Last month, I told you how I feel ASL interpreters – they are a special kind of hero. I really feel that is what they are because of what their skills do to help Deaf and DeafBlind people conduct business, connect socially, and live more independently in a world designed for sighted and hearing people.
Like any career, there are pros and cons for choosing ASL interpreting as a career. The pay can be good, but depending on the setting one might choose, the hours can be bad, especially if you have a family. The need for ASL interpreters is growing, so jobs in most areas are plentiful which is helpful in this economy. We need more ASL interpreters, so I hope many will seriously consider taking on one of these hero positions.
However, what I want to talk about this time is one of the changes happening in the field, and how it can be good and bad. . .
With the popularity of video conferencing and its increasing use in business, it isn’t surprising that, with an ASL interpreter shortage everywhere, the concept of doing interpreting via video conferencing would be explored. Many internet companies are starting to pop up that offer ASL interpreting via a web cam and internet link to schools, doctor’s offices, hospitals, legal settings, and even in your home or video chat rooms. For many incidences, I think this is a positive. It enables more places that can’t bring interpreters in to find one if they have an internet connection, video monitor, and web cam. It could eventually drive the cost down of providing an interpreter, too, especially, if you consider the costs of an interpreter driving several hours to a rural area.
Of course, they have to have internet access, but that is more widespread today and improving along with the improvement of technology and decreasing cost of the technology needed. Rural areas that are in desperate need of interpreters may still not get much help from this new ability due to the lack of broadband internet. Many rural areas still don’t have much better than dial-up even with the advent of satellite internet. It just isn’t fast enough for video and even with a lower-speed broadband, the video quality might not be good enough for the detail needed for ASL interpreting. In time, though, the capability will improve, so I can see this being helpful to many areas who need more interpreters for the Deaf.
The one area that I know that remote interpreting will not work for is the DeafBlind. So few could see and understand the ASL from a video regardless of the quality of connection and monitor even if they have some residual vision. Most must have close up interpreting or tactile. You can’t do that kind of interpreting from a remote location. What I fear is that as places go to this remote servicing for interpreters that fewer interpreters will be recruited to the area, so when someone is DeafBlind and needs interpreting services, they won’t be able to get it. In my area, there are only two certified interpreters now who do tactile interpreting. Remote Video Interpreting Services are now beginning to be used here by hospitals and a few doctors. With the two interpreters only, I have always had problems getting an interpreter when sick and especially in emergencies. When the two who work now retire, and with most places deciding to use interpreters via internet conferencing, there will be no demand for local, live interpreting to serve the few of us who need and can only use live interpreting. The situation for the DeafBlind could only suffer if that is allowed.
We have come so far to only step backwards if no one pays attention to these small, but important details. I love the technology and its purposes. I think there is a place for Remote Video Interpreting Services in the arsenal of options to serve the needs of the Deaf and DeafBlind. I just want people to realize that every option is not an option to everyone, so you have to make sure that everyone has an option.
The Dark Silence is a lonely and confusing place without the educated touches of Tactile ASL Interpreters.