in communication with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to discuss these issues and determine how best to update the code to reflect optimal practices in today’s world. We cannot afford to wait any longer if we are ever to unify our communities and work together for everyone’s best interests.
(MIAMI, FLORIDA) June 21, 2018 – The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has won the right to proceed in litigation against the State of Florida, the Florida Legislature and the radio and television network WFSU regarding the rights of persons with disabilities to participate in the political process. The defendants in the case filed a Motion to Dismiss which was rejected by the Court. The NAD, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of deaf or hard of hearing people, and Miami-based disability rights advocate Eddie Sierra, sued the State of Florida and the Florida Legislature for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The lawsuit focuses on the Legislature’s refusal to caption their legislative proceedings so that deaf or hard of hearing people can watch videos and other content on the Florida House and Florida Senate’s legislative websites. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), over 15% of the U.S. population over the age of 18 is deaf or hard of hearing. In July 2017, Eddie sent both the House and Senate letters asking them to caption the proceedings in the 2018 legislative session. He never received a reply.
The complaint was filed in Miami in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Judge Ursula Ungaro denied the motion to dismiss brought by the State of Florida, the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate, the Florida Channel and various other defendants, in June 2018. The Defendants argued that they were not required to caption their legislative proceedings.
Judge Ungaro found that “plaintiffs are not seeking just any public information, but rather information that goes to the very heart of the democratic process: the text of legislative proceedings. Accordingly, their fundamental right to participate in the democratic process is implicated.”
“We are thrilled by this win,” said NAD Chief Executive Officer Howard Rosenblum. “We’ve said from the beginning that this case was particularly unjust because Eddie Sierra and others in our community were being excluded from participation in the legislative process. Their civil rights and basic rights as an American are being violated every day. We are looking forward to continuing the fight on behalf of all persons with disabilities.”
“In today’s society persons with disabilities are routinely slighted or completely ignored,” Eddie said. “Often times, it’s like we don’t exist. But we’ve had enough and won’t be denied our right to participate in the legislative process in this state.”
The NAD and Eddie are represented by Miami-based civil rights law firms J. Courtney Cunningham, PLLC, and Scott R. Dinin, P.A. They are joined by Stein & Vargas, LLP, a Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in fighting disability-based discrimination.
There are more than 80 schools for deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States, and many NAD members are alumni of these schools. Each school is valued and viewed as an invaluable resource for the residents of the respective states.
The search for and selection of a leader is one of the most challenging tasks for any school. The NAD seeks to support all states and their schools for the deaf in securing the best possible leaders of their programs to provide quality education to deaf and hard of hearing students.
With that aim, the NAD has created recommendations to help guide schools for the deaf and/or state departments of education that are seeking to search for and select new superintendents or school leaders. The goal of these recommendations is to support schools for the deaf in their search and selection process to find and hire the best possible candidates to take on leadership roles in their programs.
Every search process begins with the formation of a committee whether it is to actively search or to interview potential candidates or both. Given that schools for the deaf are viewed by the deaf community as part of their lives as well as the place where their future leaders currently are educated, members of the deaf community should be included in this search process. The NAD recommends that search committees be formed that include at least two representatives of the deaf community, particularly those that are alumni of the school or representatives of the state association of the deaf. It is also encouraged that the search committee membership reflects the diversity of the student population, including at least two individuals who are parents of deaf or hard of hearing students attending the school. One of these parents should also be deaf or hard of hearing. The majority of the search committee should be deaf or hard of hearing.
In addition, throughout the search process, the school should engage with the deaf and hard of hearing community in the state and provide them with updates on the progress with the search. It is encouraged that these updates be provided in all forms such as but not limited to mass emails, website postings, videos, and social media.
These two inclusive steps are essential to ensuring that the deaf and hard of hearing community feels invested and included in the search for the school’s next leader. To do otherwise is to exclude this community and may result in unnecessary tension.
SCHOOL LEADER CRITERIA
The needs of every school vary greatly based on numerous factors such as budgeting, infrastructure, state law, educational requirements, and the student population. The school leader should be trained in all aspects of administration and governance of a school and be able to oversee all employees and functions of the school. However, in addition to these required skills, the NAD believes that the search for a new school leader should include the following criteria: fluency in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English; knowledge about bilingual education; and the ability to engage effectively and directly with faculty, students, parents and the deaf community.
Fluency in both ASL and English will promote open and direct communication within the school community, as well as with the community at large. A bilingual leader will inspire all students and give them a role model for the acquisition of two languages for the furtherance of their education.
A working knowledge of bilingual education will better ensure strong implementation of the latest research and studies promoting best practices for education of deaf and hard of hearing students. The leader should also be able to accommodate students and parents from homes that speak other languages as well as students who benefit from and use spoken English.
In addition, we strongly urge schools to look within the deaf and hard of hearing community to locate their next school leader. Deaf and hard of hearing students deserve a strong role model in their school leader, and this is best accomplished if the leader is like them, deaf or hard of hearing. By including the deaf community in the search process, schools will better be able to identify any qualified candidates who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The NAD acknowledges that the task of selecting a school leader does not come easily. For this reason, the NAD stands ready to provide support to schools to find the best individual for the position.